Five Signs of Canine Eye Trouble

Dogs are known for their noses, which are said to be 10,000 times more sensitive than ours. I live in a house with two babies and a teenager-to-be, so I can’t say that an enhanced sense of smell would really be a good thing in my world. But, the way a dog navigates the world is primarily through their eyes — and keeping a dog’s vision safe and healthy is as important for your canine family member as it is for you and your (human) family.

Here are five signs of trouble that mean you should “see” your vet for a checkup (and remember — for serious or complex vision issues, veterinary ophthalmologists, eye specialists, are available).

  1. Bumping into things

If your dog starts walking into furniture or walls, they may have a vision problem. Sudden blindness is uncommon, but it happens and the sooner you get to the bottom of it, the sooner you can restore vision. Conditions like glaucoma, retinal detachment and inflammatory diseases of the eye can all steal vision without any warning.

In some cases, dogs can adapt to gradually diminishing vision and will learn to navigate your home as they slowly go blind. For these pets, a change in the layout of the furniture or a new environment may make it look like they have suddenly lost sight. In both cases, a visit to your vet for an eye exam, and possibly a visit to an eye specialist, is needed.

  1. Redness

If the white of the eye becomes red and angry looking, this could be a sign of trouble. In some cases, it’s simply allergies and maybe a mild case of conjunctivitis, but more serious conditions like glaucoma can also look like a red eye. Your vet has the knowledge to tell which is which, so don’t delay. If it’s one of the bad ones, the sooner you get help the sooner you’ll have a dog that can see!

  1. Whiteness inside the eye

A cataract is a white, crystalline structure inside the eye. (Note that this is different from nuclear sclerosis — see below on eye changes that are not an emergency). This is the lens of the eye that focuses images. With cataracts, the normal clearness is lost and dogs can’t see through the opaque lens. Cataracts can happen slowly or quickly and are very common in diabetic pets. As long as the retina (the membrane in the back of the eye that produces images) is working normally, surgery to remove the lens can restore vision, but this requires the services of an eye specialist.

  1. Thick green discharge

One of the most common eye conditions that affects dogs is called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, mercifully shortened to KCS, and also called “dry eye.” KCS develops when the immune system destroys cells that produce tears and the root cause of this is unknown. When dogs stop producing tears, the mucus glands in the eyes step in to try and help out. It’s also easy for dry eyes to get secondary infections, since the natural defenses of tears are lost. Both of these changes combine to produce a thick, green discharge. Often the cornea, or clear outer part, of the eye can look dull and lusterless as well.

Serious eye infections and eye injuries can also produce pus, which is thick and greenish. Anytime you see serious green boogery eye discharge, it’s time to see your vet. They can help you determine if it is a simple case of conjunctivitis that may be cured with some topical medications or if it is something more serious and a threat to vision.

  1. Pain

Dogs with ocular pain can do several things — they may be withdrawn and avoid contact with family. They may snap or growl if your hand comes near their eye or they may whine and cry in discomfort. Some dogs can also squint in bright light or paw at the eye. If you suspect your dog has eye pain, which can accompany conditions like glaucoma or eye injuries, make an appointment to see your veterinarian right away. Your vet can help take away the pain while they try and sort out what’s wrong with the eye and fix it.

And here are a few things that are not typically a big problem:

  • Tear staining: some dogs have tear ducts that are on the smaller side and tears spill over and run down the cheeks. This can produce a red discoloration to the fur below the eyes, but is usually just a cosmetic problem and not a threat to vision.
  • Mild cloudiness of the lens: As dogs age, the lens inside the eye loses some fluid and starts to become slightly cloudy or takes on a bluish tint. This is normal and does not usually seriously affect vision, but it is important to differentiate this from a cataract (see above), as the two conditions are often confused.

Check your dog’s eyes periodically, especially as they grow older or if you notice a problem. Happy holidays and healthy vision to you and your pets!

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