Dog Eye Care - The Importance of Eye Care in Dog Health

What is the most important thing when it comes to taking care of my dog's eyes?

The single most take-home point about dogs' eyes and eyes, in general, is don't sit on things. Don't say, "let me see what'll happen tomorrow." Don't say, "oh, that might not be anything. Let's just watch it". Eye things can change very rapidly, so it's important to address them quickly.

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Should I bring my dog in to see a veterinarian if I suspect a vision problem?

Absolutely. Even if it ends up being something small, there are so many situations where people thought it was small and it wasn't. You can go from having an eye to needing an eye surgically removed in a short amount of time if you don't address the problem.

What are some signs and symptoms that my dog has, or may have an eye issue?

There are all kinds of symptoms. Things like squinting, tearing, redness, swelling, cloudiness, whether the eyes look like you can't see through the corneas anymore, and if the dog can't see and it's bumping into things. A swollen eye, whether it's the eyelids or the eyeball itself, can indicate a problem. Concerns include pupils that seem too big or too small, especially if one eye is different than the other, discharge, matted debris, and when they can't open their eye because it's crusted shut. If your dog is pawing at the eyes, holding them closed, and rubbing them on things, it could indicate an issue.

Is it important to avoid self-diagnosing dog eye issues?

Eye things change rapidly and can go poorly very quickly. Most of the time it may look like one thing and it's something else completely. So there can be very subtle differences. I would not self-diagnose. There's definitely a time aspect with eyes. Any eye issue case is typically considered an emergency.

How will a veterinarian diagnose a problem with vision or any other eye issues in my dog?

We'll start with an exam, looking closely at the eye. We've got different lights and different pieces of equipment that allow us to get a closer look at the eye itself. We'll feel it. Does it feel soft? Does it feel painful? Is it hard? We can numb the eye, move the eyelids, and look underneath them. We can do stains, eye pressures and tear tests. In some cases we don't have the equipment here, so we send you to a specialist. There are dog ophthalmologists not too far from here and we use them often.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of eye issues in a dog so important?

It's important because things can change rapidly with eyes; take home point. It's much better to have "overreacted" and to have had something simple and easy to take care of, than to have a situation where an eyeball ruptures, as gross as that sounds, or an ulcer getting too deep. Something that's irreparable and ends up in removing the eye or permanent loss of vision. That can happen if you don't stay on top of things and address an eye problem, especially a serious one that you may not realize is as serious as it could be.

So if your dog does have an eye problem, call us and make an appointment to have it seen, we're here to help you. But the best thing to do is to bring it in and let them look at it to avoid any further destruction of the eye. Not to freak you out, but it is important. We're not taking eyes out left and right, but it happens and it's a shame, because some things could potentially have been prevented if we'd have seen those eyes sooner.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Eye Care - FAQs

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How can I even tell if my dog's eyes are injured?

There're a lot of things you can look for. Eye injuries can be very painful. We both had them, we've known people who've had them. So you can look for signs of pain like holding the eyes shut, squinting hard, shying away if you go to pet or touch them or touch the eye, pawing at the face, redness, and swelling are all symptoms of an injury. If a dog has something in its eye, it's going to be painful.

Are certain dog breeds more prone to eye issues?

Yes, absolutely. We love them all, but the smashed face, buggy eye dogs are your classics. Unfortunately, they have big wide eyes and they're eyelids can't even close completely over the eyes. Those eyes are out there and exposed to injury, being poked and even getting dried out.

Those dogs are anatomically more prone to eye issues. A good number of dog breeds have genetic predispositions for eye issues, not to mention other diseases that can affect the eyes. They say the eyes are like a window into the body and the health of the body. So many dogs can have issues with their eyes.

How will cataracts be diagnosed in my dog and what is the treatment for cataracts?

Cataracts can be relatively easy to see on most dogs. You can get a light and a certain amount of magnification and peer into the pupil area. People will sometimes see corneas glazed over the outside of the eyeball and say, "Oh, my dog has a cataract", when cataracts are really inside the eyeball. They're in the lens, behind the colored part. So we can peek in there and see if we can get the light all the way through, and you can usually see a cataract on there. Dogs can't tell you, "I saw double or triple of everything," so you've got to look for them.

There is cataract surgery for dogs. We don't do it here, but some specialists do that. That is an option, but the difference in people is that they do cataract surgery way sooner than they typically would in dogs. We can see dogs with small cataracts that aren't a big deal and never give any issues, and then you've got cataracts that are legitimately affecting their vision and their quality of life. Those are the ones that you'll get surgery for.

What is the best way to give my dog medication?

With eye medication, having a friend is helpful. Doing it alone can be challenging, but if you are by yourself and if your dog's good, have it sit in your lap or in a corner where they can't back away from you. You're going to want to use gravity as your friend. You want to lift their head and have their eye facing upwards so you can have the drop dropping down. You can pull an eyelid down or pull it up to aim for it. I always tell people one to two drops in the eye is enough even if it means it took 10 drops to get it in there because you got one in the nose, one on the forehead, one on the face because they moved their head, or you're not sure if they blinked. It can sometimes be a process.

Can my dog get pink eye? And is it contagious to other pets and people?

We get that question a lot. It depends on what you call pink eye. Before these questions, I Googled what most people would be looking for with pink eye, because the majority of people are thinking of a specific contagious type of pink eye that you see in humans. But their definition of pinkeye is just a red inflamed eye, so it's conjunctivitis. We can all get conjunctivitis; dogs, cats, anything that has an eye can get it. There are infectious as well as non-infectious conjunctivitis. The majority of the ones we see in dogs and cats are not contagious. There're very few, I won't say none, but few situations where we are sharing eye diseases with our dogs.

It is always a good idea to wash your hands anytime you do a treatment or play with your dog. That would prevent any possible contagion.

What can I do for my dog that has a cherry eye?

There's a difference between pink eye and cherry eye. There's also a difference between dogs and people because to get a cherry eye, you've got to have that third eyelid where you've got that gland that pops up and out. It's down in that middle portion and it bulges out. If your dog has a cherry eye, surgery is typically recommended. It used to be that you'd go in and they cut it out. If it's not there, the problem is solved. But that created all kinds of new problems because there's a gland there that's important with tearing. So typically, it's tucked and secured back in. If the cherry eye is out for a long time, surgery becomes less effective down the road. In some cases, we have to send you to a specialist and have them take care of it.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Eye Care - FAQs 2

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

When would I need to seek the help of a veterinarian for a dog eye issue?

If you suspect an eye issue, have it looked at. There are plenty of times where it's not a big deal and has a simple treatment, it could be nothing. But there are plenty of times where if you blow it off, it turns into something worse or a situation we don't want it to be. A more expensive situation than the original problem would have been.

Will a dog eye infection go away on its own?

The answer's typically going to be no. The word infection might be a bit tricky because we're not necessarily seeing a lot of infections. It may just be an inflammation situation or maybe a certain disease. But often when eye things come up, unless it was something in the eye and they were tearing a little bit and 10 minutes later it was fine, treatment of some form is needed to fix it. If you don't address it, more chronic things start to happen. I would stay on the side of caution and not assume it's not going to go away on its own.

Can I give my dog human eye drops?

Yes and no. If you're looking through your cabinet for things to give your dog, the answer is no. But many medications that we dispense are human drops. They're on the human line of things, so it's not weird that we're using human drops for dogs. But if you don't know what you're treating, there are way too many things to choose from. I do not recommend grabbing Visine or something like that. That's never a recommendation for treating a dog's red eye or whatever it may be. In general, I'd say don't use anything. However, I will say this, one of the potentially safer things to do if you were trying to get an appointment and just wanted to flush your dog's eye out, would be to use plain sterile Saline. Saline only, not contact solution, not Visine. You can run it across the eye to flush it out.

You do want to make sure, though, because if you use something like an old eye medicine, it may have cortisone in it, and you don't want to use those until you know what's going on with that eye. If there's a scratch, you can make it worse, or conversely it won't do anything. The best is to wait and not medicate until your vet has had a chance to look at the dog's eye.

Some people will say, "Well, he's had this before.", but there's a big difference between a red-eye two years ago and a red-eye today. There can be some subtleties where that one was just inflammation and allergies, and this one is a scratch. Steroids on a scratch are not okay and will make it worse.

Is there such a thing as a vision test for dogs?

It depends on what you call a test. Fingers in front of their face, making sure they blink appropriately, dropping a cotton ball, and having them track you without making noises are usually the things we do for vision tests. If they're really scared, all bets are off. They sort of stare at you blankly with their eyes open. You're like, "I think you can see me." It's some crude stuff, almost caveman-style testing to see if they can see or if they blink when something is coming toward them. Those are some common things we do.

How do I know if my dog is losing his sight?

You'd be shocked that your dog is losing or has lost its vision. Unless it happened really quickly and it was both eyes at the same time, your dog can adjust to so many things. I used to work at a place where they had a blind cat and nobody knew the cat was blind. The cat had adjusted and knew where everything was. It could sense other things around it. So if your dog suddenly loses vision, it may bump into things. If it didn't happen suddenly, or it still has a good eye, it's still going to navigate well. So if something seems weird or off, if they seem to shy away or get startled coming around the corner, those could be some signs.

Different diseases can cause blindness. High blood pressure, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and such things can affect the eyes in ways that can create other symptoms.

I had a blind Cocker spaniel and if you didn't know him, you wouldn't know he was blind unless you moved the furniture a bit. And even then, they get a sense as they're moving, they can feel its presence on a different level. They can sense things. I think we've spent a lot of time moaning and groaning about why we can't see as well, and they just adjust. They have to adjust to survive.

Can regular cleaning of my dog's eyes prevent eye issues?

In some situations, it's good care and hygiene, but there's a good number of eye diseases that have nothing to do with cleaning and with what you're doing. Many dogs out there don't need routine cleaning. They have big, regular-shaped faces. Their eyelids work correctly and they don't have a lot of hair on their face. With some dog breeds, you never even have to clean their eyes, technically. But there are some cases where you want to make sure that their hair's not getting in their face and they're not collecting a bunch of matter there that's causing irritation. Specific grooming is important, but thinking that if you clean your dog's eyes, it's not going to have any eye problems is not a realistic expectation.

Cleaning could help avoid some but not all problems. But if they have a lot of hair near their eyes and it gets gooped up, it can cause issues and infections. So get the hair trimmed in that area, or take one of those little cones and brush it free.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.