Here’s How To Look After Your Dog’s Eyes
To avoid unwanted infections and to keep on top of your dog’s eye health, it’s important to check its eyes frequently as part of its usual routine.
Familiarising yourself with your dog’s eyes can help you spot changes and signs that it may be suffering from allergies, infections and other eye problems in the very early stages before any further problems develop.
From examining your dog’s eyes carefully to spotting early symptoms of many eye problems, our guide on looking after your dog’s eyes will help you keep them healthy, clean and infection-free to prevent any further problems from developing.
Table of contents:
How do you take care of a dog’s eyes?
To care for your dog’s eyes correctly, start by frequently examining them. Once you become more familiar with them, you’ll be able to spot early signs of infection, any debris that may be lodged under or between the lids and spot signs of diseases before they develop into further problems.
Here are some general things that could indicate a problem with your dog’s eyes:
- Excessive tearing or discharge
- Closed eyes or squinting
- Cloudiness or redness
- Your dog is rubbing or pawing at its eye.
If any of these problems or issues persist or you notice anything unusual about your dog’s eyes, it’s important to contact your vet, who can give your dog a thorough examination before any of these problems worsen.
To spot signs of discomfort in their earliest stages, we’d recommend that you check your dog’s eyes at least once per month.
How to check your dog’s eyes
- Always make sure your hands are washed and are fully clean before examining your dog’s eyes and eyelids.
- Start by taking your dog into a well-lit area where you can see its eyes more clearly. Reassure your dog and keep it feeling calm by encouraging it to sit and stay and rewarding its good behaviour.
- Hold your dog’s head gently and carefully check both eyes for foreign objects such as dirt, debris, or any signs of illness. Look out for any discharge or excessive tearing and check that its eyeballs are white and free from signs of redness.
- Check that your dog’s pupils are the same size and that its eyes don’t seem irritated or cloudy. Your dog has a third eyelid which helps keep foreign objects out of its eyes, which will not be visible in normal circumstances. If you can easily see this eyelid, this may indicate a problem.
- Much like a human eye, eyelids cover most of the eye’s surface, so it’s important to roll the eyelid back to check the eyeball fully. To do this, use your fingers and gently push back the eyelid to check the eye’s surface and make sure it looks healthy, with no signs of redness or irritation. Look for any cuts or foreign objects that could be causing your dog discomfort or could lead to infection.
- You can check your dog’s vision by testing its menace reflex. The menace reflex is the body’s blink reflex to a visual threat.
To test your dog’s vision, hold your palm around 30cms away from its face and then quickly move your palm, so your hand stops roughly 5cms away. If your dog’s vision is fine, it’ll blink in response to the movement, but it may be a warning sign that it’s struggling to see if it doesn’t react. Repeat the test to check each eye individually.
Common dog eye problems and symptoms
Eye problems in dogs can be wide and varied, so whilst it’s important to check your dog’s eyes regularly, it’s also a good idea to understand what any unusual symptoms or changes could mean.
Never try to treat your dog’s eyes without consulting with a vet first, as the incorrect treatment could further exacerbate the problem. It’s also essential to get any persistent symptoms checked as some eye problems could cause irreversible blindness if left untreated.
Here are some of the most common eye problems and how they usually present themselves:
Cataracts are a clouding, imperfection or opacity of the lens over the eye that causes impaired vision and could lead to blindness if left untreated. Cataracts can be genetic or are sometimes caused by injury or diabetes when the excess glucose in the dog’s body causes the lens to swell. Cataracts are also more prevalent in older dogs.
A blue/grey cloudiness characterises cataracts in your dog’s eyes, and your dog may stumble, bump into things or be reluctant to move in any new surroundings. If you’ve noticed that your dog is drinking more water and urinating more frequently, this could also indicate that your dog is diabetic.
Your vet will be able to identify the root cause of the problem and look at ways to treatcataracts, which may require surgery to remove the affected lens.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane which covers the eye.
It’s caused by a number of factors including foreign bodies, bacteria, viruses, allergies, malpositioned eyelashes, or lack of natural tear production. Conjunctivitis can be uncomfortable for your dog creating itchiness or pain.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis can include excessive blinking or squinting, redness, discharge or pus and pawing or rubbing the eye.
Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the cause and ranges from bathing the eye in a gentle medicated wash, anti-inflammatories if caused by an allergy, antibiotics and ointment for a bacterial infection, or medications to treat dry eye.
Surgery will only be required in this case if an eye abnormality is causing the problem, such as the removal of the malpositioned eyelashes. Your vet will understand the cause of the problem and offer the best treatment.
Corneal ulcers are caused by a graze or scratch to the cornea or the transparent part of the eye. Usually caused by contact with a foreign object, breeds with bulging eyes such as Pugs or King Charles Spaniels are usually more prone to this.
Corneal ulcers are difficult to diagnose without using a special stain. If left untreated, they can deepen quickly, causing discomfort and risking the eyeball.
If you notice your dog squinting excessively, showing any signs of pain or redness to its eyes, take it to a vet immediately for treatment. Again treatment can vary, with some dogs only requiring antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medicines, whilst others may require surgery depending on the severity of the ulcer.
Cherry eye – third eyelid prolapse
Generally, your dog’s third eyelid should remain unseen. Occasionally, however, you may notice a little bump in the corner of your dog’s eye resembling a small cherry.
Cherry eye is caused by a prolapse of the nictitans gland found in a dog’s third eyelid, which produces tears to lubricate the surface of your dog’s eye. It is common in young dogs and breeds with flatter faces. Although it isn’t usually painful, it may cause irritation and redness to your dog’s eyes.
Treatment for this condition ranges from lubrication to surgery to reposition the gland back into its pocket. Your vet will advise the best course of treatment for your dog.
Glaucoma occurs when the eyeball’s natural drainage system becomes blocked, causing excess fluid inside the eyeball. The eyeball enlarges from the pressure, potentially damaging the optic nerve and retina if left untreated, causing blindness.
Symptoms of glaucoma in dogs include excessive blinking or squinting, redness, an overly large or small pupil and sticky eyes which are difficult to open.
Treatments include medication to reduce the pressure on the eye or, in some cases, surgical removal of the lens or the eyeball.
Although many of the other eye problems we’ve discussed are more severe, even if your dog shows symptoms of a common eye infection, it’s important to still get its eyes checked.
Common contagious eye infections in dogs can be caused by allergies, tear duct problems, injury, dry eye and foreign matter collecting in the eye. If untreated, your dog’s infection could develop into conjunctivitis or more serious problems, so it’s always worth pursuing veterinary treatment and advice to rule out worse conditions.
If your dog shows signs of an eye infection, always assume that it’s contagious and keep it away from other dogs, avoiding shared bowls and bedding if you have other dogs in your household.
Symptoms of common eye infections to look out for:
- Eye discharge can indicate a problem if the amount your dog’s eye is producing excessive amounts. Use a warm, damp cloth to soften and remove any discharge and monitor your dog’s eyes.
- Watery eyes can signify an allergy. If the problem persists, worsens or your dog appears to be suffering, it’s advisable to visit a vet.
- Discolouration of the fur around the eyes, particularly on lighter colour dogs, is common. If your dog isn’t showing signs of discomfort or stress, this staining is most likely a pigment stain and is completely normal.
- White or grey mucus could indicate that your dog’s eyes aren’t producing enough tears naturally and may be suffering from dry eyes. Your vet can provide treatment for this.
- Yellow and green discharge indicates infection and is usually paired with sore, red eyes.
- If your dog is scratching at its eyes, this could also suggest an infection. Always seek professional advice if your dog is suffering from discomfort.
What is the best way to clean a dog’s eyes?
To help your dog’s eyes stay clear of infection, it’s essential to check and clean them regularly at home. Here’s what you can do to help:
Wash and wipe their eyes
Start by taking a wet cotton ball or a soft, clean cloth and wipe your dog’s eyes with fresh water. Work from the inside corner of the eye and gently work outwards to remove any dirt or debris.
Keep the hair around their eyes tidy
Particularly with long-haired breeds, hair around the eyes can make it difficult for your dog to see. Long hair can also poke at and scratch the eyeball, potentially leading to infection or irritation.
Take your dog to visit a groomer to maintain the hair around its eyes, or, if you feel confident doing so, trim the area around the eyes yourself. Take care when laying the scissors flat to your dog’s head, with the point facing away from its eyes, to avoid injury.
Clean the area around the eyes after muddy walks
You’ll want to keep your dog’s eye area as clean as possible to avoid infection, so after muddy walks or trips to the seaside, use a clean, warm cloth to loosen and remove any dirt from around your dog’s eye area.
How can I care for my dog’s eyes at home?
By regularly examining your dog’s eyes at home and getting them used to being checked, your dog will be much more relaxed at the veterinary surgery, should it ever need to have an eye issue investigated further.
By simply checking your dog’s eyes and familiarising yourself with them, you’ll be able to recognise any unusual changes and alert your vet at the earliest stages to prevent more severe eye issues from developing.
Avoid treating your dog’s eyes at home without seeking professional advice from your vet, as the incorrect treatment could worsen the problem. When calling the vet to book an appointment, be as detailed as you can, and give a clear account of your dog’s eye symptoms and any potential causes you think may have impacted your dog’s eyes.
Then, by learning the symptoms of the most common eye problems listed, and keeping your dog’s eyes clean and in check, your dog will be in the best hands possible when it comes to its eye care.
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