The eyes are very complex organs and thankfully function normally most of the time. Externally, the eyes are protected by the eyelids and the third eyelid (in the corner of the eye).
Tears play an important role in keeping your pet’s eyes healthy, lubricating the movements of the eyelids, washing out dust particles and providing oxygen and nutrients to the cornea (the clear outermost part of the eye). Tears also contain substances which help fight bacterial eye infection.
Below are some common eye problems to look out for in your pets:
Dry eye a condition seen fairly commonly in dogs and is caused by a reduced or total lack of tear production. There are many different signs of dry eye and these can develop over time. Key signs are a dull lustreless eye which is often reddened and accompanied by a thick yellowish discharge.
Luckily, diagnosis of this condition can be made using a simple test to measure tear production. The good news is that medication for dry eye, usually in the form of an ointment, can improve tear production and reverse many of the signs, maintaining vision and keeping pets comfortable.
Corneal abrasions scratches to the surface of the eye are commonly seen in pets. In cats they are often caused by claw injuries, whilst in dogs foreign bodies (such as grass seeds) are frequently the cause. Fluorescein dye is used to show damaged areas, so that the appropriate treatment can be started as soon as possible.
Eyelid tumours another common condition, particularly seen in older dogs. They occur on the margin of the eyelid and have the potential to cause marked corneal irritation.
Early diagnosis is the ‘golden rule’ with eyes! Early diagnosis together with appropriate treatment of dry eye can make a real difference to the vision of affected dogs. Without treatment, eye diseases can progress quickly as the eyes are particularly delicate ad can be slow to heal and recover. If your pet is showing any symptoms of eye problems book them an appointment with your vet at the earliest opportunity.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen. w: www.hillsidevets.co.uk.