Diagnosing eye problems in your pet

Corneal abrasions are more common in brachiocephalic breeds.

One of the most common online questions I get is about various eye complaints that may be bothering a dog or cat. Many animal guardians will write or call to say their pet has squinty, itchy, red eyes, with often thick or runny eye discharge, and sometimes little growths around the eyes. While I can often more confidently make at-home suggestions for other common problems like skin or digestive tract issues, it is often difficult to accurately suggest at home eye treatments for animal guardians without a proper veterinary exam and consultation first.

Corneal abrasions and/or ulcers are amongst the most common conditions seen, especially in the brachiocephalic breeds like Shih Tzus, Pugs, and Boston Terriers which can result in many of the common symptoms mentioned here. In cats, viral infections such as feline rhinotracheitis or feline herpes virus are commonly involved with eye symptoms, as well as upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing and nose and eye discharge. Corneal ulcers need immediate and emergency veterinary care, as if not treated quickly and urgently, some ulcers will spread rapidly and even involve deeper structures of the eye, resulting in what is sometimes known as a melting corneal ulcer or descemetocele.

Early treatment for most corneal ulcers with topical antibiotics, antiviral medications, or topical antispasmodic medications such as Atropine can be resolved fairly easily. However, deeper ulcers and/or those that don’t respond well to early medical treatment sometimes need surgical therapy. Red eyes can also be a sign of glaucoma in a pet or even deeper middle eye or retinal problems, which if not treated quickly can result in blindness. It is for these reasons that if any animal guardian writes or calls me with questions surrounding an eye problem in their pet, that I always recommend an immediate veterinary exam for proper diagnosis and the best possible treatment outcome.


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  1. I have been a petmed customer for years, and I now turn to you for advice. My schnauzer’s eyes continuously discharge a whitish/yellow sticky substance which closes his eyes. I clean them twice a day with baby wipes. I took him to the vet and after a bill of almost $200 and medication of a little under $100, there was no change. I can’t afford to take him back but really want to find some relief for him. He is an indoor dog and is about 10 years old. This has been continuing for about a year and a half and I would really like to give him some relief. I can be contacted via e-mail. Thank you for your help.

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Sorry for your frustration, however any recommendations for this chronic condition would be based on an accurate diagnosis at your vet. I would recommend a referral to a local veterinary opthomologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

  3. We have a 6 or 8 wk. old feral kitty in our back yard that has mucous in its eyes. I can pick it up but would like to know what I can put in its eyes safely to rid the discharge from its eyes.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Usually that indicates an eye infection where topical antibiotics like terramycin or triple antibiotic eye ointment is needed from vet.

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