Seven signs of eye disease in cats and dogs

Seven signs of eye disease in cats and dogs

Seven signs of eye disease in cats and dogs

Keep your eyes peeled

Eye problems in our pets can be caused by a host of different reasons - from allergies and infections, to injuries and even more serious underlying problems.

The good news is that many eye conditions are minor, and with the right treatment and some TLC, your pet can be back to their normal selves in no time. However, eyes do have the ability to deteriorate quickly. What started as a simple problem, if left untreated, can become very painful, and for some conditions sadly result in sight loss. Any changes in your pet’s eyes, or if one eye suddenly looks different from the other, could indicate a problem.

Other symptoms are more subtle and can even appear like behavioural problems, especially in older pets. These can include increased vocalisation, especially at night, bumping into things more often or appearing more startled or jumpy when you approach. That is why it is so important that as pet owners we understand the range of symptoms relating to eye problems, and how to recognise when veterinary help is needed.

1. Irritation

Eyes are supplied with a vast nerve ending network making them super sensitive. Irritation is usually exhibited as pain. Signs of eye pain in our pets mean we will see them pawing or rubbing at the eye, squinting, increased blinking, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light and vocalisation. Your pet may not show the above symptoms and may just be more quiet and off their food (similar to how you would feel with a dull headache or migraine).

Pets will often paw and rub their eyes if itchy. Itchy eyes may be due to allergies, infections or skin conditions and they may also show other symptoms such as redness or runny weepy eyes.

2. Redness

A red eye could mean that the whites of the eye appear red, or that you can see a red piece of skin known as ‘the third eyelid’ over the eye. A red eye is most commonly due to inflammation, which can occur anywhere in or around the eye. There may also be weepy or runny eyes, irritation and swelling present.

A red eye can indicate a number of different things that range in severity from mild to serious. It is vital to always get a red eye checked by a vet as it can be an indicator of an emergency, such as glaucoma. Red or bloodshot eyes can indicate:

  • Conjunctivitis (there are many causes of conjunctivitis such as bacterial infections, viruses, allergies etc)
  • Foreign bodies such as grass seeds, claws, sand etc
  • Dry eye
  • Trauma
  • Inflammation of inside of the eye (uveitis)
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Glaucoma
  • Cherry eye
  • Tumours
In some cases diagnosis and treatment is needed urgently in order to have the best chance of maintaining vision.
 

3. Tear staining

Tear stains affect certain breeds of pets more than others. Often on white coated pets it is more visible. Tear stains are those reddish-brown marks that can appear on the fur around your pet’s eyes. These stains can be unsightly and noticeable, especially on pale fur. In most cases tear staining occurs when tears don’t drain properly and find their way onto the face.

Your pet’s saliva and tears contain substances called porphyrins which stain hair brown when exposed to light. For these patients, tear staining is largely a cosmetic problem which can be solved with regular cleaning.

The skin around the eyes should be kept clean using eye cleansers/wipes 2-3 times daily. It is very important to use only products that state they are suitable for use around the eyes following the instructions on the packet. When the cosmetic impact of tear staining is a concern a veterinarian can also advise on products which can help remove the tear staining and prevent more forming.

4. Dull/cloudy/change in colour

A healthy pet has bright and shiny eyes. If your pet has dull looking eyes it could be a sign that they have a disorder with their tear production, which if left unchecked can cause more serious problems with sight and become very painful. Similarly, if your pet’s eyes appear cloudy, check this immediately. If the eyes change colour at all or a pigmented (different coloured) area appears, should seek veterinary advice straight away.

5. Discharge

Eye discharge in pets is present when they appear to have runny or weepy eyes - this can range from watery to sticky/thick and be a variety of colours (clear, yellow/green/brown or bloody). Normal healthy eyes should be clear and bright so if you notice any discharge you should consult your vet. Some people refer to this as ‘sleep build up’ around the eye and it may affect one or both eyes.
Once discharge dries it can become crusty and sticks to the eyelids, which is uncomfortable for your pet and may become a site for bacteria to thrive. It is never advisable to use any human medications or home remedies for cleaning pets eyes.

6. Asymmetry

Look out for differences in shape, size, colour or pupil size. Both eyes and pupils should look the same - a sudden or gradual change in appearance between eyes can indicate a problem.

There will be the odd exception where a difference is normal to that individual; for instance some breeds of dog, such as Collies, may naturally have different coloured irises (called ‘wall eye’).

If both eyes are asymmetrical in appearance, have a vet check them out to be on the safe side.

7. Loss of vision

Loss of vision can be sudden or gradual depending on the cause. Despite how close we are to our pets, it can sometimes go unnoticed as their other senses (such as smell and hearing) are much more heightened than ours. A blind pet often learns to compensate by using these other senses and many will continue to lead a happy life.

A common symptom of vision loss might be your pet bumping into things, often initially in dim light where vision loss is gradual. Pets learn to navigate their familiar environments instinctively so setting them a little obstacle course and calling them towards you can help you identify if their vision is poor. Another symptom of vision loss to watch out for is your pet becoming more clingy with you as they use you for comfort and guidance.

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