What are Common Dog Eye Diseases?

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A tan dog getting eye drops put in by a veterinarian
Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of What Are Common Eye Diseases in Dogs

Does your dog have something wrong with their eye? Have you started to notice a change in the color of their eye? This can be many different things. These are some of the most common eye problems that are seen in dogs.

If you notice anything wrong with your dog’s eyes, it is best to take your dog to the vet. Eye conditions can get bad very quickly, and your dog could lose their eye.


What causes dog eye diseases?

There are many different things that can cause your dog to have eye problems. These are a few common causes of eye disease.

  • Genetics: Some dogs have a genetic predisposition for certain eye problems. Genetic eye diseases are commonly seen in purebred dogs. The most common cause of genetic eye disease includes issues such as glaucoma.
  • Infection: Infections can be seen in your dog’s eyes, causing disease in your dog’s eyes. These can come from bacteria, viruses, and even bugs.
  • Trauma: Trauma to your dog’s eye can cause blindness, corneal ulcer, or a reddened eye. These can also lead to infection, which can eventually spread to both eyes.

What are common eye diseases in dogs?

These are common eye diseases that vet seen in dogs.

Blepharospasm

Blepharospasm is not an actual disease, but a sign of further issues. Blepharospasm is when your dog’s eyes will blink very rapidly due to involuntary muscle contractions. You will notice that your dog’s eyelid appear red, swollen closed, and appear irritated. You also may notice that your dog is rubbing their paw on their eye. This can even cause more trauma and irritation to your dog’s eye.

Most of the time, this is due to some kind of irritation in your dog’s eye.  The most common cause of Blepharospasm is entropion, allergies, and infection.  Other things, such as environmental issues, link tobacco smoke, or pollen can cause Blepharospasm.

Cherry Eye

A cherry eye is the layman’s term for a swollen 3rd eyelid gland.  This gland in your dog’s third eyelid will become swollen red, looking like a large cherry, thus giving it the name cherry eye.  This is a common genetic abnormality seen in bulldogs or other smashed faced dogs. This condition usually requires surgery to fix the issue. This rarely is corrected on its own. 

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca KCS or (Dry Eye)

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca is caused when your dog’s eye does not produce enough tears.  This defect in your dog’s tear duct can lead to severe drying of your dog’s eye and redness.  Many times, you will notice a very thick green mucus on the surface of your dog’s eye.  There are many different things that can cause this disease in dogs.  Some of the breeds that are most commonly affected by Dry eye is Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Shih-Tzus, Lhasa Apso’s, and Terriers.  

Your vet will want to perform a Schirmer test to determine the number of tears that your dog’s eye is producing.  If they are not producing enough, they will start your dog on medication to increase tear production. 

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the tissues around the eye. This will get very red and inflamed can cause an infection. This can be caused by an ingrown eyelash, allergies, and viral or bacterial infection.

Saline wash can sometimes solve the problem, but many times your dog will need to be on medicated eye drops. When putting eye drops in your dog, make sure to wash your hands. Pink eye is very contagious from one animal to the next and even to people.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is when the pressure in your dog’s eye has increased. This is due to an increase in fluid production in the eye or a decrease in fluid drainage from the eye. Your dog will have a swollen globe and can be very painful.  

Many times, your vet can take the pressure off your dog’s eye and get your dog started on daily eye drops to help decrease the pressures. There are very few cases where glaucoma cannot be controlled with an eye drop, and other options will need to be considered to help with the pain. If you delay treatment of your dog’s glaucoma, they could become blind.

Cataracts

Cataractsin dogs are just like in people. This is when the lenses of the eye start to become cloudy. When you look into your dog’s eye, you will notice a white milky like appearance, and this is a cataract.

The cloudiness of the lenses will prevent light from reaching your dog’s eye. This causes them to have very limited vision and can eventually cause them to go blind. The only way to correct cataracts is with surgery.  

This is done by a veterinary ophthalmologist. This can be a very expensive procedure. Cataracts are usually due to old age or genetics but can be due to diabetes in some dogs.


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Corneal Ulcer

This is probably the most common eye problem seen in dogs. A corneal ulcer is when something has damaged the surface of your dog’s eye and causes an ulcer. These ulcers can get so big that they cause the eye to rupture.

Your veterinarian can stain your dog’s eye with a special stain to see the ulcer. If your dog does have an ulcer, they will need eye antibiotics and other eye medications to help this ulcer heal. Your dog may also need pain medication as a corneal ulcer is very painful.


Keeping Your Dogs Eyes Healthy

While these are the most common eye disease, there are many other things that can cause your dog’s eye to look abnormal. If you notice anything wrong with your dog’s eye, it is best to take them to your vet right away.

They can examine the eye and get them started on eye drops or oral medication to help make the eye feel much better. Eyes are a very special organ that needs care and attention to keep happy.

While most dogs can do just fine without their vision, keeping their eyes healthy will allow them to be able to see for years.


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Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.