Eye problems are among the most common issues veterinarians see in small animal practice. The eye is a tiny but very delicate and complex organ, and caring for our pets’ vision is an art as well as a science. An eye problem can be an isolated issue or it can be a small part of a larger complex disease process that needs systemic treatment. Any time your dog or cat shows the least bit of ocular abnormality, it is important to have him checked as soon as possible.
Conjunctivitis in dogs and cats generally presents as “pink eye.” Your cat may develop a red swollen eye with a mucousy discharge along with some sneezing or coughing. This is a not uncommon presentation for upper respiratory viral disease in cats. Your puppy might show the same signs and be infected with canine distemper virus. More innocently, conjunctivitis can be an allergic response or a response to some local irritant.
Corneal damage is also a common problem, especially in dogs with flat faces and very little nose volume to protect their usually protruding eyes. Corneal abrasions and ulcers are extremely painful, and left untreated can lead to total blindness. Most often, there is no known event that has led to such an injury (although a scratch from the family cat is always a possibility), but treatment must be aggressive to minimize pain and potential lifelong damage. Most often, treatment is medical only, possibly requiring frequent administration of eyedrops and oral pain medications, but sometime surgery is needed to effect a cure.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or “dry eye” is a problem we encounter frequently in general practice. There are certain breeds of dogs who are predisposed to developing this problem, and certain medications can cause it as well. The initial symptom is most often a lusterless appearance to the cornea along with a profuse thick tenacious mucoid discharge. This is a very uncomfortable conditionand without proper (and sometimes lifelong) treatment, it can result in blindness.
Eyelid masses are also common, especially in aging dogs, and we frequently find ourselves needing to surgically remove these usually benign lumps. Since the great majority of these masses are benign, the choice of when to remove one frequently depends on when or if the mass become bothersome to the pet or to the owner.
Anther common medical problem we handle is glaucoma, or an abnormal increase in the pressure within the eyeball. There are certain breeds of dogs who are predisposed to developing this problem, and we routinely check intra-ocular pressures on those dogs during their annual exams or if they present with any problem affecting the eye. If diagnosed early enough, many glaucoma cases can be controlled medically with eyedrops, although some will need surgery to effect adequate pressure control, and some few are resistant to treatment completely and will result in a blind eye.
More complex ocular problems involving the deeper regions of the eye are most often handled by our local board certified ophthalmologists who are able to do needed advanced imaging such as electroretinography, CT, or MRI scans. They are equipped to perform advanced intra-ocular surgeries for common problems such as cataracts as well many other surgeries involving the inside of the eye. We are fortunate to enjoy a very good relationship with these local specialists and will never hesitate to refer your pet if we feel that is in his best interest.