SlimDoggy Health Check: Eyes
It’s been several weeks since we added to our SlimDoggy Health Check series having spent the last few months focusing on Maggie’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Although we’re going a little out of order, we wanted to discuss eyes and eye problems today. In the past we’ve covered glaucoma since our dog Tino developed it as he got older and lost his sight as a result. But there are many other issues dogs can develop related to their eyes and eye sight. Both Jack and Maggie have mild cataracts and nuclear sclerosis which is fairly common in senior dogs.
Cataracts: Cataracts are mainly a hereditary disease, but may develop in any dog due to age or injury. It is a cloudiness over the lens of the eye that prevents light from reaching the retina and creates blurred or obstructed vision. If the cloudy portion is small it won’t affect your dog’s vision too much, but if it is larger and covers the entire lens, you may consider treatment. An aging dog may develop nuclear sclerosis which is not as serious as cataracts, but appears the same when you look at them, so it’s important to get them checked out by a vet. Symptoms of cataracts manifest mainly in the degree of cloudiness and vision loss. If cataracts are a results of an underlying disease such as diabetes, then other symptoms of that disease may also be present. Your vet will perform an eye exam to diagnosis cataracts and likely refer you to an veterinary ophthalmologist for treatment if the condition warrants it. Depending on the severity, surgery may be required.
Excessive tearing: About a year after we adopted Jack he started to get eye stains. You’ve probably seen them on white dogs – that dark stain running down from their eye. No amount of wiping or cleaning removes it. Luckily, Jack’s stain was caused by a tiny growth on his eyelid which was easily removed. No more runny eyes and the stains disappeared. The stain you see comes from too much tear creation – it runs down their face and creates that stained look. The underlying cause of the extra tears may be from a number of issues including: a small growth as Jack had, ingrown eyelashes, glaucoma, certain medications, an eye infection, Entropion (an inverted eyelid), etc. It’s important to discuss with your vet so you can understand the cause and ensure the proper treatment. Be wary of using the eye stain removers you may see on the market. Some of them may contain tylosin tartrate, an antibiotic which is approved by the FDA for use in livestock but NOT in dogs or cats.
Cherry eye is actually a prolapsed gland of a dog’s third eyelid, causing that red protrusion in the corner of their eye. Yes, you read that right, the third eyelid – a dog has three – an upper and lower like humans and a third that sits in the corner of the eye and acts like a windshield wiper, removing dust and debris from the dog’s eye. When it slips out of place, it results in what is called cherry eye. It’s not a life threatening condition, but should not be left untreated as it may eventually cause discomfort or sight problems. Typical treatment is a simple surgery to move the gland back into place. Removal of the gland is no longer common as it can lead to longer term issues. If it develops in one eye, it most likely will occur in the other as well. The cause is suspected to be just a weakness in the connective tissue holding the gland in place, so medication or other preventative treatments are typically not effective.
Conjunctivitis: Dogs can get conjunctivitis (or “pink eye”) just as humans. The conjuctiva is the moist tissue lining the eye and eyelids. When it becomes inflamed, the results is conjunctivitis. The inflammation may be the results of something simple such as airborne dust or debris, an allergy or a more serious disease such as distemper. It may be viral or bacterial, so a visit to the vet for a proper diagnosis is critical. Symptoms of conjunctivitis are hard to miss, swollen red or bloodshot eyes, crusty discharge from the eye, squinting or excessive rubbing of the eyes. The treatment will depend on whether the conjunctivitis is the primary or secondary problem. If it is the primary issue, it can be treated with some simple antibiotic medication and drops.
Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is self explanatory – it is a condition where not enough aqueous fluid or tears are manufactured and the eye becomes overly dry. This in turn causes irritation of the cornea and conjunctiva. Untreated, this could lead to blindness, so get to the vet if you see the following symptoms: excessive blinking, a yellow gooey discharge, cherry eye or swelling of the eyes. It may be caused by disease (distemper) or it could be genetic or result of some medications. The most common cause is an immune-mediated problem preventing the dog’s normal tear production. Treatment has focused on alleviating that issue with drugs (Cyclosporine) that suppresses this interference and restores the dog’s natural tear production. It will require ongoing daily dosage.