Staring your pets in the eye occasionally, might make them think they’re in trouble, but it can give you an important insight into whether there may be problems with their eye health. There are several things this can reveal such as inflammation, tear staining, and cloudiness, and they can be indicators that something’s wrong. Following are some suggestions of what you can do at home to monitor your pet’s eye health and things to watch for.
How to examine your pet’s eyes
Firstly, look into your pet’s eyes in a brightly lit area such as outdoors or under bright lights at home. The sclera - the area around the eyeball - should be white and the eyes should be bright and clear. There shouldn’t be any crust in the corners of the eyes, or tears. Also, the pupils should be the same size.
The next step may be a little more difficult, especially with cats, as it may make your pet flinch or pull away. Gently pull the lower eyelid down - It will probably be done more easily with your thumb and you don’t necessarily need to have your thumb directly on the eyelid to be able to pull it down far enough to see the lining. It should be pink - as opposed to red or white.
Things to watch for
Following are signs that something could be wrong:
- Closed eyes – either or both
- Tear staining, or stains on their fur indicating that there have been tears
- Inside of eyelids being red or white
- Crusty build-up or discharge
- A change in eye colour
- Visible “third eyelid”
- Different sized pupils
- Itchy or irritated eyes
If your pet is winking at you, it is more likely to be a sign of an infection and not the body language that humans use with each other. Infections such as a bacteria or virus can be common in cats, so watch out for these clinical signs. Nasal discharge or sneezing can be other clinical signs common with upper respiratory infections in cats.
How to clean your pet’s eyes
The build-up of “sleep”- the combination of oil, skin cells, mucus, and other debris that accumulates in the corner of our eyes - is something that we can wipe away easily with our fingers, but our pets need some help with this task. Wipe this away from your pet’s eyes by starting in the corner and gently wiping outwards. A damp cotton ball is most suitable but a soft tissue can also be used. Be careful that the tissue is not dry and abrasive, and take care not to touch the eyeball which can risk scratching the cornea. Constantly runny eyes might indicate a problem and if your pet suffers from this, get it reviewed by a vet.
Catching the breeze isn’t always a good thing
Dogs are notorious for loving the wind-in-the-face sensation that comes with sticking their heads out of a moving car, but this is particularly dangerous for their eyes and delicate ears. The speed of the vehicle can increase the risk and impact of something landing in their eyes such as dirt and insects, which can injure the eye and cause considerable pain. The wind also has a drying effect. The risks are magnified for animals travelling in utes and the back of open vehicles which have even less protection, including from the sun. Dogs should travel on the back seats of cars, and preferably be restrained with a specifically designed harness. Windows should be open partially so that dogs can’t get their heads out. Cats should travel on the back seat in a carrier.
Some disorders are linked to breed
There are several types of eye disorders, and particular breeds are predisposed to some of them. Conducting some research on your pet’s breed and speaking to your vet will help you to know of which to be aware. Annual health check-ups for your pets will provide the opportunity for your vet to check their eye health but knowing what’s relevant to your pet’s breed will help you to be on the front foot when it comes to their health care.
Following are some breeds’ associated eye problems that may affect dogs and cats:
- Dry Eye: Corneal inflammation can be caused by reduced tear production. It may be accompanied by discharge and squinting
- Conjunctivitis: An itchy inflammation of the tissue that coats the eye and the lining of the eyelids called the conjunctiva
- Cherry Eye: A cherry-like mass caused by an enlarged tear gland forms on the eye, and is most commonly seen in dogs under the age of two
- Cataracts: An opacity on the lens of the eye. It can cause impaired vision and possible blindness, and is usually inherited. Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Golden Retrievers are more susceptible
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An inherited disease of the retina seen in certain breeds of dogs and more rarely cats. It is caused by degeneration of retinal tissue, and night blindness is often the first sign.
We keep hair out of our eyes and we should for our pets too
Long-haired dogs and cats can sustain eye damage if their hair isn’t kept way from their eyes as it can poke and irritate them. Hair also has the potential to carry dirt and grime. A trip to the groomer isn’t necessary to keep your pet’s eyes hair-free, and you can do it at home by carefully trimming the hair around their eyes. Use scissors with rounded tips to reduce the risk of injury due to sudden movements.
Other irritants to our pet’s eyes can be topical medications such as flea washes, and soaps. Ensure that your pet’s eyes are protected when they’re being bathed or having lotions and ointments applied. The rubbing of eyes with paws or against another surface, could be a sign that your pet’s eyes are irritated or there’s something in them such as a grass seed.
If it doesn’t look right, call your vet
As with any issue a visit to the vet is necessary to get an accurate diagnosis. History is important in helping your vet determine whether there has been a change and in helping them choose the most appropriate diagnostic tests. During an examination, your vet will check the eye for indications of trauma, and signs of systemic problems. They’ll also evaluate the structures of the eye.
If your pet has a simple eye infection then the prognosis is very good. Viral infections are often self-limiting, (i.e. they will get better by themselves and without treatment), and bacterial infections usually respond well to treatment such as antibiotics.
Whilst it’s important to keep a watch out for potential eye problems in your pets, and to conduct the basic checks, it’s important to also remember that different problems can look alike to the untrained eye. If your pet is showing any signs of pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to call us to arrange a visit. Trying to treat a problem at home, and not knowing what it really is, can waste precious time in getting the right diagnosis and worse still, it can create further problems.
If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s eye health or any other health care issues, call us to make an appointment, or alternatively book online at your convenience 24/7.