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Corneal Ulceration in Dogs

By: Dr. Rhea Morgan

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Veterinary Care

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize corneal ulceration, any underlying cause and to exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

  • Thorough ocular examination with special attention to the eyelashes, eyelids and blink reflex, status of the cornea and the interior of the eye

  • Fluorescein staining of the cornea to assess ulcer size, depth and character. Fluorescein is a dye that adheres to the central layer of the cornea and makes the ulcerated area become bright green.

  • Schirmer tear test to measure tear production

  • Cytology, culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing of ocular samples for the presence of infectious agents such as bacteria

    Treatment

    Treatments for corneal ulceration may include any of the following:

  • Removal or treatment of the underlying cause

  • An antibiotic eye drop or ointment to treat or prevent infection of the cornea

  • Atropine to dilate the pupil and relieve pain from uveitis (inflammation of the inner layers of the eye) or spasm of the iris

  • An Elizabethan collar to prevent the patient from rubbing the eye and making the ulcer worse

  • Surgery to correct a rapidly progressive or deep corneal ulcer. Surgery may involve applying a soft contact lens or suturing the eyelids partially closed to bandage the eye, or the placement of conjunctival grafts over deep lesions.

  • Oral antibiotics for serious infections of the cornea, and oral anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin) if inflammation is present within the eye

    Home Care

    At home, administer all veterinary prescribed medications and follow-up with your veterinarian within several days of the original diagnosis. Take care that your dog doesn't rub at the eye or cause any extra trauma to the healing ulcer. Leave the Elizabethan collar on at all times until your veterinarian approves its removal.

    Observe the eye for signs of worsening, especially cloudiness of the cornea, increased or altered ocular discharge, continued squinting, or more obvious redness of the conjunctiva, which is the white tissue lining in the eyelids and covering the eye).

    Preventive Care

    Examine your dog's eyes regularly and call your veterinarian if you note any pain or color change. Pay particular attention to your dog's eyes after he has been running through long grass or brush. If your dog is a hunting or field-trial dog, then examine his eyes after he returns from the field.

    Try not to get anything other than saline or clean water in your dog's eyes. For example, avoid shampoos, soaps and any other household cleaners. Do not attempt to remove foreign material from your dog's eye. Instead, seek urgent veterinary care.        

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