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Corneal Ulceration in Dogs

By: Dr. Rhea Morgan

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Diagnosis In-depth

  • Your veterinarian will do a complete medical history and perform a thorough ophthalmic examination. Thorough examination provides essential information regarding the cause, duration, and severity of the corneal ulcer. It may also highlight other related symptoms or diseases such as those listed above. Parts of the examination are often conducted in a darkened room using a bright light source and some form of magnification.

  • As part of the examination, fluorescein stain is applied to the cornea and any excess is rinsed off. Fluorescein stain adheres to any areas where the surface layer of the cornea is missing. It outlines the ulcer and permits accurate assessment of the size and depth of the ulcer.

  • If low tear production is suspected as the cause, a Schirmer tear test is performed. A small strip of calibrated filter paper is placed inside the lower eyelid and left in place for one minute. The distance to which tears flow along this filter paper is a measure of the volume of tears produced. .

  • Your veterinarian may assess your dog's blink reflex. This involves a gentle tap with the finger at the corners of the eye and observation of the completeness and speed of eyelid closure. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if you have seen your dog sleeping with his eyelids partly open, thus potentially exposing the middle of the cornea to drying.

  • In cases where the ulcer appears infected, special samples may be collected from the cornea for examination under a microscope, for bacterial culture, and for antibiotic sensitivity testing. This is particularly important if an ulcer has progressed rapidly or has failed to respond to appropriate antibiotics.

  • If special techniques, equipment, and/or training are required, your veterinarian may refer your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further evaluation.

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