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Eye Care in Puppies

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Your mother may have told you, "Never rub your eyes, except with your elbows." And she might well have added, "And never put anything in your eyes unless told to by a doctor." Well, pretty much the same holds true for puppies. It's a really bad idea to go poking around a puppy's eyes unless you know what you're doing and, in most instances, it's unnecessary. If dogs had been left to be dogs, as nature intended, there would be very little for an owner to do in or around their puppy's eyes. Unfortunately, dogs were selectively bred for all kinds of unnatural physical traits; short noses, extra skin folds, small eyes, and so on, so now it's not "a given" that a pup's eyes will need little or no attention.

First of all, let's consider normal eye care where there is nothing obviously wrong with a pup's eyes and where selective breeding has not created special problems for the pup and its owners. Let's imagine, for example, a thoroughly mixed Heinz 57 mongrel with bright shiny eyes and 20/20 vision. What does the owner need to do? Virtually nothing. Of course, it's a good idea to make sure that the pup's eyes stay the way that nature intended and that trauma inflicted by dust, grit, larger flying objects, and chemicals is totally avoided.

Tips for Eye Safety

  • Do not allow puppies or adult dogs to stick their heads out of car windows unless they are wearing well- fitting eye goggles (Doggles®).

  • Ditto for dogs riding in the back of trucks, although this practice is plagued by other more serious risks.

  • When shampooing your dog, take care to keep the shampoo out of the dog's eyes. It is probably best to use a tearless shampoo or, under your veterinarian's direction, apply a bland ophthalmic ointment as directed to protect the pup's eyes during shampooing.

  • When spraying noxious chemicals around the house (e.g. insect sprays), keep the dog out of the room for its own protection.

  • Avoid using sticks or other sharp projectiles as play objects.

  • Use round-ended scissors when trimming your pup's hair.

    Signs of Healthy Eyes

  • They are wide open (not squinting).
  • They are moist and glistening.
  • The conjunctivae (pink membranes surrounding the eye) are pink and healthy looking.
  • The pupil (the black circular area in the center of the eye) constricts to a small circle in bright sunlight and dilates in dim light.
  • There are no accumulations of mucous or other discharges in the "corner of the eye."
  • There are no unusual swellings in and around the eyelids.
  • That there is nothing rubbing on the eye (especially hair).

    Signs of Irritated or Damaged Eyes

  • Squinting, blinking, or tearing excessively.
  • Pawing at the eyes or rubbing the face on the floor.
  • The pup appearing restless or whimpering.

    *Note: If only one eye is affected, the signs of squinting and tearing will be confined to that one eye.

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