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Hyphema in Dogs

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Hyphema is the presence of blood within the front (anterior) chamber of the eye and is a symptom of either serious ophthalmic or systemic disease. The amount of blood within the front chamber can vary. Mild hyphema may appear only as a pinkish-red discoloration to the fluid in the front of the eye, or as red blood settled out on the bottom of the chamber. Severe hyphema is when the entire chamber is filled with blood and the animal is rendered blind.

Hyphema usually originates from bleeding of the iris blood vessels, but the blood may also originate from the ciliary body (tissue behind the iris), choroidal blood vessels (tissue layer beneath the retina), or retinal blood vessels.

Causes

Some common causes of hyphema include:

  • Direct blunt or penetrating trauma to the head or eye
  • Choking or applying excessive pressure around the neck
  • Severe uveitis (inflammation of the iris, ciliary body and choroid)
  • Certain systemic infections, such as the tick-borne diseases
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Systemic hypertension (elevated arterial blood pressure)
  • Retinal detachment or tearing
  • Chronic glaucoma
  • Tumors (cancer) within the eye
  • Congenital defects in the eye (rare)
  • In some animals the cause is never determined.

    Traumatic and congenital causes are more common in young dogs, while hypertension and most tumors are more common in older dogs. The other causes may occur at any age.

    What to Watch For

  • Redness within the eye located between the cornea (the clear front covering the eye) and the iris/pupil. The blood may hide a portion of the iris or pupil. It may settle to the bottom of the anterior chamber due to gravity, or it may form an actual blood clot in the chamber.
  • Other signs of trauma (bruising, wounds), inflammation or irritation (redness, discharge) to the eye
  • Possibly pain with squinting or holding the eye closed
  • Decreased vision or blindness in the affected eye(s)

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