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Ocular (Eye) Pain and Squinting in Dogs

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Do not delay in bringing the pet to a veterinarian for examination as many causes of a painful eye are vision threatening and require immediate medical attention. Many causes of acute (sudden) eye pain are considered medical emergencies and in certain circumstances require surgical intervention to preserve vision. For surgical therapy to be the most successful, time is of the essence. If vision cannot be saved, prompt presentation of the pet for medical attention increases the likelihood that the ball or globe may be preserved.

  • Do not allow the pet to rub or traumatize sore or painful eyes. A protective collar called an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to prevent self-trauma and may be obtained from your veterinarian or pet supply store.

  • Do not administer home remedies or human over-the-counter medicines designed to reduce eye redness or irritation, because these products may exacerbate the signs of eye pain.

    It is important for pet owners of purebred dogs to be familiar with any ophthalmic diseases the breed is predisposed to develop. There are numerous inherited ophthalmic diseases known to afflict certain breeds of dogs and many of these are associated with eye pain and squinting.

    Prompt medical and/or surgical therapy is indicated to preserve vision for the following potentially inherited or breed-predisposed ophthalmic diseases:

  • Glaucoma
  • Lens luxation (displacement)
  • Entropion (inward rolling of the eyelid margin)
  • Distichiasis (extra rows of eyelashes)
  • Ectopic cilia (hair growing out from under the eyelid)
  • Cataract
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye syndrome)

    Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds of dogs are predisposed to corneal ulcerations, abrasions and scratches. These breeds tend to have large, prominent eyes that are more prone to corneal injuries like scratches and ulcers. These breeds also have very shallow orbits or bony eye sockets, and therefore more commonly (and easily) displace their eyeball or globe than non-brachycephalic breeds.

  • Topical antibiotics may be used to treat some corneal or conjunctival injuries and infectious processes, but the underlying cause must be also treated.

  • Deep corneal ulcers and perforations must be stabilized surgically.

  • Lacerations of the eyelids, cornea and sclera also require surgical repair.

  • Conformational or congenital eyelid deformities usually require surgical correction.

  • Corneal and conjunctival foreign bodies are removed with forceps or surgery.

  • Displaced or proptosed globes may be surgically repositioned or may require removal (enucleated) if excessive injuries to the eye are sustained.

  • Anterior uveitis may be treated with topical anti-inflammatory medications, systemic medications, or both.

  • Glaucoma may be treated with medications, surgery, or both.

  • Lens luxations are treated with specific ophthalmic medications or surgery, or both.

  • Orbital infections may be treated with antibiotics and/or surgery

    Optimal therapy of any acute or chronic ophthalmic disease resulting in symptoms of eye pain depends on determining the correct diagnosis. There are a myriad of potential causes of ocular pain and squinting, and before any treatment can be recommended, it is essential to identify the underlying reason. Nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the principal disease responsible for the pet's condition. Initial therapy must be aimed at the primary cause of the eye pain.

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