Overview of Canine Corneal Ulcerations
Corneal ulceration is a common condition in dogs and is loss of the corneal epithelium (the outermost cells of the cornea) with exposure and possible loss of the underlying corneal collagen. Corneal epithelium is constantly being lost and replaced, and its health and thickness depend on a delicate balance between a dog’s cell loss and regeneration.
Causes of excessive cell loss include injury from ingrown or misplaced eyelashes, exposure to foreign material, chemicals, heat or smoke, infections with certain viruses and bacteria, and from trauma such as cat scratches. Decreased tear production (“dry eye” or keratoconjunctivitis sicca) and inadequate blink responses may cause corneal ulceration. The potential causes of corneal ulcers are almost too numerous to list.
Corneal ulceration can affect any animal; however, those breeds of dogs with more protuberant (prominent) eyes and larger eyelid openings are at increased risk. Some older animals may heal more slowly and, therefore, have ulcers that may be more difficult to treat.
Corneal ulceration is a painful and potentially vision-threatening condition. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is usually rapidly curative. Complicated cases can progress to full thickness or perforating ulcers with serious effects on vital structures within the eye.
What to Watch For
Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.
Diagnosis of Corneal Ulceration in Dogs
Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize corneal ulceration, any underlying cause and to exclude other diseases. Tests may include:
Treatment of Dogs with Corneal Ulcerations
Treatments for corneal ulceration may include any of the following:
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).
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.
Related Symptoms or Diseases to Corneal Ulceration in Dogs
Your veterinarian is usually able to diagnose corneal ulceration with a thorough examination and application of a fluorescein dye to your dog’s cornea. However, discovering the cause of the ulceration and checking for related ocular abnormalities can be challenging. The following conditions may be causes or effects of the corneal ulcer: