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Eye Problems in Dogs

There are many different eye problems that can plague dogs, many of which are congenital conditions that the dog is born with or even hereditary conditions that are developed later in life.

Other eye issues are just the normal progression of the aging process in our dogs, particularly issues like Cataracts and Glaucoma.

Symptoms of Eye Problems in Dogs

Some of the more common symptoms of eye problems in dogs:

  • Crusty gunk and discharge
  • White or red eyelid linings
  • Visible abnormalities, such as a third eyelid
  • Tear-stained fur
  • Change in eye color
  • Cloudiness
  • An eye that won’t open
  • Different sized pupils
  • Excessive tearing

Common Eye Problems in Dogs

The most common eye problems in dogs are the following:

1. Cataracts

Cataracts cause cloudy eyes in dogs making them murky, grey/blue and clouded. The eye’s natural transparency becomes more opaque as the disease progresses.

If the eye becomes totally opaque, blindness will occur.

Some of the causes of canine cataracts are the following:

  • dog getting eye exam at vetBirth-defects
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Infection
  • Nutritional disorders
  • Old-age
  • Radiation from cancer therapy
  • Toxic cataracts caused by disease

Surgery is the most common and successful treatment of cataracts.

2. Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is a condition involving the gland of a third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane.  This membrane slips forward which then produces a visible red mass in the inner corner of the dog’s eye.

Cherry eye is more common in puppies and can be caused by the weakness of the connective tissue behind the eye.  It is known to be a hereditary condition.

Surgery is the best and most common treatment with a high success rate of 80%.

3. Coloboma

Coloboma is an eye disorder when a dog’s iris has a hole in it or is split.

Coloboma can be inherited and considered a congenital condition when there is an incomplete eye tissue development prior to birth.

Eye trauma and/or injuries can result in coloboma.

There is no corrective treatment for this condition and a dog will not have impaired vision but just sensitivity to sunlight or direct bright light.

4. Corneal Ulcers

A Corneal ulcer occurs when the deep layer of the dog’s cornea is lost or has been eroded.

The usual cause of a corneal ulcer is if a dog is injured or there is trauma to the dog’s eye.  The condition can also be caused by disease, infection, paralysis of a nerve around the face or a tear deficiency.

The treatment, depending on the severity of the condition, usually includes pain medication for comfort and antibiotics to prevent infection.

Some less serious corneal ulcers can heal on their own, while the more serious ulcers that are deeper in the eye could require surgery.

5. Distichiasis

Distichiasis is a condition where there is an abnormal growth of eyelashes where they shouldn’t be growing. It can affect both the lower and upper eyelids, both eyes, or merely one eye.

Distichiasis can become problematic when the eyelashes protrude inward and therefore irritate the dog’s cornea.

One of the more minor, less invasive eye conditions, the prognosis is very positive.

The treatment for distichiasis usually includes the removal of the abnormal eyelashes, either manually or through electrolysis, cryotherapy or surgery.

6. Ectropion

Ectropion in dogs is a condition when the eyelids tend to droop or roll out.  It can occur in either one or even both eyes and usually affects the lower eyelids.

This is a condition that is inherent in certain breeds and is considered a hereditary condition.

Ectropion will affect the conjunctival tissues that line the inner surface of the eyelids and will cover the entire eyeball.  The result is dry eyes and conjunctivitis.

Ectropion is caused by nerve paralysis, injury to the cornea or eye and trauma.

In minor cases, the treatment is ointment on the eyelids or eye drops.  In more severe cases, surgery may be required.

7. Entropion

Entropion is a congenital condition that occurs when the eyelid inverts or rolls inward.

The result is that the dog’s eyelashes will constantly scrape the eyelid which can cause damage to the eyeball.

The lower dog’s eyelid is more often affected when a dog has Entropion.  Entropion is typically an inherited abnormality and certain breeds are pre-disposed to the condition.

The best and most successful treatment is eyelid surgery.

8. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition where the fluid that fills the eyes is increased to the point that it causes pressure behind the eyes.

Glaucoma can be very painful because it damages the internal structure of the eyes and can eventually leading to blindness.

The treatment depends on the cause and severity of glaucoma.

The main goal is to restore normal eye pressure; this can be achieved by decreasing fluid production and/or increasing fluid drainage.

Pain management is also an important part of the treatment. If there is an underlying disease causing glaucoma, it should be treated as well.

9. Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is when the cells of the retina start to lose their function which can lead to blindness or impaired visions.

A gene mutation is responsible for the condition which is why it’s important to test certain breeds while they are young.

Some of the causes include the abnormal development of the retina with age, the natural aging process, an adverse reaction to a specific drug, a disease like cancer that spread to the retina.

There is no cure for retinal atrophy.

Some supplements and diet can help strengthen the eyesight in dogs and therefore help to prevent progressive retinal atrophy from occurring.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Dog Eye Problems?

There are many different eye problems that could occur in your dogs and pet insurance will cover many, if not all, of these eye problems.

If your dog is born with one of these eye issues, then pet insurance might not cover this particular condition.

However, most of these congenital and hereditary eye issues won’t present themselves until later in life and therefore if you enroll your dog when he or she is young, the disease won’t be considered pre-existing and will be covered.

The cost of these eye issues can range anywhere from $200 to $7,500 for more serious conditions.

Plans like Healthy Paws and Embrace will cover up to 90% of the costs of any of these eye issues which enables you to get the best care for your dog.

Prevention Tips For Eye Problems In Dogs

The best prevention for any of these eye issues is to keep up with your annual vet visits to detect any illness that might occur.

If you have a certain breed of dog that is predisposed to any of these eye conditions, early testing is always a good, proactive idea.

To learn more about the other issues that can occur in your dog, our dog health problems glossary is a great place to start!


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