Eye Problems


One of the most common problems we see in veterinary practice is a red eye in dogs, cats, rabbits and especially guinea pigs. The eye is sore and itchy, and pets will commonly rub their faces with their paws or try to rub along furniture and carpets. Often, they are squinting, and the eye is half shut.

A sticky discharge may be coming from the corner of the eye and the membranes of the inside of the eye (the conjunctiva) can be red and swollen.

Usually, this is due to conjunctivitis, an infection of the eyelids, and this can be quickly resolved with antibiotic eyedrops. Infections can be caught from other pets or by dust and dirt getting into the eye carrying bacteria.
Allergies can also cause red eye and it may be that steroid drops are needed to cool the inflammation and make your pet more comfortable again. One of the checks that is made on red eyes is to drop in fluorescent eye drops. If the clear part of the eye (the cornea) is damaged, these drops will accumulate in the wound and will glow under light.

This is known as a corneal ulcer. Thorns, bits of hay or straw, claw scratches and foreign bodies can all cause damage to the cornea and which is why smaller pets often end up with eye ulcers. Some animals have extra lashes around the eye that scratch the cornea continuously. Care is needed to prevent shampoos going in the eye, as chemicals can cause ulcers as well.

If there is no foreign body such as a thorn still stuck in the eye, most ulcers will heal quickly, as long as the wound is kept infection-free. Your vet will usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops or cream to help the healing process. Pain relief may also be needed to make your pet more comfortable and some pets may need to wear ‘the cone of shame’ to prevent them rubbing at the eye too much.

Some ulcers do become more difficult to heal. The edge of an ulcer can develop a lip which prevents new tissue filling the void and this is known as an indolent ulcer. Different types of eye drops, or surgical techniques, may be needed to clear this lip and encourage healing.

Melting ulcers occur because of infections within the cornea. The infection produces enzymes which dissolve the corneal tissue to digest it, and at its worst can rupture the front of the eye. A particularly useful technique is to collect the animal’s own blood serum and use this as eyedrops to inactivate these enzymes.

Most red eye problems are fairly easy to treat and heal well, but some take a lot more time and involvement. 

Never ignore a sore eye; early treatment is the key.

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