Squinting is normal, right? Even for humans, squinting is a sign of something amiss. Sure, we humans do squint in bright sunlight, but, if you’ll pay attention to your dog, you’ll notice that Fido’s eyes don’t react to bright light in the same way. In fact, if your dog is squinting, you should pay attention because something is likely wrong, and your dog immediately needs a vet’s assistance.
The most common cause for dog squinting is a corneal ulcer. This can be extremely painful and requires your dog to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
If you’ve ever known someone who has had a corneal ulcer, you know that pain is a major factor. Your dog will need to be assessed by a veterinary ophthalmologist, who will do a thorough eye examination using a fluorescein stain to diagnose the condition. Your dog will undergo treatment with a variety of medications, and he’ll likely need to wear a cone to prevent his possibly rubbing the eye.
A corneal ulcer is a deep erosion into the cornea that goes through the epithelium and into the stroma of the eye. Fluid will collect here, and the eye will have cloudy appearance. If the erosion in the eye is deep enough to go through the stroma, then a descemetocele is formed. If the descemetocele erupts, the liquid inside the eyeball will leak out. When this happens, the eyeball will collapse, and there is no fix for this type of severe damage to the eye.
How does a corneal ulcer occur in dogs?
There are actually several reasons why a corneal ulcer can develop in a dog’s eyes. However, the most common cause is some type of trauma to the eye, most likely a blunt force. This can be the result of an accident where a dog perhaps runs into something or perhaps the result of a skirmish with another dog. However, even something as innocuous as a dog rubbing its eye on the carpet can result in blunt trauma.
Lacerations to the dog’s eyes can also cause blunt trauma and result in a corneal ulcer.
In some instances, a dog may somehow receive a chemical burn to her eye and develop a corneal ulcer. This can happen if Fido gets dog shampoo or dust from remodeling drywall into the eye.
So, you can see that trauma to the eye can happen due to the most innocent of things. Everyday life can “happen” and result in a corneal ulcer. That’s why it’s so important to be sure to keep a check on any squinting behavior in your dog.
There are other, less common ways that an eye can develop a corneal ulcer. These include bacterial infections, viral infections, and other eye diseases. The infection could start in the eye, or it could develop as the result of a secondary infection in the body.
Other diseases of the eye that can contribute to a dog’s eventual development of a corneal ulcer are:
This is an inherited eye disease that results in the weakening of the cornea. Boxers are one breed that is more susceptible to the issue.
Drying of the Cornea
This condition is typically the result of decreased tear production. The condition is called “dry eye,” but the medical term for this issue is keratoconjunctivitis sicca .
Like humans, dogs with diabetes tend to have issues with their eyes. Your vet can check regularly to ensure the health of your dog’s eye should your Fido live with this condition.
Other endocrine diseases that can have a negative effect on your dog’s eye health include Cushing’s disease (which is also called hyperadrenocorticism) and hypothyroidism.
What signs can I look for in the development of a corneal ulcer? What if I don’t notice my dog squinting?
We’ve already mentioned that corneal ulcers are quite painful for dogs. If you notice your dog wincing or “favoring” the eye, then it’s possible a corneal ulcer is developing. However, here are some tell-tale signs that your dog is experiencing something wrong with her eyes.
You may notice the dog rubbing at her eye with her paw or even rubbing the carpet—or the couch—with that particular side of her face. The dog will tend to keep the eye closed if possible (which is the “squint” we’re referring to). You may also see a discharge from the eye in question. It may remain in the corner of the eye or run down the side of her face.
How will my vet diagnose the corneal ulcer?
You will have to take your dog to his vet or perhaps a vet that specializes in disease of the eye for a check-up. Your vet will have the proper equipment and the elements needed to test the eye. The vet will use fluorescein, which will be dropped in the dog’s eye. Then, the dye will turn green and stick to the areas affected by the ulcer. Of course, your vet will be able to see a larger ulcer more easily, but there are instances where there may be tiny ulcers in the cornea.
The fluorescein stain test is the most common test for corneal ulcers in dogs. If the ulcer is superficial, it may be the only test your vet needs to perform in order to ascertain the severity of the corneal ulcer. Of course, if the ulcer is tiny or deeper in the eye, the vet may need to take samples that will be placed in culture. Your vet may have to do a cell study to determine the stage of the ulcer; if he or she is not equipped with these particular items, you may be referred to a veterinary optician.
How is a corneal ulcer treated? Will my dog lose the affected eye?
The treatment will depend upon a few concerns. First, the vet will need to determine if your dog has a corneal abrasion, a corneal ulcer, or a descemetocele.
Corneal abrasions are the result of trauma to the eye, for the most part. It is no different from a scratch to the eye that we humans may experience. This condition tends to heal within three to five days. Your vet will prescribe an antibiotic, chiefly in the form of an ophthalmic antibiotic drop or ointment that you’ll place in the dog’s eye for about a week. Typically, the vet will also prescribe an ophthalmic atropine drop or ointment that will prevent spasms in the eye as well as control pain.
For whatever amount of time the vet recommends you provide the antibiotic treatment, you’ll need to give the drops or replace the ointment every few hours. The antibiotic will need to be provided every four to six hours. However, the atropine drop or ointment only needs to be administered every twelve to forty-eight hours. Your vet will provide directions on how often you’ll need to provide treatment.
The abrasion is fairly easy to treat, but you’ll likely have to treat a corneal ulcer or a descemetocele a little more rigorously and more aggressively.
Your dog may have to have eye surgery in order to heal the ulcer or the descemetocele. Some pets may have to wear an eye patch. You will need to talk with your vet about what is best for your dog in this case.
If there is dead or weak tissue in the eye, your vet may suggest surgery in order to remove said tissue. This is called a grid keratectomy. Some vets will recommend trying a corneal graft. Again, you and your vet will work together to figure out the best course of treatment for your dog.
Can a corneal abrasion eventually become an ulcer?
Yes, if left untreated. Earlier, we mentioned that trauma to the eye—which could cause the initial abrasion—can lead to a corneal ulcer. If the dog is experiencing an abrasion or a superficial corneal ulcer, it is best to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Most times, medication such as ointments and antibiotics can prevent the abrasion from becoming a corneal ulcer or a descemetocele. Even when your dog is being treated for the abrasion, your vet will likely want him to come in for a check-up every two or three days to ensure that the abrasion is healing back properly. If the vet sees that healing isn’t taking place, then he will likely take a more aggressive approach to treatment.
Can I expect any side effects from the antibiotics and ointments my dog is prescribed?
There ARE dogs that are sensitive to antibiotics (genetic testing can often show this tendency), and typically, your dog will appear to be in more pain once he begins treatment. If you believe your dog is having a reaction to the antibiotic, discontinue use and contact your vet immediately.
Your dog will likely do whatever he can to keep his eye shut because the abrasion and the possible resulting ulcer are painful. The eye is more sensitive to light as well. You may notice that the atropine ointment or drop dilates the eye; your dog may try to keep the eye shut as a result.
You may also notice your dog drooling a good bit once the ophthalmic treatments are issued. This is not a side effect but is a normal result of the treatment. The discharge brought about by the ophthalmic treatments typically drains into the back of the nose and throat.
It is important to note that these medications taste bitter, and, when the discharge drains, you may notice your dog pawing at her mouth. This is just a response to the bitter taste, not a side effect.
Your vet will likely repeat the fluorescein stain test when she suspects the abrasion or ulcer is healed. This is so she can discontinue the eye treatment medications.
1. Why is my dog squinting?
Your dog could be squinting for a number of reasons, but one of the chief reasons is that your dog may have a corneal abrasion or a corneal ulcer. It’s always a good idea to have the vet check the eye to ensure there is no eye health emergency.
2. Do dogs squint when in pain?
Yes, they will squint and they will keep the eye closed when they are experiencing eye pain.
3. Why do dogs half-close their eyes?
This could be for a number of reasons. It could be because of the bright sun, a potential infection in the eye, an eye abrasion, or a corneal ulcer.