Pets can suffer from various ocular problems that can cause significant discomfort, vision loss, or permanent damage. Some pets have a high risk for developing eye issues, so keep a close eye on your furry pal if they have one or more of the following:

  • Brachycephalic head structure (i.e., short snout, bulging eyes)
  • Excess facial skin and wrinkles
  • Genetic predisposition to eye disease
  • Autoimmune, endocrine, or other disorders

Regardless of their traits, any pet can develop an eye problem, so by being able to identify eye issues, you can help your furry pal get the treatment they need to preserve their ocular health. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital PC team describes common eye diseases’ signs and causes that you should watch for in your pet.

Conjunctivitis in pets

Conjunctivitis (i.e., pink eye) occurs when an eye’s conjunctiva becomes swollen and inflamed. Normal conjunctiva is a healthy pink color, but when irritated, this mucous membrane covering the eyelids and eye becomes bright red.

Signs: A pet who has conjunctivitis has swollen, reddened eyelids, including the third eyelid. The conjunctivae covering the eyes can also become irritated and inflamed. If your pet has conjunctivitis, they may rub or paw at their face, squint, blink excessively, or have ocular discharge.

Causes: In many cases, conjunctivitis signs are the same, regardless of the cause. Your pet may develop conjunctival inflammation for any of the following reasons:

  • Allergies
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Immune system disorders
  • Anatomical issues
  • Dry eye
  • Glaucoma
  • Ocular trauma
  • Eyelid abnormalities (e.g., entropion, tumors)

Corneal injuries in pets

Corneal injuries are relatively common in pets, particularly those with prominent eyes, shallow eye sockets, and flat muzzles. The cornea is the shiny, transparent membrane that covers the eyeball’s front. A pet can suffer from corneal abrasions, punctures, or ulcers that can rapidly worsen without proper treatment.

Signs: Corneal injury pain can force your pet to keep their eye completely closed, or they may paw or rub the injured eye. Corneal injuries commonly lead to conjunctivitis and ocular drainage.

Causes: Corneal injuries usually occur because of scuffles between pets, where a claw may scrape an eye during fighting or playing. Any contact with a sharp object, such as a stick, can damage the cornea. In addition, if your pet has rolled-in eyelids that they constantly rub, your cat or dog can experience a corneal injury. When a pet has dry eye, they produce no tears or lubrication, which can lead to a corneal injury.

Cherry eye in pets

A pet’s third eyelid produces most of the eye’s protective tear layer, and when it pops out of place (i.e., prolapses), the eye becomes dry, having a red appearance (i.e., cherry eye).

Signs: Cherry eye is aptly named because this condition appears as a cherry bulging out of the lower, inner corner of a pet’s eye. This red swelling can cover a large portion of the eye, or it may be small and pop in and out of place.

Causes: Certain breeds are predisposed to developing cherry eye. Brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced) pets are thought to have weak fibrous attachments that connect the third eyelid gland to the lower eyelid rim, allowing the gland to prolapse.

Cataracts in pets

Inside the eye, the lens, a clear structure, focuses light onto the retina to send images to the brain. A cataract causes the lens to become cloudy or totally opaque, obstructing a pet’s vision.

Signs: A cataract appears as a white spot inside an eye’s pupil. This film-like substance generally grows over time.

Causes: Genetics is the most common cataract cause, as this is an inherited condition. Other causes include diabetes or other metabolic diseases, chronic uveitis, trauma, nutritional imbalance, and age.

Dry eye in pets

Dry eye (i.e., keratoconjunctivitis sicca [KCS]) is a condition that develops because of inadequate tear production. Tears are important for lubricating the eye and preventing infection and irritation.

Signs: A pet with dry eye may exhibit conjunctivitis, squinting, mucus-like discharge on the cornea, and corneal defects.

Causes: Most commonly, an immune system attack on the tear glands causes dry eye. Other dry eye causes include certain medications, genetics, endocrine disorders, infectious diseases, and neurologic problems.

Entropion in pets

Entropion is an eyelid abnormality that occurs when the eyelids roll in and rub against the cornea. When the eyelashes and hair on the eyelids scrape against the cornea, pain, corneal ulcers, or pigmentation can develop.

Signs: Entropion causes pets to squint, produce excess tears, and develop a mucoid discharge.

Causes: Entropion is a genetic condition that most often occurs in breeds with excessive facial skin (e.g., bulldogs, Bloodhounds, basset hounds). However, any pet can develop entropion, especially if they have experienced eyelid scarring or ocular trauma.

An eye issue can cause your pet incredible pain, and the condition can rapidly worsen without treatment. If you suspect your pet has an ocular problem, immediately contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital PC team.