Caring for Your Pet’s Eyes

So many conditions can affect the well-being and safety of your animal when it concerns the eyes. Any breed of dog or cat can have eye problems, but, certain breeds are predisposed because of their facial anatomy. 

Animals with a lot of hair over their eyes and animals that have flat faces and with facial folds are predisposed to corneal conditions. Many dogs have a condition called KCS, or “dry eye.” This chronic, serious condition must be aggressively treated to keep the eyes moist. A dog with KCS continuously builds up thick secretions, and its eyes will stop looking shiny. Sometimes facial hair will get stuck on the surface of the eye and on the cornea because of these secretions. KCS  is treated with prescription drops and frequent cleaning of the eyes. Left untreated, the secretions build up and can cause skin infections under the eye as well as painful, irreparable corneal damage including blindness.

Many cats have a persistent drainage from the inside corners of their eyes with staining of their hair. Have your veterinarian see if there is a partially blocked tear duct causing the secretion. This must be carefully managed, as with the dogs.

When I see animals with discharge in the eyes owners frequently tell me they have to clean the animal’s eyes out every day because it keeps collecting. Some of these conditions are treatable. The eyes still need to be cleaned on a routine basis with special eye washes. Your vet may prescribe a specific ointment or drop for the condition.

I recommend that pet owners keep the following products to maintain eye health:

1) veterinary eyewash solution
2) veterinary artificial tears
3) I-Lid’N Lash Hygiene Vet Hydrating Cleansing Gel (to remove secretions)
4) veterinary prescription eye drops for dry eyes (from your veterinarian or ophthalmologist)
5) veterinary dry-eye drops (I-Drop, 0.3 percent)

To clean the eyes on a daily basis I recommend I-Lid’N Lash Hygiene Vet Hydrating Cleansing Gel to soften the secretions on the lids and the face. It is easy to remove the softened secretions without causing discomfort to the gentle skin around the eyes. Your pet will be grateful that its eyes have been treated gently. After removing the secretions check if there is any long hair that could stick on the surface of the eye or needs to be trimmed. Take your pet to the veterinarian or the groomer and have them trim the hair to keep it short and away from the eyes.

Some breed standards dictate that the hair grow over the eyes and onto the face. That is fine if your pet is in the showring, but for most pets a tidy, clean face is most desirable. Believe it or not your dog cannot see through the long hair hanging in front of its eyes.

Some things to look for that would create an emergency visit for your pet:

1) blood in the eyes
2) new heavy discharge from the eyes
3) excessive squinting, tearing, or rubbing
4) inability to open the eyes
5) swelling in or around the eyes
6) sudden cloudiness of the eyes
7) any wound on the surface of the eye or eyelid, like a scratch or a bite
8) unequal size of pupils
9) recent head trauma

As a rule any dog or cat with bulging eyes, facial folds, and long hair is predisposed to eye conditions. The bottom line is to make sure that the eyes are always clear and clean and that there are no discharges on the eyelids or hair contacting or brushing up against the surface of the eye. There should be no tearing or squinting. If you have an animal that needs this type of care, make sure to check it every day.

This is the first article in the “Wellness Yearly Visit” series. The topics cover the areas of the animal’s body that are examined when your pet comes in for an annual exam. This includes the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, hair coat, abdomen, and muscles.

Dr. Joanne Carey, co-founder of Takoma Park Animal Clinic, has been serving the community with quality veterinary services and house calls since 1988. The practice is conveniently located at 7330 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, Md. 20912. Visit Dr. Carey’s website,, for more interesting articles on pet care. See the ad at the top of this page.

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