Dog Eye Problems
There are quite a few dog eye problems, some if left untreated can lead to significant loss of eyesight or even blindness. Learn some of the signs and symptoms of common canine eye problems here.

How can you tell if your dog has an eye problem?

There are some telltale signs. For example, your dog’s eyes may be red and/or watering, he may squint, blink frequently, and paw at the eye.

If you notice any of the above signs, you should take a careful look at your dog’s eyes to look for other symptoms so that you can determine whether your dog’s eye problem is an emergency.

How to Give Your Dog an Eye Examination

To give your dog an eye examination, you need:

  • an assistant to help restrain your dog
  • a flashlight
  • a magnifying glass

If possible, examine your dog’s eyes in a dark room with a single light source (flashlight).

Use the following table as a guideline as to what to look for:

Part of Eye How What to Look For
Whole Observe both eyes and compare one eye to the other.
  • Is your dog squinting?
  • Are both eyes the same size, same color, and same shape?
  • Are both pupils the same size?
  • Is there a watery or mucoid discharge?
  • Are the eyelids swollen and inflamed?
  • Is the third eyelid visible?
Eyeball Through closed eyelids, press gently.
  • Does your dog feel pain?
  • Is one eye harder or softer than the other?
  • Is one eyeball bulging?
Eyeball Surface Pull down lower eyelid to expose the third eyelid and cornea. Use a flashlight to examine the surface carefully.
  • Does the cornea look cloudy, smoky, or hazy?
  • Can you see any dull spot on the cornea?

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Eye Problems

Now that you have examined your dog’s eyes and noted the signs and symptoms, let’s look at what some of those signs and symptoms may indicate.

Pain

If your dog shows sudden sign of severe pain in the eye, it may indicate glaucoma, corneal injuries, inflammation of the cornea (keratitis or cloudy eye), or inflammation of the iris (uveitis).

How do you know if your dog is in pain?

Usually, a dog with a painful eye squints, and the eye is watery, sensitive to light, and tender to the touch. A dog in pain also drools, whines, becomes lethargic, and has no appetite.

Important!

If your dog has a painful eye, you should take him to the veterinarian immediately! Don’t wait! Some dog eye problems such as glaucoma can cause irreversible damage in just a matter of hours!

Eye Discharge

Not all eye discharge is the same. Different types of discharge indicate different dog eye problems. For example:

Discharge Other Signs Possible Dog Eye Problems
Clear No Tearing mechanism problem
Clear Redness Conjunctivitis
Yellow/thick green; mucoid With or without pain Infection; foreign body in eye; dry eye; entropion
All kinds of discharge Pain Corneal or inner eye problems

Eyelids

Eyelids that are swollen, red, and encrusted may indicate that your dog has inflamed eyelids (blepharitis).

If the lower eyelid looks “droopy”, your pup may have a condition called ectropion. Usually the pup will also have runny eyes, and sometimes eye infections.

If the swelling occurs suddenly, it may be due to an allergic reaction to insect bites or some foods, in which case the eyelids may also appear puffy and fluid-filled and your dog may feel itchy.

Cloudiness

If your dog’s eye appears cloudy but he is not in pain, it may indicate cataracts.

If your dog has a cloudy eye AND is in pain, he may be suffering from glaucoma, inflammation of the cornea (keratitis or cloudy eye), or inflammation of the iris (uveitis).

Hardness of Eyeball

Inner eye problems can alter your dog’s eye pressure, causing the eye to change its hardness. A hard eye with a dilated pupil is typical of glaucoma, and a soft eye with a small pupil may indicate that your dog has uveitis.

Bulging Eyeball

Glaucoma or tumors can cause a bulging eye.

Common Dog Eye Problems

Now that we have looked at the signs and symptoms of a dog having an eye problem, let’s look at some rather common eye problems that can affect dogs.

Corneal Ulcers

Dogs with big bulging eyes (e.g. pug, maltese) are prone to sustain injuries to their eyes. Corneal abrasions and ulcers are injuries to the cornea caused by trauma, such as scratches.

Ulcers are deeper wounds that involve the middle and sometimes even the inner layer of the cornea.

Corneal ulcers are very painful and cause severe tearing, squinting, and pawing at the eye. A dog with a corneal ulcer usually avoids the light.

Prompt treatment is essential to avoid complications and even loss of the eye. Therefore, if your dog shows the above symptoms, take him to the vet immediately.

Distichiasis

Distichiasis is a congenital eye condition. An extra row of eyelashes grows from the eyelid and is directed inward, resulting in the eyelashes constantly touching and rubbing the sensitive eyeball tissue. This causes irritation and eventual corneal abrasion. Over time, scarring and loss of vision may occur.

The affected eye is red and irritated, causing the dog to squint constantly and rub the eye incessantly (e.g. against furniture or using his paws).

Some breeds are more prone to distichiasis. They include:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Golden Retriever
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shih Tzu

Treatment of distichiasis is simply by the removal of the extra inward-growing eyelashes either by cryotherapy (chemical freezing), surgery, or electrolysis.

Ectropion

Ectropion is an eyelid problem in which the lower eyelid rolls outward, causing the eyelid to look “droopy”.

As a result, tears are not channeled into the tear ducts but drain on the face.

More seriously, though, because the lower eyelid rolls outward, it exposes the eye surface and the conjunctival tissues more to the air, causing eye surface and the tissues to dry out. This can result in conjunctivitis and/or corneal ulcers. In most cases, both eyes are affected.

Certain breeds are more predisposed to this condition. They include:

  • Bassett hound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bulldog
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Mastiff
  • Newfoundland Dog
  • Saint Bernard

If your dog’s lower eyelid looks droopy, watch out for signs such as excessive tearing, tear stains, and signs of eye inflammation (red, pain).

Surgery is the treatment for this condition.

Entropion

Entropion is an eyelid condition that can occur in both eyes.

In this condition, the bottom eyelid rolls inward causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea. This causes pain, excessive tearing, and eye inflammation. Surgery is the treatment for this condition.

Other Dog Eye Problems

Click on the links below to get more detailed information on the following dog eye problems: