When it comes to eye problems, quick diagnosis and treatment is imperative. A small scratch or infection can lead to loss of eye sight and/or loss of the eye itself in a short amount of time. At the first sign of eye issues, contact your veterinarian promptly.

Signs of eye problems:

  • Unusually mattery eyes or abnormal discharge
  • Red sclera (white part of the eye)
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Red, inflamed, and/or swollen conjunctiva (pink tissue on inner eyelids)
  • Squinting or holding eye closed
  • Pawing at the eye or rubbing it on things
  • Swelling of the eye, eye lids

A puppy's eyeA dog's eye weepingA dog with cataracts

First Aid

If the eyes are mattery but there are no other symptoms, it is ok to try to flush the eyes at home. Use sterile saline eye wash only, which can be found in the eye care or first aid aisle at any pharmacy store. Do not use Visine®, contact solution, etc. Flush the eye generously to wash out any minor irritant like seeds, pollen, etc. If irritation persists contact your veterinarian.

Corneal Injury

A common eye injury is a corneal ulcer, scratch or erosion. The cornea is the clear outermost surface of the eye. It is delicate and prone to scrapes and tears. Pets can be observed squinting or rubbing at the eye. The conjunctiva becomes red, inflamed, and swollen (a condition called chemosis). The cornea may appear cloudy in the area of injury. Common causes of corneal injuries include:

  • Rough contact with plants, thorns, bushes, branches, and sticks
  • Scratches from another animal (commonly cats)
  • Self-trauma (rubbing or scratching at the face)
  • Chemical irritation (shampoo in the eye during a bath)
  • Foreign body injury (plant material can get stuck under an eyelid and can continuously scrape the cornea)


Diagnosis of Corneal Injury

A fluorescent stain is applied to the eye. Typically the stain would flow smoothly across the intact cornea to the edges of the lids. On an injured eye, the stain will collect in the abnormality (scratch, puncture) and glow green when illuminated.

Treatment of Corneal Injury

Corneal injuries are routinely prescribed topical ophthalmic antibiotics to treat or prevent infection as well as a topical pain relief. Either drops or ointment can be used depending on the type of injury, patient’s cooperation, and client’s ability to medicate. More severe ulcers may need topical harvest serum, derived from the patient’s own blood, to aid in healing. For non-healing ulcers, a surgical procedure called a grid keratotomy may need to be performed. The corneal layer that has failed to heal is removed in order to allow the next layer a chance to heal. An E-collar may also be needed to prevent the patient from causing more damage by rubbing at the eye.


Rechecks with the veterinarian are important to ensure the eye is healing properly. It is important to also observe the healing closely at home between visits. If the eye is not healing or is deteriorating, contact your veterinarian immediately; do not wait until the scheduled recheck.