By: Dr. Hilary Slaven
One of the most common phone calls that we receive often starts, “I need to bring my furry friend in to see the doctor. He is squinting his eye and it’s really watery and seems painful.”
A red, sore eye can come about from a long list of ailments. Puppies often play hard and get scratched on the surface of the eye (the cornea), which results in redness, swelling and pain. Kittens commonly have viruses that cause inflammation in the eye, which can result in secondary bacterial infections and sometimes runny noses and sneezing as well. Older dogs can get diabetes and glaucoma, which also results in a painful, red eye. Another common ailment is a “cherry eye”, which is a tear gland that is displaced up and over the eyelid (see the first picture above).
This is a short list of just a few of the eye issues that we see come in the door, and each one involves a very different cause. Here’s a few things to remember about eyes.
- All eye issues should be seen as soon as possible. While many of these conditions are not an emergency, they do need to be seen in a timely manner as they can go from bad to worse within a few days. Some conditions (if uncontrolled) can result in the loss of the eye.
- An eye issue may be a sign of an underlying problem. Diabetes mellitus, nerve issues, cardiovascular disease, viruses, bacteria, fungi, Lyme disease…any of these ailments can cause ocular disease and may need additional testing and treatment to address them properly.
- Eye treatments often need to be given multiple times a day, in the form of eye drops or ointment. This requires dedication to treat from you, the owner, and may require that more than one person be available (one to hold and one to give the dog the drops). Your veterinarian and staff can help to show you how to best hold your furry friend for these treatments.
- Some eye treatments require an E-collar, or neck cone, to keep the pet from rubbing or scratching the eye. We hate these too! But often eyes that are sick and also painful, and easy to rub and scratch
- Surgery is required to correct some ailments. Cherry eyes and rolled-in eyelids come to mind. Also…some eyes get to the point that they cannot be saved and act as a source of pain and infection for the pet. At this point, surgical removal of the eye may be the best way to manage the patient.
- Some eye diseases require referral to diagnose and/or manage. Pets sometimes need ophthalmologists too! Many primary care veterinarians do not have the more sophisticated tools or the specialty experience that a dedicated ophthalmologist has, and will refer you to them when necessary (just as your human family doctor would refer you if necessary).