Red Eyes in Dogs and Cats

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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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).



My furry frien d has a lump!

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

Usually when we find these mysterious lumps on our furry friends, it’s when we are giving them their nightly rub-down.  And then we worry because they surprise us and often we don’t know what we are dealing with.  Sometimes these lumps are small and don’t seem to bother our pet at all.  Other times, they seem to come up quickly and appear to itch or are painful.  They can even leak blood or other fluid or may be hot to the touch.

What should do you do in this situation?

  1. Think about how long you have noticed the lump and make a good assessment of how it is (or is not) affecting your pet.  A good history can really help your veterinarian figure out what it could be.
  2. Call your veterinarian and make an appointment to have it looked at.

What do veterinarians typically do in this situation?

  1. Get a good history from you, the pet owner.  Check the pet’s records for previous health issues (if any).
  2. Get a good physical exam of the pet, including body weight and examination of eyes, mouth, ear, chest, lymph nodes and abdomen.
  3. Examine the lump.  This often includes both a visual inspection and an examination of the cells inside the mass.  Sometimes this means inserting a needle into the mass or taking a biopsy.
  4. At times we find it necessary to remove a mass entirely.  In this case, it is best to submit the mass to a pathology laboratory for further assessment.  This will allow for a definitive diagnosis, which can help us develop a future treatment plan as well as let us know whether or not we totally removed the offending lump.

What could it be?

“Lumps” can be many different things — ranging from infections to foreign bodies (imagine a thorn stuck in the skin and resulting swelling) to tumors (both cancer and non-cancer).  Diagnosis can be difficult because often these can look very similar to each other!  A good sample of tissue (biopsy) or cells (fine needle aspirate) or even submission of the entire mass is the best way to know for sure.