Pet Eye Ulcers: What Causes Them and How to Treat Them

By March 1, 2018Pet Health
dog's eyes

Pet eye ulcers are a common eye injury in both cats and dogs. These ulcers are more specifically referred to as corneal ulcers, since they are found in the cornea of the eye.

There are four layers of the cornea. The impactfulness of the ulcer depends on how many of these layers are affected by it. Superficial ulcers only affect the outermost layer on the cornea, and these usually heal within a week. Deeper ulcers involve more layers of the cornea, and can result in perforation of the cornea, loss of vision, and serious scarring.

Melting ulcers and refractory ulcers are two other kinds of corneal ulcers that can affect your pet. Melting ulcers are a very serious condition that progress very rapidly. Refractory ulcers are superficial ulcers that do not heal as expected, and they also tend to keep coming back. Unfortunately, corneal ulcers cause great discomfort and irritation to your pet.

Which Pets are most Susceptible to Pet Eye Ulcers?

Dogs are more likely to form corneal ulcers than cats. Brachycephalic breeds, which are dogs with a short nose and flat face, are more likely to form corneal ulcers than breeds who have normal face and eye shapes. Brachycephalic breeds include Boston terriers, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Boxers, Shih Tzu, or other dog breeds with these facial features.

Symptoms of Pet Eye Ulcers

Make sure that you are constantly checking your dog or cat for the symptoms of corneal ulcers. If you notice that your cat or dog has the following symptoms, take them to a medical professional right away. Always be on the lookout for these signs of unhealthy eyes.

  • Frequently squinting the eyes
  • Pawing at their eye
  • Watery and tearful eyes
  • Film over the eye
  • Unhealthy looking eyes
  • Discharge coming from the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Keeping the affected eye closed
  • Irritated, red, or inflamed appearance to their eye

Causes of Pet Eye Ulcers

There are many possible causes for a corneal ulcer in your pet. Trauma to the eye, inability to fully close the eyes, chemical burn, inadequate tearing, puncture, a foreign object in the eye, infection, or an abnormal eye structure may cause corneal ulcers.

The location of the corneal ulcer may determine what is causing it.

  • A corneal ulcer located in the center of the cornea may suggest the cause to be trauma to the eye, bulging eyes, paralyzed facial nerves, or dry eyes.
  • A corneal ulcer found near the nose to the inside of the eye may be caused by a foreign object trapped underneath the dog or cat’s third eyelid.
  • A corneal ulcer found at the borders of the cornea may suggest an immune-mediated eye disease.
  • A corneal ulcer located in the peripheral cornea may be from entropion, which is where the eyelids fold inwards, or an eyelash rubbing against the eye.
Treatment of Pet Eye Ulcers

Corneal ulcers in pets can be treated depending on the seriousness of the ulcer and how many layers of the cornea it affects. It also depends on the causes of the ulcer.

Common treatment for superficial corneal ulcers include antibiotics and pain medication. More serious corneal ulcers might require neck collars to keep your pet from pawing at their eyes during the time of healing. Your pet may also need sutures, conjunctival grafts/flaps, soft contact lenses, or possibly a corneal transplant.

Be sure to regularly check your pet for poor eye health signs. If you are concerned that your pet has a corneal ulcer, get help right away. Contact your veterinarian and have them refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist or other animal eye specialist.

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