Has your dog had irritated eyes lately? Are the white parts of his eyes very red? Is he squinting or holding his eyes shut? If you’ve noticed any of these signs, there is a possibility that your pet could be suffering from an eye ulcer. Also known as the corneal ulcer or ulcerative keratitis, a dog eye ulcer is a break in the continuity of the outer membrane of the cornea, which is the clear part of the eye. This condition may result in inflammation, pain, and cloudiness in the cornea itself. Although most corneal ulcers are non-infected and superficial, they can be agonizing, especially when they become refractory, or recurring. Like many other conditions, ulcerative keratitis typically occurs for a variety of reasons.  Here are some of the most common.

Ocular Trauma

Ocular trauma is the most common cause of eye ulcers in dogs. Your pooch may run through heavy vegetation, striking the surface of the eye on twigs and grass. In other instances, smaller objects like seed hulls and foxtails from grass and weeds can lodge under the eyelid, irritating the cornea or sclera. Irritating substances like shampoo and drywall dust can also cause irritation to the cornea. Other common causes of trauma include:

  • Fights with other animals – most notably, cat. Cats will instinctually scratch at the face of your cuddly companion.
  • Young, highly excitable, or naïve dogs that have not learned caution.
  • Pre-existing visual deformity or impairment in the structure of the eye, such as entropion (inward-turned eyelids) that cause the eyelashes to rub against the eye and irritate the cornea.
  • Fireworks, gunshots or other rapid projectiles.

Dry Eye

The second possible cause of corneal ulcers is dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca). As the name suggests, it’s a condition that occurs when tears are not able to give enough lubrication for the eyes, causing desiccation of the corneal tissues. However, this is not an inborn condition; it develops with age. Usually, it occurs when the dog’s immune system malfunctions (Immune Dry Eye) or when the nerves across the eye are damaged (Neurogenic Dry Eye). Dogs with keratoconjunctivitis sicca have varying degrees of discomfort, ranging from mild to extremely severe. In most cases, this condition is associated with redness, easily fatigued eyes, discharge, and irritation, which results in ulcerative keratitis.

Structure of the Eye

Although all dogs are at risk for corneal ulceration, some breeds are more prone to this condition due to the structure of their eyes. Short-nosed (Brachycephalic) dog breeds, like Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boxers and Boston Terriers, have large, bulging eyes that are more exposed to the elements (especially air and wind) leading to dry eye. Some of these breeds have eyelids that cannot close properly leading to keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, which is a known cause for corneal ulceration. Other less common causes of canine corneal ulcers include viral and bacterial infections.

Dog Eye Ulcer Treatment

Agonizing as it may sound, ulcerative keratitis is treatable. However, the treatment period usually depends on whether there is a corneal ulcer, corneal abrasion, or descemetocele present. Corneal abrasions typically heal within 3-5 days, while corneal ulcers take up to two weeks. Advisably, always limit the activity of your furry friend during the dog eye ulcer healing time.

Animal Medical Center in Somerset, PA

It’s extremely important for you to regularly check the eyes of your pooch for any signs of irritation. If you suspect there’s a dog eye ulcer that isn’t healing or keeps coming back, make an appointment with Animal Medical Center veterinarians today.