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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Mohon-Sturch

Eye Care for Your Pet

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes communicate so much about the inner workings of a human being, and dare I say, animals. Pay attention to those precious eyes, they are not only letting you know how much they love you, but they can often show you physical changes that are going on with your pet that they cannot communicate with you through language.


Usually, one of the first indicators that there is something wrong with our pet’s eyes is cloudiness. We most often construe cloudiness with aging, and while that’s true, it can also be a sign of something else going on. Keep reading to learn about other eye conditions associated with dogs and cats. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet’s eyes call your veterinarian.


Dogs:


Nuclear Sclerosis (also called lenticular sclerosis) is often seen in aging dogs. It is exhibited by cloudy eyes and sometimes is confused with the onset of cataracts, but this diagnosis rarely causes bad eyesight in dogs the way cataracts do. Your veterinarian will be able to distinguish between the two diseases using an ophthalmoscope.


The cloudiness of the eyes in a dog that has nuclear sclerosis will appear bluish, while the cloudiness of a dog with cataracts will appear white and opaque. Both eyes of a dog with nuclear sclerosis are usually affected.


There is no treatment for nuclear sclerosis since the diagnosis does not harm your pet. The best thing to do is to regularly see your veterinarian who will be able to monitor your dog’s eyes and keep track of any changes.


Cataracts develop in dogs much the same way they do with humans. Often cataracts occur with age, but can also be caused by genetics, trauma to the eye lens, or a metabolic disease like diabetes.


The lenses of the eyes are made up of water and proteins. Cataracts develop when the proteins start to group together blocking the lens and causing vision problems or blindness. It is important to get to a vet when you notice cloudiness in your dog’s eyes so that they can diagnose the issue. An early diagnosis of cataracts is imperative so that you can begin treatment. Without treatment, the issue can worsen and cause other problems, like glaucoma.


Glaucoma is an issue of pressure in the eye. Aside from cloudiness, you might also notice redness in the white part of the eye, discharge, or notice your dog scratching the eye a lot. Glaucoma can start in just one eye, but if it’s left untreated can affect the other eye, so it’s very important to check with your veterinarian if you see any changes in one or both of your dog’s eyes.


Your veterinarian will use a tonometer to test the eye pressure in your dog. If your pet is diagnosed with glaucoma, there are treatments available, more than likely starting with eye drops and medication. You can also ask your vet about any homeopathic remedies they may know of.


If the disease progresses beyond the help of eye drops and medication, surgery is an option as well. Depending on the severity of the case, surgery can include:

Laser therapy

Eye removal

Implants that help with eye drainage


Again, just like humans, it’s important to get your pet in to see your vet on a regular basis to catch possible problems early.


Dry Eye or Keratoconjunctivitis sicca develops when your dog’s immune system doesn’t generate enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. It’s important for eye health to keep the eyes moistened. If not, the eyes will develop dry eye which can lead to more serious issues. One of the problems that can develop is an ulcer of the eye which can cause perforation of the eye.


Some of the symptoms you might see in the development of dry eye are cloudy eyes, persistent squinting, and discharge. See your vet as soon as possible because dry eye is very easy to treat with eye drops, medications, and/or ointments.


Cats:


Conjunctivitis or Cat Pink Eye is one of the most common eye issues in cats. There is a viral component to most conjunctivitis issues in cats, which makes it contagious. Vaccines help with avoiding this illness (so vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!).


Conjunctivitis causes inflammation of the eye membrane. If your cat has an eye that starts swelling, has discharge, or is red, take her to your vet as soon as possible. She may also sneeze more than usual, have a loss of appetite, or have less energy.


Conjunctivitis is treatable with eye drops, medications, and antivirals.


Keratitis is when the cornea of your cat’s eye becomes inflamed. There might be a very small area of the eye that looks cloudy, or it can make the whole eye look cloudy. Either way, get your vet to examine the eye to get ahead of the problem because left untreated, keratitis can lead to blindness.


Keratitis comes in two forms: Superficial and Infectious.


Superficial keratitis is often confused with conjunctivitis, so it is imperative that you have your veterinarian do an exam. As with conjunctivitis, symptoms of keratitis include eye discharge, squinting, and sensitivity to light, but it also comes with a lot of pain.


Infectious keratitis is when the cornea becomes infected.


There is treatment available for keratitis. Depending on the severity of the disease, treatments include:

Steroids, delivered by injection, pill, or ointment

Anti-inflammatory

Antibiotics

Supplements to help boost your cat’s immune system


Glaucoma occurs in cats much the same way as it does with dogs. Symptoms may include different-sized pupils, eye bulge, and red or cloudy eyes. Notice if your cat starts sleeping more than usual or begins hiding from you.


Your vet, like with glaucoma in dogs, will use an instrument to measure the pressure in your cat’s eyes. Depending on the diagnosis and severity of glaucoma, treatment may include an IV medication called Mannitol, or eyedrops.


Treatment is very important if your cat is diagnosed with glaucoma as it can cause permanent blindness.


Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian the cause of the glaucoma as there are various causes that will inform the vet on how to treat it.



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