Eye health in pets
From allergies to infections, there are lots of reasons why your pet might have itchy or sore eyes. Thankfully, most of these problems are fairly minor and, with the right treatment and a little TLC, your pet will be back to normal in no time.
Signs your pet is having trouble with their eyes
If your pet has a problem with their eyes you might notice:
- Their eyes are red.
- Swollen skin around their eyes.
- They might scratch at their eyes or paw at their face.
- Lots of tears or pus coming from their eyes.
- Any cloudiness to the eye, or a 'glassy' look.
What to do if your pet is having a problem with their eyes
You should get your pet checked over by your vet. They'll examine your pet and talk to you about the best treatment.
Never wait to see if an eye problem gets better on its own - an infection can be a sign of something more serious. If left untreated, your pet could develop an ulcer on their eye which is very painful, and can affect their sight. In some cases an untreated ulcer can even lead to the loss of their eye.
What has caused your pet's eye problem?
Pets can develop eye problems for a number of reasons. Although the causes may be different, below are some of the most common eye problems along with tips on what you should do if you think your pet is suffering from troublesome eyes.
Like us, pets can suffer from allergies. Sadly, these can flare up sometimes, especially in the summer months. This can affect their eye health. It can be difficult to work out what's causing your pet's allergy but common causes are:
- Fleas and mites
- food allergies
If your pet's allergies are playing up it can cause them to have sore and itchy eyes, much like when we have hay fever. This can be very uncomfortable for your pet and they might damage their skin by scratching or licking at the itch. Book an appointment with your vet if your pet has sore looking eyes or is scratching, pawing at their face or rubbing up against furniture.
Medicine can help to stop the itching. Your vet might also recommend changing your pet’s diet or tying out a soothing shampoo. It is worth taking note of what they are exposed to in the home or whilst on walks, to see if these are triggers. If the allergies don’t clear up with this treatment, your vet might want to do some tests to try and find out what your pet is allergic to.
Conjunctivitis, also called 'pink eye', is an infection caused by bacteria in your pet's eye and tear ducts. Symptoms include:
- Blinking excessively or squinting
- Pus coming from your pet's eye
- The skin around the eye looking red, swollen and irritated.
Your pet will need to see a vet who will give you eye drops or an ointment to use to treat the condition. It is really important to maintain excellent hygiene when treating the eyes. Make sure that you always wash your hands before giving your pet eye drops and that you don't touch part of the bottle on the eye. This could re-infect their eye or move the infection to the other eye.
If you follow your vet's advice, your pet's eyes will probably start to look better really quickly once your start giving them this treatment. It's important to finish the whole course of the treatment though, so the infection doesn't come back. This also helps stop bugs becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Conjunctivitis in rabbits
If your rabbit has conjunctivitis it might be caused by their teeth. The tube in their eye that produces tears passes very close to the roots of your rabbit’s teeth. If your rabbit’s teeth become overgrown these roots start to press on the tube, causing a blockage and an infection. Dental disease is quite common in rabbits who are fed muesli-style rabbit food, which doesn’t naturally wear down their teeth. Thankfully, it can be prevented by feeding them a diet full of hay and grass. Find out more about keeping your rabbit’s teeth healthy.
Something in their eye
If your pet has a sore and weepy eye it could be because there's something stuck in there, either on the surface or under the eyelid. Vets call this a 'foreign body' and it's not unusual for pets to get something like a grass seed in their eye.
Most of the time your pet's eye will naturally get rid of anything that doesn't belong there by producing more tears to flush it out. Don't try to remove anything yourself. You could accidentally damage the eye surface, which could cause an ulcer to develop. If your pet's eye doesn't get better and they can't flush it out themselves, take them to the vet for a proper check-up
Both cats and dogs have something called a ‘third eyelid’. This is a piece of skin that provides extra protection to their eye. Sometimes this third eyelid can become swollen, red and inflamed. This is called ‘cherry eye’. Some breeds are more likely to develop ‘cherry eye’ than others, including:
- Great Danes
- Saint Bernards
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
It’s important to get this treated as soon as possible. If the condition gets worse, your pet’s third eyelid might start to bulge out of their eye. This is called a ‘prolapse’ and it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for your pet. ‘Cherry eye’ can be treated with ointment and eye drops. If your pet’s third eyelid has prolapsed, they might need to have an operation to remove it.
In older pets, ‘cherry eye’ can sometimes be caused by a tumour, so it is important that you get your pet checked out by your vet as soon as you can.