A dog depends on his eyesight not only to help him navigate his way through his world, but to help keep him safe from cars and predators. In combination with his other senses, a dog's eyes play a vital role in his well-being. Keeping your dog's eyes healthy involves spotting problems early and taking steps to correct them. Prompt treatment by a veterinarian is advised for all dog eye health issues.
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Dogs have an additional membrane in the inner corner of their eyes (nictitating membrane), often called the "third eyelid." According to the "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook," this membrane may extend to cover the dog's entire eyeball, looking as though the eye has rolled back in its socket. This is your dog's way of protecting his eye from further damage, and it occurs frequently if his eye is irritated or injured.
A dog's eye may bulge in its socket if he suffers a severe head injury or if an underlying disorder exists, such as a tumour or an abscess. Pressure behind the eye pushes it forward. A dislocated eye that pops out of its socket is an emergency, and the dog's owner may apply a little lubricating jelly, like K-Y, or pure petroleum jelly, cover the eye lightly with sterile wet gauze and transport the dog to an emergency animal centre.
A spasm of the retractor muscle in the dog's eye may cause the eyeball to recede, resulting in a sunken eye that is barely visible. When this occurs, the third eyelid may extend and cover the eye for protection. Causes of a sunken eye include tetanus, damage to the nerves of the eye, a severe ear infection or a neck injury.
The outer corner of a dog's eye may develop a cyst from which hair grows, extending into the eye and causing intense irritation. It may appear that the hair is growing out of the eyeball itself. The dog may squint tightly and exhibit signs that the eye is painful. Surgery can remove the cyst and relieve the dog's pain.
A dog's eyelids may suffer from a severe squinting disorder or inflammation (blepharitis) due to thickened eyelids, an allergy or a secondary infection. In some breeds, the eyelids may roll inward, irritating the eye, creating a sore and resulting in vision loss if not surgically corrected.
A dog can't tell you when small seeds, sand, insects or a blade of grass becomes lodged in his eye. Watch for excessive tearing from one or both eyes, frequent blinking or squinting and pawing at the eye. In addition, the third eyelid may protrude to cover the eye against further damage. Avoid letting a dog ride in a car with its head out the window to prevent damage to his eyes.
Other common eye problems in dogs are the result of clogging of hair follicles on the eyelids, facial hair hanging in the eyes, conjunctivitis (pink eye), clogged tear ducts or underproductive tear ducts. Chemical burns from harsh shampoos, flea treatments or other topical preparations applied to the dog's face or body may damage his eyes. A veterinarian should immediately examine any symptoms that involve pain, and minor irritations should be examined if they do not resolve themselves within two days.
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