Eye ulcers in dogs typically affect the cornea, which is the transparent outer layer of the eye. Several different medical conditions and injuries can cause corneal ulcers, but most eye ulcers heal quickly. Older dogs may experience slower healing and more severe symptoms. In some cases, corneal ulcers become infected and the ulcer moves to deeper areas of the dog’s eye, which is why treatment and monitoring by a veterinarian is important.
The most common symptoms of an eye ulcer in a dog are redness or cloudiness in the eye. If the cornea is damaged, the tear in the outer layer of the eye may manifest as discolouration or a foggy appearance. A dog with a corneal ulcer may also squint or blink frequently and may produce more tears than usual. Many dogs experience pain and itching due to eye ulcers and may appear lethargic or weak.
Scrapes and puncture wounds are the most common causes of corneal ulcers in dogs, according to Ron Hines, DVM. These wounds often result from contact with another animal or a sharp branch or thorn. Certain breeds of dogs, such as pugs and Boston terriers, are more susceptible to eye injuries because of their bulging eyes. Shar peis and chow chows often have eyelids that curl inward and make the eye more susceptible to ulcers. Some dogs do not produce enough tears or suffer from glaucoma, which increases the pressure in the eye, making them more likely to develop corneal ulcers.
Veterinarians use a stain called fluorescein to help diagnosis eye ulcers in dogs. The veterinarian places a strip moistened with saline and dye over the cornea and then washes the dog’s eye. If no ulcer is present, no trace of the dye will remain when the veterinarian views it with an ultraviolet light. If the dog has an eye ulcer, the dye will stick to the injury. Veterinarians also perform tear tests to determine if the dog is not producing enough tears or a test to determine the pressure in the eye.
Most eye ulcers in dogs heal easily. Veterinarians usually provide dog owners with antibiotic eye drops to help sterilise the eye and promote healing. Pain-relieving drops and ointment can help keep the dog comfortable while the ulcer heals. A cone-shaped collar, called an Elizabethan collar, helps prevent the dog from scratching or further injuring the eye while the ulcer heals.
Many shallow eye ulcers take only a few days to heal. In rare cases, some eye ulcers in dogs do not heal after two weeks of treatment. In these cases, veterinarians may prescribe stronger medications or refer the pet owner to a veterinary ophthalmologist to investigate the problem further. According to Dr. Hines, Boston terriers and boxers that have eye ulcers often heal slowly, and vitamin E ointment of drops can help speed up the process.