If you notice your dog squinting or pawing at his eyes, he could be suffering from corneal ulcers. But what causes this condition, and how can your vet help? Read on to find out more.
What are corneal ulcers?
The cornea is the transparent, protective outer layer of the dog's eye. Its function is to act as a barrier to foreign bodies and bacteria that could enter the eye and cause damage to the iris and pupil.
Corneal ulcers result from injuries to one of the four layers of the cornea, often caused by scratches, punctures or trauma to the eye. Infection and disease can also be causes of this painful problem for your pet.
When the cornea is injured, the sensitive nerves beneath are left exposed. This causes discomfort and pain and can also result in increased sensitivity to bright light. You may notice your dog pawing at his eyes or squinting. Sometimes the eyes may appear 'teary' and running; there may be a discharge, or they could have a red, inflamed appearance.
What can your vet do to help your dog?
It's important that you take your dog to the vet's as soon as you notice that there is a problem with his eyes. The sooner the condition is treated, the more positive the outcome will be for your pet.
The vet may use a diagnostic stain in order to see what the problem is. The stain is a dye that your vet will put into your dog's eyes. The dye clings to any ulcers, erosions or other corneal injuries, showing the vet where the problem is and how deeply it extends into the layers of the cornea. The procedure is painless, and the dye will naturally disappear within a few hours of the examination.
The treatment of corneal ulcers is dependent on the cause. If an underlying medical condition or minor injury is responsible for the problem, your vet will be able to treat your dog with topical antibiotics and pain relief in the form of eye drops. In the case of more serious injuries, your dog may require stitches, a corneal graft or even the insertion of soft contact lenses until the condition is resolved.
For minor corneal injuries, recovery is usually quick once treatment has begun, and your dog will have to wear a plastic 'lampshade' collar during this time to stop him rubbing at his eyes.
Corneal ulcers and other eye problems are extremely uncomfortable for your dog, and you should always consult your vet without delay. Minor injuries and underlying disease can be treated by your usual vet, although he may refer your pet to an veterinary ophthalmologist if the damage to the eye is serious and surgical intervention is required in order to correct it.