What to Expect and Consider when you bring your pet to our Clinic for Eye Problems:
(Of course, other vets may do things differently)

A lot of dog and cat patients come in for various eye problems.

Here's what we'll do to help:

Exam and History:  In addition to our normal all over exam and history we will be looking for near by problems in the mouth (sometimes a dental root abscess will first appear as an eye problem), lymph nodes and for signs of allergies in other areas of the body.  We will also look carefully at the lids and skin near the eye and possible scrape this area for parasites.  But mainly we will be examining the eye. 

Here's a list of some of the more common things we find: 
Ingrown eyelashes that irritate the eyeball.  Common in Poodles and Cockers

Curled in eyelids (entropion) that irritate the eyes.  Common in Sharpeis and Chows.

Glandular cysts and small tumors of the eyelid.

Infection or irritation of the tear glands. (Conjunctivitis or pink eye or red eye)

Dry Eye, Tear Abnormalities, and Keratitis Sicca.  Also tear duct obstruction.

Prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. (known as cherry eye...common in Cockers, Pekes, and Beagles)

Corneal ulcers and wounds and scratches

Corneal Pigmentation

Infection of the inside of the eye (Uveitis)

Cataracts and Lens displacement

Swelling of the eye (glaucoma)

Retinal diseases

Popped out eyeballs due to major trauma

As a general practitioner, I routinely treat the simpler and more common problems listed above and refer the more difficult cases to a specialist.

Treatment and Diagnostic Considerations:

Laboratory Tests & Work Up:

A.   If the surface of the eye is abnormal, we will stain the eyeball with a stain that will show any defects in the corneal surface.

B.  If the eye appears dry (keratitis sicca) we will do a tear test 

C.  If glaucoma is suspected, we will test the pressure of the eyeball
We now have new technology that makes testing eye pressure easy, accurate, and painles.

D.  Sometimes Thyroid testing is appropriate (associated with dry, crusty eyes or excessive eye matter)

E.  Sometimes blood work for diabetes and a CBC (blood count) for infection is appropriate. 

In cats, we often see eye inflammation in immune related diseases like leukemia, so sometimes we will test for feline leukemia and aids. 

F.  Parasites (hook worms and heartworms) can cause eye inflammation so sometimes we will test for these and other parasites if suspected.

G.  Bacterial , Fungal, and yeast cultures are sometimes appropriate

H.  Herpes testing (not contagious to people).  I leave this to specialists

I.  But mainly we will be using our ophthalmoscope to visually check out all the structures in the eye.  For the back of the eye, we now have new technology that allows us to see the nerves and blood vessels at the back of the eye without dilating the eye, and without anesthesia.  The cool thing about having a clear view of the retinal blood vessels is that it gives us lots of clues about the general health of the patient.

On This Page

What To Expect When You Take Your Pet To The Vet with an Eye Problem

How To Apply Eye Drops

For more detailed information about different types of eye disesease, see the list below

On Other Pages about Eye Problems:

Cataract Surgery and Lens Replacement in Dogs and Cats

Retinal Detachment

Problems with Eye Lashes and Lid Diseases.  Cherry Eye or Tarsal Gland Prolapse.  What's a nicatating membrane or "haw"? Meibomian glands

Excessive Tearing or Epiphora

Dysautonomia; a disease involving twitching of the eyes

Corneal Lesions or injuries to the surface of the eyeball


More Information soon:

inflammation of the inner lids and tear glands

Cherry Eye



Kerratitis sicca or Dry Eye

Viral Infections of the eye

Bacterial infections of the eye


How metabolic diseases sometimes affect the eye

Diseases of the Eye

What To Expect When You Go To The Vet When Your Pet Has Eye Problems

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Cleaning and Medicating the Eye:

It's important to clean your pet's eyes of any discharge before instilling medicine into them.

Unless your vet insists on using saline eye drops, you can use regular tap water on your finger, a cotton ball, or on a tissue to clean the eye. 

To apply eye drops to your pet's eye, lift the muzzle upward with one hand and drip the medication from above with the other.

It is helpful to rest the heel of the hand that is holding the bottle on the animal's forehead so that the bottle does not inadvertently touch the animal's eye. You can also use the heel of this hand to hold the upper lid up. 

Let the medicine drip from a height of at least 1 inch, taking care not to touch the tip of the bottle to the fur.

Remember that only one or two drops are needed at any one treatment.

If you are applying both eye drops and ointment; apply the drops first, otherwise they might not penetrate through the ointment.

When applying ointment, be careful to use only a small amount because a long strand can be irritating.

Apply it to the inner corner of the eye or to the white part of the eye, known as the sclera, and then gently rub the eyelid over the eye to distribute the medicine.

It may be helpful to rest your hand on your pet's forehead to steady yourself as described above for eye drops.

Our new ClearView retinal scanner allows us to see the vessels in the back of the eye.

In addition to checking the health of the eye, being able to see the vessels tells us alot about the general health of the body.  Here’s why:

Certain organs, including the eye, have a high demand for oxygen and nutrients from the blood and these organs are rich in capillary beds...very fragile, thin, tiny blood vessels... and capillary beds are very susceptible to high blood pressure.

Pets get high blood pressure just like humans do and for many of the same reasons:

- lack of exercise
- excessive weight
- heart and vascular diseases including diseases spread by ticks
- hormonal influences from diseases like diabetes, Cushings, and thyroid problems
- aging

Having high blood pressure then puts pets at risk for a long list of major problems including:

Blood in the urine
Nose bleeds
Blood in the eyes or blood shot eyes
Seizures, circling, disorientation, and other neural symptoms
Kidney disease
Cushing's disease
Thyroid disease
Heart murmurs
Dilated pupils Blindness, retinal detachment, and retinal degeneration

Unhealthy elevations in blood pressure often sneak up on us.  Usually the elevation is slow and subtle over time; it’s not obvious until organs start to fail.  Most people wouldn't know they had high blood pressure if it weren't for having our blood pressure taken practically everytime you see a nurse or physcian.

The trouble with pets is that there isn't an easy way to get a blood pressure reading. We can use special little cuffs on cats and dogs but what we can't do is feel or hear the pulse on the tail or limbs of animals easily. So we have to use an EKG monitor, ultrasound doppler or other special equipment...easy only if the animal is under anesthesia.

But with the new digital retinal scanners, we can actually see the vessels.

We can tell if the tiny vessels are tortuous and huge indicating high pressure quicker and more accurately than ever before.

Regular blood pressure readings from a pressure cuff are influenced by stress, fear of being in the doctor's office, and so forth...but not with a retinal scanner.

And since the tiny vessels in the back of the eye are among the first to be affected by high blood pressure, we can pick up on this serious problem much earlier than before... In time to save the eye, the kidneys, the brain, and other organs so sensitive to high blood pressure.

Knowing whether or not your pet has high blood pressure is such valuable medical information that we recommend this simple procedure as a routine screen every 2 years for middle aged and older pets.

And we will certainly recommend this procedure if your pet has:

-  seizures, ataxia, disorientation or other signs of neural disease
- elevated glucose, kidney or liver values on screening tests
- eye disease
- thyroid disease
- suspected Cushing's disease
- heart murmurs
- blood in the urine, red eye, or bloody noses
- protein in the urine


Treatment, of course, depends on the diagnosis and the severity of the problem, but here's what will be typical treatment plans:

For problems of the lids such as ingrown eyelashes,  curled in lids, cherry eye, and cysts we usually pre-treat with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye ointments and then return in 1-2 days for minor surgical correction. 

For many problems of the surface of the eye or for tear gland problems we can usually improve or cure the problem with topical ointments or solutions.
Note:  some tear gland infections (conjunctivitis) are contagious to humans (especially from rabbits and cats) so wash your hands after treating pets for conjunctivitis before you absent mindedly rub your own eyes with your fingers.

For more serious wounds of the eye we often do a minor surgery where we suture the 3rd lid over the eyeball for a couple of weeks. 
You might flinch when you imagine such a procedure but not only is it often successful, but it seems to be very soothing to the pet with an eye injury. 
Other veterinarians prefer to do the slightly more sophisticated conjunctival flap surgery which is similar.

For even more serious wounds or diseases that leave the eye not only blind but causing chronic pain or drainage, we sometimes need to remove the eye. 
This is a straight forward but major surgery and usually works out fine. 
There is, however, a fairly rare problem of the other (good) eye going blind when there is damage to the optic nerve of the bad eye.  But this can happen when we don't remove the eye too.
If you want a fake eyeball put in (you can choose from some pretty exotic colors), you may have to go to a specialist.

Disclaimer: As with all my treatment pages, the information provided here is not intended to allow you to treat your pets yourself...JUST THE OPPOSITE...these pages are provided to help you understand what to expect...to help as a reference after a visit to your vet, and to make you appreciate how complicated getting a correct diagnosis and choosing the appropriate treatment can be.
Trust the experience of your veterinarian.

The picture above is of a retina (the back of the eye) with tortuous vessels indicating the likelihood of some internal disease.  There's a list in the column to your left.