Don't Wait on These Emergencies

Eye disease in dogs and cats can present an emergency situation. Know these warning signs to save your pet's vision:

  1. Red eyes - Red eyes signify inflammation. Engorged blood vessels tell you that blood is being rushed to the eye to bring oxygen and nutrients to help fight disease.
  2. Cloudy eyes - clouding shows swelling in the cornea. Swelling in the cells of the cornea shows there has been damage to the cornea. Clouding inside the eye can be an indication that cataracts are forming.
  3. Bulging eyes - pressure within the globe of the eye can cause bulging. Increased pressure in the eye can be caused by glaucoma and will damage the optic nerve, causing blindness. This needs to be treated within 24 hours to prevent blindness. Bulging eyes can also be caused by a tumor behind the eye that is pushing the eye forward. Lumps or bumps on the eyes and eyelids can be malignant or benign tumors.
  4. Excess tearing - pain from corneal ulcers, foreign bodies, or increased pressure can cause excess tear production. Blocked tear ducts may also result in excess tears spilling over onto the face.
  5. Squinting - Squinting means pain, which can be coming from ulceration, foreign bodies, tumors, or increased pressure.
  6. Green, yellow, or mucoid discharge - discoloration indicates infection. Mucous will be produced when there are not enough tears or the eye is dry.
  7. Dilated pupils - if pupils do not constrict in bright light, this is an indication that vision is being lost. This can be secondary to hypertension (heart or kidney disease, hyperthyroidism in cats) or inflammation like SARDS or PRA.
  8. Confusion, bumping into things - blindness can occur overnight or over time. If your pet is having trouble finding their way around, have the eyes checked. Sudden blindness can be an indication of a more serious disease, like lymphoma.
  9. Elevated third eyelid - indicates inflammation. The eye is trying to protect itself. This can also be seen in animals that are very thin and have lost the fat the pushes the eye forward in the socket. This is particularly noticed in old, thin cats with chronic kidney disease or untreated hyperthyroidism. Horner's syndrome, which is a disease of the nerves supplying the face, can also result in an elevated third eyelid.
  10. Unequal pupil sizes - this can be an indication of an eye problem or a nerve problem. Get it checked out!

The eye in this photo has a pinpoint corneal ulcer (the small blue spot to the left of the pupil). This resulted in a red eye with excess tears and squinting. It was very painful.

While waiting for an appointment with your veterinarian or the local emergency service, use Genteal or Refresh gel to moisten and soothe the eye. These products do not contain petroleum like most eye gels and ointments. Eye problems should not wait days to be seen. Insist on an immediate appointment or take your pet to an emergency clinic. A scratched cornea is very painful and can become infected quickly, possibly leading to loss of the eye. Glaucoma can cause blindness overnight.

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