Canine Corneal Damage

By Lori Newman

Canine corneal damage is a common problem that results from an eye injury. The cornea or clear part of the eye is covered by a protective layer of epithelial cells. Anything that irritates the dog’s eye such as foreign bodies or misdirected hairs can cause an epithelial injury. Dogs that have bulging eyes are susceptible to corneal injury. Once the epithelium has been destroyed, the process either heals spontaneously or progresses to a more serious problem. The outcome depends on the magnitude of the eye injury, how fast it is recognized, and if the initiating factor has been identified and removed.

Some cornea ulcers are caused by hypothyroidism or diabetes, but most are caused by trauma to the eye.

Corneal injuries are very painful and cause severe tearing. You will notice that a dog with eye damage squints, paws at the eye, avoids light, has an eye discharge, and the eye is red or cloudy. An eye infection or conjunctivitis may occur.

Corneal abrasion is an injury caused by a scratch to the dog’s eye. Healing takes place in 24-48 hours by a process in which the epithelium thins and slides over a small defect. Deeper and larger abrasions require more time.

If a foreign body is imbedded beneath one of the lids, the corneal abrasion will not heal.

In all but mild cases, an examination for foreign bodies should be performed under all three lids. If detected early and removed, rapid recovery will result. Delay leads to persistent corneal ulcer or corneal inflammation.

A corneal ulcer is dangerous and must receive prompt attention. Large corneal ulcers are visible to the naked eye as depressions or dull spots on the surface of the cornea. Smaller ones are best seen after the eye has been stained with fluorescein. Fast treatment is vital to avoid serious complications or even loss of the eye.

Treatment for cornea abrasion that is superficial involves treating with antibiotic eye ointment three to four times a day. The treatment should be continued until the eye is completely healed. If the abrasion is deep, hospitalization may be needed for a more intensive treatment. Ulcers take more time to heal. Sometimes eye surgery is involved in cornea ulcers. Cortisone which is in many eye ointments for dogs, should not be used. They slow the healing process and may cause rupture to the eye. That is why it is important to take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis.

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