Treating Pet Eye Disease and Injury

a dog having eye diseaseThe thought of removing a pet’s eye can be scary, but in some cases, eye removal is necessary to improve the pet’s quality of life. Dr. Lucien Vallone, a clinical assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how eye removal can be beneficial.

“Veterinarians and veterinary ophthalmologists perform an eye removal when an eye has become both painful and blinded by a disease that is unresponsive to medical therapy,” Vallone said. “The most common cause of this in dogs and cats is from a disease called glaucoma, which creates high pressure in the eye. Eye removal is also performed when an aggressive or malignant tumor invades the eye or nearby structures.”

Having just one or no eyes may seem unpleasant, but most pets that have had one or both eyes removed experience a dramatic increase in their quality of life.

“Most animals are experiencing chronic pain prior to eye removal, so most will respond postoperatively by displaying more energy and playfulness,” Vallone said. “Every animal is different, but most dogs and cats who have had one eye removed are behaviorally indistinguishable from their two-eyed peers.”

Following a surgery to remove the eye, pet owners can expect to see some bruising and swelling over the surgical site for three to five days, Vallone said.

Additionally, the pet may have some pain following surgery, which should subside within two to three days. Pets that have had one or both eyes removed will appear as if they are squinting or winking.  The skin is closed permanently over the area in which the eye was removed, and fur typically grows back over the area within three to four weeks after surgery, Vallone said.

In cases where eye removal is necessary, removing a pet’s eye can be beneficial and even lifesaving. Even when a pet is missing one or both eyes, they can still live a normal, happy life.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Eye infections in horses

horse closeup photoEye infections are common in horses and can negatively impact training and quality of life. However, many eye infections can be prevented. Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, provided some insight on preserving your horse’s vision.

“When dealing with eye infections, early intervention is important,” Vallone said. “One way to help preserve your horse’s overall eye health is to report any changes in eye condition to a veterinarian immediately. A healthy eye should not have excessive tearing, squinting, or any ocular opacity that causes the eye to change from its normal coloration.”

Vallone said that some eye infections, such as those of the cornea, can be caused by bacteria and fungi. Other serious eye conditions include tumors of the ocular surface and eyelids, with the most common tumor being squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

Another common cause of eye infections includes Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU), a disease characterized by eye inflammation. Vallone said the damage from this disease is progressive and can lead to scarring within the eye, cataracts, glaucoma, and even blindness. This disease has no cure, but it can be treated by reducing the amount of inflammation in the eye, as needed.

Many eye infections also can be caused by hazards in the horse’s environment, such as excessive dust, sharp fence posts, or other obstacles. It is important to check your horse’s eyes daily to prevent any infection from worsening.

Without treatment, eye infections and diseases could lead to serious conditions, including blindness.

“Our biggest fear of not treating an equine eye condition is that we could miss the opportunity to preserve vision and comfort,” Vallone said. “Early intervention is best and can help lead to a positive outcome.”

 

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .

Conjunctivitis

conjunctivitis dog and catEveryone knows the annoying feeling of having something in your eye. This irritating feeling can be caused by a common eye problem known as conjunctivitis—which is sometimes referred to as “pink eye”. Pet owners should be aware that conjunctivitis is also common among cats and dogs and there are simple ways to identify this condition so appropriate treatment can be obtained.

According to Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, some of the most common signs of conjunctivitis in dogs and cats include mild redness in the white of the eye, swelling in the eyelids, eye discharge or tearing and squinting. Some pets may even scratch their face in an attempt to relieve the eye irritation.

“The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that lines the surface of the eye and eyelids and covers the white of your eye,” Vallone explained. “This mucous membrane provides a barrier to infections and also creates a portion of your tears. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it is known as conjunctivitis. Common causes of conjunctivitis in cats and dogs include allergies and certain bacteria and viruses.”

Specifically, cats may develop conjunctivitis after contracting the feline herpesvirus—a virus that is known to cause upper respiratory infections in cats, similar to the common cold. Vallone said this virus is extremely prevalent in cats and can flare up any time a cat is stressed, such as when new cats are added to a household. In comparison, dogs often develop conjunctivitis as they mature through adolescence. Veterinarians most often attribute this type of conjunctivitis to viruses or allergies.

Routine puppy and kitten vaccinations can drastically reduce the risk of viral conjunctivitis in cats and dogs, Vallone said. To further decrease your dog or cat’s risk, limit their exposure to other animals that are displaying signs of eye disease and may have infectious conjunctivitis. If you see a pet that has red and inflamed eyes, or any other symptoms that may appear to be a sign of conjunctivitis, try to prevent your pet from coming into contact with them.

“If your pet develops conjunctivitis, there are specific treatments that can be tailored to your pet depending on the underlying cause of the conjunctivitis,” Vallone said. “For example, conjunctivitis associated with feline herpesvirus can be treated with certain antiviral medications paired with methods to reduce stress. This can drastically improve discomfort associated with this specific form of conjunctivitis.”

Just like humans, pets can develop eye irritations and diseases that may cause discomfort. If you notice any signs of conjunctivitis in your pet, or any sign of eye discomfort, see your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan for your pet.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .

Pets with Disabilities: Blindness in Dogs

cute poodle chihuahua mix senior female dog rolling in clover grass
cute poodle chihuahua mix senior female dog rolling in clover grass at a local park during summer in bright sunlight with her tongue hanging out and squinting at the camera

Some dogs are born blind while others develop blindness over time from age and disease. No matter the situation, blind dogs are just as loveable and playful as dogs with excellent eyesight. Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, cleared up some confusion about caring for blind dogs.

“Blind dogs are certainly adoptable,” Vallone said. “In fact, most blind dogs’ owners actually report that their dog’s quality of life is excellent. In addition, many owners find that blind dogs become more attached to either the owner or other pets within the household, which is often viewed positively. After adapting to a new environment, which can take several months, most blind dogs lead lives that are almost identical to sighted dogs.”

If you are considering adopting a blind dog or are currently caring for a dog whose eyesight is deteriorating, it is important to realize the dog’s blindness may upset you more than the dog itself. Considering the five senses in dogs, eyesight comes third in importance after hearing and smell. Furthermore, dogs are sensitive to their owners’ emotional state. Interacting with your dog in a positive manner, such as talking to them in a cheery voice, taking them for walks, and encouraging playtime, can help them adapt to their blindness.

Although there are many more similarities than differences between sightless and sighted canines, owning a blind dog does take some special consideration. “Providing consistency is the most important part of owning a blind dog,” Vallone said. “Dogs are incredible creatures of habit and will quickly become attuned to the layout of the house. Many sightless dogs will easily navigate stairs or even jump up on the couch or bed without trouble. Thus, rearranging furniture can certainly make life challenging for visually impaired pets.”

Vallone also offered advice on how to keep blind dogs safe in their environment. “Many owners find that tactile cues are helpful for sightless dogs to anticipate potential dangers, such as a flight of stairs,” he said. “Consider placing a foot mat below and above stairways to warn your dog of the stairs. Additionally, fence off any steep areas or bodies of water around the property and ensure that blind dogs are enclosed within a fenced yard. These are methods that can drastically improve a blind pet’s safety and quality of life.”

Furthermore, it is important to consider blind dogs’ medical needs. Some dogs may be born blind while others lose eyesight with age or as a result of disease. Vallone explained some signs of vision problems in dogs.

“Disorientation and bumping into objects in the house, increased sleeping, and occasionally squinting can accompany blindness,” he said. “Owners should be aware that squinting, changes in eye color, and eye discharge can all be signs of severe eye disease that need prompt medical attention. Also, many dogs are affected by visual deficits only in day or night light settings. These are all important behavioral clues that will help a veterinarian distinguish what type of vision problem a dog is having.”

For dogs with degenerative blindness, specific eye diseases may be treatable. If you notice signs of vision loss in your dog, it is important to communicate with your veterinarian to ensure the best treatment possible.

“A recently blind dog should always be evaluated by a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist,” Vallone said. “Some causes of blindness are correctable, like cataracts, and some causes of blindness can cause severe discomfort, like glaucoma. A veterinarian will be able to distinguish these causes and recommend the appropriate therapy or referral.”

If you are considering adopting a blind dog or are currently caring for a dog with degenerative blindness, be sure to prepare your home for the dog’s safety. Keep in mind that although blind dogs may require a little extra care, they make excellent companions and live nearly normal lives.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .