Your dog’s eyes can be exposed to a variety of irritants and potential sources for injury on a daily basis particularly if your dog spends time outdoors. While running through the backyard to bark at the neighbor’s cat, your dog could scratch the surface of his eye on a bush or a loose tree. If he rides in the car with the window down, there’s the potential for his eyes to be irritated or abraded by debris that hits his face from the wind pressure created by the movement of the car. Dogs can also abrade their eye when they use their paws to scratch their face or neck. In cases such as this, the result can be a dog corneal abrasion which can not only be extremely painful but can lead to a corneal ulceration if left untreated. For this reason, suspected eye irritation or trauma in dogs should be taken seriously and treated aggressively.
How can you tell if your dog is developing a corneal abrasion that needs evaluation?
Some signs to look for include a discharge coming from the eye and redness. You may also notice your dog rubbing at his eye with his paw, squinting, or repeatedly blinking the affected eye. If you observe these signs, it’s important to call your vet immediately.
To make the diagnosis of dog corneal abrasion, your vet will stain the affected eye with a special fluorescent stain which allows the abraded area to be visualized when viewed under a special ultraviolet lamp. The eye is anesthetized with a drop of lidocaine before staining which means your dog should feel no pain during the procedure. This test is usually quite accurate and if there’s any question, your vet will most likely initiate treatment just to be sure.
How is a dog corneal abrasion treated? How aggressively your dog is treated for a corneal abrasion depends on the depth of the injury. A superficial corneal abrasion can usually be treated with antibiotic ointments applied directly to the eye every few hours. If the abrasion is deep, more intensive treatment may be necessary which may require hospitalization. Fortunately, uncomplicated, superficial corneal abrasions usually heal with antibiotic ointment in several days although some may take up to ten days. During this time, it’s important to keep your dog from scratching at his eyes and keep him indoors to reduce the risk of re-injury.
One way to protect your dog from developing a corneal abrasion is to not allow him to hang his head out the car window when the car is moving. Not only is this dangerous in the event an accident occurs, it also increases the risk of sustaining a corneal abrasion. Always be suspicious of any repeated attempts on the part of your dog to rub at his eye with his paws as this can indicate an undiagnosed eye injury. By being aware of any changes in your dog’s behavior, you can get your dog treated quickly if he should develop the signs of a dog corneal abrasion.