Routine Eye Care for Your Pets

This entry is article 6 of 6 in the September 2014 issue

As a pet owner, it’s important that you establish an eye care routine to include the following:

Conduct Routine Visual Inspection
Set aside a particular time weekly to examine your pet’s eyes. Do so in the best of light. Healthy eyes should look clear, shiny and moist, and the area around the clear part of the eye (i.e., cornea) should be white, pupils should be equal in size and there should be no redness, crusting, discharge, swelling or tearing around the eyes. With your thumb, the lower lid can be rolled down to check the color of the conjunctiva (i.e., tissue lining its inner aspect) or to look for other problems. The conjunctiva should be pink. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you think that something looks unusual. If you have an older pet, you may find that the eyes have an opaque, cloudy look. This can be typical of aging, but it may be caused by cataracts. Prompt attention when any abnormalities are found can mean the difference between a quick and easy fix vs. a sight-threatening problem.

Remove Dirt and Debris
After you’ve examined your pet’s eyes, spend a few minutes cleaning them. This will reduce the accumulation of debris and be soothing. You can remove dirt or other debris surrounding the eye with a dampened cotton ball or sterile eye wipe. Wipe from the outside corner to the inside corner of the eyelids and be careful to keep the cotton off the eyeball. Tear staining can occur in both dogs and cats when tears spill out at the corners of the eyes and settle on the surrounding hair, causing discoloration. A good cleaning can usually help with the staining but doesn’t eliminate it completely.

Dealing with Hair Around the Eyes
If your pet’s hair becomes too long, it can contribute to staining and accumulation of debris. While some may suggest trimming the hairs, we find that cutting the hairs makes them sharp/pointy and may directly contact the cornea and lead to significant corneal problems (i.e., deep ulceration). Keeping the area clean is most important. Take the time to wash dirty hair surrounding the eyes with a gentle shampoo and be careful not to get soap in your pet’s eyes. If there are hairs present in the corners of the eyelids, then surgery to remove them may be recommended.

Bathe Safely
When bathing your pet, use only a safe, mild shampoo, avoid getting any shampoo in your pet’s eyes and thoroughly rinse your pet, as even the mildest shampoo can be troublesome if it is not completely washed off.

Guard Against Corneal or Permanent Eye Damage
How often do we see dogs hanging their head out the car window? While your dog may enjoy having the wind whip against his face, doing this can cause dirt and other debris to land in your pet’s eyes and can lead to corneal damage or permanent eye injury.

Schedule Routine Eye Exams
Ensure that your annual veterinary checkup includes a thorough eye exam to check for eye disease and other vision conditions.

Check with your veterinarian and stay informed about your pet’s breed and age factors that could impact the eyes. If you are aware of things to keep watch on, you’ll be more likely to catch problems early. When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian if anything looks awry with your pet’s eyes.

Series Navigation<< At Your Service: Ophthalmology