Common Eye Problems in Dogs (and Cats)

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (or for short KCS or “Dry Eye”) – is a disease of the eye in which insufficient tears are produced. The result is an eye that is dry and painful. Although it can affect many domestic species, including cats and horses, KCS is most commonly seen in dogs. The eye will produce a thick, mucoid, cloudy discharge. You might notice mucous-like material on the surface of the eye, which moves as the dog blinks, or build up at the bottom of the eye, near the lower lid. It is a rare eye disease in cats and may be a consequence of feline herpes viral infection, particularly following severe conjunctivitis. Any dog can be affected by KCS, but some breeds are more prone to it.

  • West Highland Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Shih Tzu
  • Lhasa Apso
  • English Bull Dog
  • Collie
  • Springer Spaniel

Glaucoma – is caused by increased pressure within the eye, causing the eye to produce too much of the clear fluid that nourishes and maintains the shape of the eye. The eyeball becomes very hard and over time will enlarge. Pain from glaucoma is usually not obvious to most owners. Pets may show decreased activity, decreased desire to play, irritability, and/or decreased appetite. There is usually no squinting nor rubbing of the eye…your pet will not let you know that they have a headache and that their eye is uncomfortable.

Two types: Primary Glaucoma and Secondary Glaucoma.

  1. Primary Glaucoma is an inherited condition. It will usually start in one eye and eventually occur in the other eye as well. If it is left untreated it will rapidly lead to complete blindness. Glaucoma is very painful for the pet and can occur at any time in certain breeds of dog. It can also be caused from cataracts or major trauma to the eye. Primary glaucoma occurs in many breeds of dogs, including the American Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Chow, Shar Pei, Jack Russell Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Siberian Husky. Primary glaucoma is rare in cats.
  2. Secondary Glaucoma occurs when other eye diseases cause decreased drainage of fluid from the inside of the eye. Common causes of secondary glaucoma include: inflammation inside the eye (uveitis), advanced cataracts, cancer in the eye, lens subluxation or luxation (displacement of the lens from its normal position or a completely luxated lens is free of all attachments and can “float around” inside the eye, causing both damage and pain) and detachment of the retina—the “seeing” part of the eye. Glaucoma in cats is almost always secondary to uveitis.

Distichia – an eyelash that comes from an abnormal spot on the eyelid. Distichia usually exits from the duct of the meibomian gland at the eyelid margin. There are usually multiple areas and sometimes more than one arises from a duct. They can affect either the upper or lower eyelid and are usually bilateral (on both eyes). The lower eyelids of dogs usually have no eyelashes. Distichia may rub on the eye itself, and thus can irritate the eye and cause tearing, squinting, inflammation, scarring and corneal ulcers.

Entropion and Ectropion – conditions that involve the eyelids. With an entropion, the eyelids roll inward and rub against the cornea of the eye. This can cause a great deal of discomfort for the dog. Ectropion is the opposite of entropion, the eyelids droop exposing the cornea. These conditions are more common in dogs than cats. Ectropion is considered normal in some breeds but can also develop in senile dogs that lose muscle tone.

Predisposed Breeds:
Entropion – Chow, Chinese Shar-Pei, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Collie, Great Dane, Rottweiler, and Bulldog.
Ectropion – Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Cocker Spaniel, Clumber Spaniel, English Bulldog, and Saint Bernard.

Symptoms: Entropion

  • Eyelids appear to roll inward
  • Excessive tearing
  • Winking
  • Conjunctivitis – eyes will appear red or inflamed
  • Pain – Painful eyes cause dogs to paw and rub their eyes resulting in more damage
  • Sensitivity to light

Symptoms: Ectropion

  • Eyelids appear to roll outward exposing the eye
  • Conjunctivitis – eyes will appear red or inflamed
  • Excessive tearing
  • Inflammation of the cornea, due to exposure
  • Discharge from the eyes

Cataracts – Like a camera, eyes have a clear lens inside them that is used for focusing. A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye and is the most common cause of blindness in dogs and cats. Cataracts can be caused by injuries or diabetes, but most cataracts in dogs and cats are inherited. Most cataracts will progress, and ultimately cause blindness. The lens is located behind the iris (which is the colored part of an eye). When a cataract occurs, the pupil, the black part in the center of the colored iris, may appear white and opaque. Vision through a mature cataract is like looking through white painted glass.