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5 Common Eye Problems in Puppies

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Overview

Published: 10/4/2021

There's lots to watch out for when your pup first opens their eyes. While some infections and injuries are less common in newborns, you'll want to check your puppy hasn't suffered any trauma in the womb. You'll also want to check that your wee wolves have any genetic defects.

Of course, when your puppy's eyes are still closed, it's hard to damage them, but keep a close watch on your woofers once they open their eyes! Puppies are curious and playful by nature, so it's easy for them to get an infection or some minor damage once they become more active. Here are 5 common eye problems in puppies, so you can keep your Vizsla’s vision to tip top shape!


#1. Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

One of the most common eye problems for puppies and adult dogs is dry eye. Also known by its scientific name, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye occurs due to a lack of tear production from the tear glands. This tear gland malfunction means the eye cannot lubricate itself properly and is unable to clear small pieces of dirt and debris.

While dry eye isn't immediately serious, it can cause your dog significant discomfort. If left untreated, your dog could develop ulcers and lasting damage.

Symptoms

  • Excessive blinking

  • Pawing at the eye

  • Discharge or yellow mucus

  • Brown spots in the eye

Causes

Injury and infection are the most common causes of dry eye in dogs. Certain breeds are predisposed to dry eye, including Pugs and Yorkshire Terriers. In rare cases, dry eye can be the result of an autoimmune response.

Diagnosis

Your vet will conduct a physical exam as well as a Schirmer tear test. This test measures your dog's tear production using a small piece of filter paper.

Treatment

Treatment for dry eye will vary depending on the cause. Your vet may prescribe some saline or antibiotic eye drops. Immunosuppressants may be required if the dry eye is caused by an autoimmune response (common in certain breeds). If dry eye is the result of a severe traumatic injury, your dog may need to undergo surgery.

Average cost of treatment: $20 – $500


#2. Entropion

Entropion causes a dog's eyelid to fold inwards, usually affecting the bottom eyelid. This inward folding causes the dog's eyelashes to scrape against the eye, while dirt and debris can get into your dog’s eyes, leading to infections.

Entropion is among the most common hereditary eye problems and can affect bottom and top eyelids. It can also affect both eyes.

Symptoms

  • Eye redness

  • Mucus discharge

  • Excess tearing

  • Pawing at the eye

  • Keeping the eye closed

Causes

Entropion is usually hereditary and is common amongst dogs with flat faces, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Boxers. Injury, infection, and aging are other causes of entropion, although these are rare.

Diagnosis

Entropion usually appears when your puppy is around 6 months old, so you don't need to worry when your puppy is very young. Your vet will conduct an eye exam to tell if your dog has entropion. If your puppy is experiencing pain, your vet may administer medicated eye drops. Other diagnostic tests may include a Schirmer smear test to measure tear production and a fluorescein test to highlight foreign objects in the eye.

Treatment

While there are temporary ways to help with entropion, the only permanent solution is for your dog to undergo surgery. Your vet may advise you to wait until your dog is an adult before performing surgery and recommend temporary treatments in the meantime. Some dogs grow out of entropion by the time they’re adults.

Average cost of treatment: $500 – $1,500


#3. Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

A common eye problem amongst people that's also prevalent in pups is pink eye.

Symptoms

  • Inflammation of the eyelids and eye socket

  • Discharge

  • Redness

  • Excess tear production

  • Frequent blinking

Causes

Conjunctivitis usually occurs due to a viral or bacterial infection, but there are many other potential causes. An allergic reaction to pollen, smoke, or dust can cause pink eye. The condition has also been linked to hereditary abnormalities and viral infections like canine distemper virus (CDV).

Diagnosis

One of the most concerning symptoms of pink eye is mucus discharge. Discharge is a sign of an infection, so you'll want to visit the vet as soon as possible. First, your vet will need to determine if the conjunctivitis is the result of another more severe infection. They will usually check for any eye damage, then swab the mucus to check the type of infection.

Treatment

If the pink eye is the result of irritation or allergies, your vet will likely prescribe eye drops. If the cause is a bacterial infection, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic, like oxytetracycline, until the infection goes away. If your dog is at increased risk of pink eye due to a genetic abnormality, like Collie eye abnormality (CAE), they may advise you how to avoid pink eye going forward.

Average cost of treatment: $200 – $1,000


#4. Cherry eye

Another common hereditary eye problem for puppies is cherry eye. Cherry eye is caused by the ligaments in the corner of your dog's eye becoming weakened. The result is a dog's third eyelid protruding, appearing as a reddish mass in the corner of their eye. Cherry eye is easily identifiable and may cause your dog discomfort if prodded.

Symptoms

  • Protrusion of the third eyelid

  • Red mass in the eye

  • Excessive squinting due to pain

  • Dry eye

  • Discharge

Causes

Cherry eye usually occurs in dogs under 2 years old and is common among some breeds. Many dog breeds have a genetic predisposition to developing cherry eye, including Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, and Saint Bernards. It's also common among brachycephalic breeds.

Other possible reasons for cherry eye include an infection in the third eyelid, inflammation of the mucous membrane, and swelling of the third eyelid.

Diagnosis

While it may seem like your dog's cherry eye is improving on its own, this is just a temporary change, as the prolapsing will eventually become a reoccurring issue. You should take your puppy to the vet as your dog's third eyelid could become infected or injured.

Treatment

Acting quickly is the best way to fix cherry eye. If treated within a couple of days, anti-inflammatories and other medication may be enough to strengthen the eye tissue and correct the problem. If the cherry eye is reoccurring, then surgery is required. The average cost of treating cherry eye is around $500, depending on whether one or both eyes are affected.

Average cost of treatment: $250 – $2,500


#5. Corneal injury

The final and probably the most common eye problem for puppies is corneal damage. A playful puppy might get scratched in the eye by one of their siblings or when playing in the yard. The cornea is the clear outer layer of a dog's eye, which is most likely to be damaged. Common symptoms of corneal injury include

Symptoms

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Distress/whining

  • Keeping the affected eye closed

  • Discharge

Causes

Corneal damage is usually the result of injury. Chemical splash and bacterial infection are other causes of cornal damage.

Diagnosis

Your vet can diagnose corneal damage with a physical exam and special tests, like a fluorescein test. If you know what caused the corneal damage, be prepared to answer some questions to help your vet reach an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment

The treatment for corneal damage varies depending on the cause. If it's a simple corneal injury, your vet may give your pup antibiotic eye drops to avoid infection and help lubricate the eye while it heals. An E-cone or eye patch can prevent future injuries. For severe injuries, surgery may be required.

Average cost of treatment: $200 – $2,500




Eye injuries can range in severity, but if your dog seems in discomfort and you can see damage, take them to the vet. Depending on the severity, your dog's eye could become infected, or they could go blind if not treated promptly.

If your dog is at risk of developing a hereditary eye problem like entropion, check out our pet insurance comparison tool. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like Figo and Healthy Paws.

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