By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/15/2017, edited: 11/18/2021
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Only a heart of stone can resist 'puppy dog eyes'. But keeping those big brown eyes clean is key to long-term healthy eyesight, especially as most pups have personal hygiene low on their to-do list.
Give your puppy a helping paw by keeping an 'eye' on their ocular health. Simple things like keeping the eyes free from discharge and knowing the signs he has a problem can make a world of difference.
Puppy eye problems tend to fall into one of three categories. These are congenital problems (an anatomical issue the puppy was born with), infections, and trauma. What matters most is recognizing the puppy has a problem and taking prompt action to correct it.
Congenital Eye Issues
These range from major defects such as being born with a micro-eye to anatomical problems such as eyelashes rubbing on the surface (cornea) of the eye. Be especially alert and regularly check the eyes of breeds with wrinkly faces such as the Shar Pei, bulldog, pug, and Bloodhound.
Crucially, recognize when the puppy is in discomfort or pain. Signs to watch for include:
Squinting: Compare one eye with the other. If one eye is narrower or looks smaller than the other, this is a sign of discomfort
Rubbing the Face: Pawing at the eye or rubbing the face along the ground can be a sign of discomfort.
Teary Eye: A watery eye can be a clue to irritation.
These pups need to see a vet as a temporary corrective surgery may be required to alleviate discomfort
Puppies are so busy having fun that they overlook keeping clean, and this includes their eyes. A yellow-green discharge is a sign of infection, but even eye-gloop needs cleaning away when it's excessive. An infection needs to be taken seriously and a medicated eye ointment sought urgently from your vet.
To clean the eyes between application of eye drops, prepare some cooled, boiled water. Use this to saturate a cotton wool ball, which you then squeeze so it's damp rather than wet. Using a separate cotton ball for each eye, gently wipe away on muck or discharge. Do this as often as necessary to keep the eye clean and free from gunk.
In young puppies especially, it's vital that you don't let gunk build up and glue the eyelids shut. If this happens it risks damage to the cornea and impaired eyesight. Instead, bathe the eyes regularly and gently pry the eyelids open (of course, only do this in puppies whose eyes have physically opened, after around 10 days of age.)
Trauma to the Eye
A puppy running full pelt after a squeaky toy doesn't stop to think there's a prickly plant in the way. Neither does he think twice when taunting the neighbor's cat. Both of which can easily lead to scratches on the cornea. Typical signs of this include the pup holding his eye shut. It's crucial to get the eye checked by a vet, since a deep scratch has the potential to cause blindness.
Follow the instructions carefully on how often to apply any medicated drops. In addition, keep the eye clean with those damp cotton balls. If at any stage your fear things have taken a turn for the worse, don't hesitate to contact the vet for an urgent follow-up.
Eyeing Up Trouble
Puppies are playful whirlwinds who prefer to play rather than take care of themselves. Their eyes are especially vulnerable and any problems should be checked by a vet. But most important of all is to keep their eyes clean. Puppy dog eyes soon become gummed shut, which can seal infection in behind those closed lids and risk permanent damage to the cornea.
When your puppy bewitches you with those gorgeous puppy dog eyes, don't forget to stare right back and check their eyes are healthy and clean at all times.
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