Eye Infections in Dogs & Cats
Published August 5, 2021
Content Reviewed by an Essentials PetCare Veterinarian
- What: Eye infections in pets may develop from a number of reasons.
- Why: This can be a painful and fairly common condition in pets. If left untreated, eye infections may even lead to blindness.
- When: If the pet presents any of the many signs of an eye infection, as described below.
- How: Through visual exam, diagnostic tests, and appropriate route of treatment.
- EPC affordable price: Eye Packages for dogs and cats include a doctor’s exam, relevant diagnostics, treatment recommendations, and a portable prescription for medication, if necessary. The cost is only $65. Book a visit now.
What Eye Infections Are
Eye infections in cats and dogs are infectious or inflammatory conditions of the eye. It is a fairly common condition that can be very painful. An eye infection may develop from a number of reasons, such as:
Allergies – Allergens found in vegetation, food, and cleaning products, for example, can cause eye irritation and discharge.
Bacteria – Bacterial infections can be caused by Staphyloccocus, Pseudomonas, or Mycoplasma species. The most common bacterial infections are seen in cats with Chlamydia as the underlying bacterial agent.
Fungus – Fungal infections can include Aspergillus, Blastomyces, and Cryptococcus species.
Injury – Trauma caused by foreign objects, sometimes even the pet’s own hair, can cause irritation and damage to the cornea resulting in secondary infection.
Parasites – Primary parasitic infection, although uncommon, can occur most notably by a species of worm called Thelazia. Other parasites, such as ticks, can spread infections that cause eye infections in addition to systemic diseases, such as ehrlichiosis or Lyme disease.
Tumors – Pets suffering from certain cancerous diseases, such as uveal or limbal melanomas, will often scratch their eyes and cause secondary eye infections or even corneal ulceration.
Viruses – Viral infections that affect the eye include distemper, influenza, and hepatitis. The most commonly seen viral eye infection is a herpes infection of cats.
In addition, other eye conditions are manifested along with serious eye infections:
Cataracts – Cats and dogs can develop cataracts just like people. The most noticeable sign is the pet’s eyes becoming increasingly cloudy. This results from a deterioration of the pet’s lens and may eventually lead to blindness. This is a condition most common to older pets, but younger pets may develop cataracts as result of an injury. Cataracts can also be congenital (present from birth), and genetics play a role as some breeds are more prone to developing cataracts than others. The definitive treatment for cataracts is surgical removal by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Cherry Eye – Cats and dogs have a third eyelid referred to as the “nictitans membrane” that protrudes from the inside corner of each eye. This eyelid contains a tear gland which can become swollen and prolapsed, a condition commonly referred to as a “cherry eye”. This can cause irritation and eventually lead to cessation of tear production, or “dry eye” (see below). Cocker Spaniels and Poodles are prone to this problem.
Dry Eyes – Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or KCS, in dogs and cats refers to cessation of tear production by the tear glands of the eye leading to dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea. This most commonly occurs from destruction of the tear glands by the body’s own immune system but can also be caused by damage to the nerves that stimulate the tear glands. KCS causes a dry, crusty discharge to form over and around the eyes and leads to intense drying of the eye along with irritation and ulceration of the cornea.
Entropion – Entropion is a condition in which the pet’s eyelids roll inward and cause hairs to rub against the cornea. This causes mechanical irritation and often results in chronic corneal ulceration.
Ectropion – Ectropion is the opposite of entropion. This is a condition in which the pet’s eyelids roll outward. This causes the eye to be exposed to air leading to dryness, irritation, and inflammation.
Glaucoma – Increased pressure within the eye caused by an accumulation of fluid leads to glaucoma. This serious and painful condition may cause permanent blindness or disfigurement. Pets with a genetic predisposition for this disorder often have both eyes affected. This can be an emergency situation, and any pet with an eye that appears enlarged should be examined immediately.
Pink Eye – Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as “pink eye”, is the irritation of the conjunctiva, or the pink tissue inside the eyelid. This condition can be caused by allergies or bacterial or viral infections. Conjunctivitis can be contagious through contact with eye secretions.
How Dogs and Cats Develop Eye Infections
Because an eye infection in your pet may be caused by so many reasons, the way it develops can vary greatly. The key to stopping conditions from developing is prevention. Regular wellness exams, at least annually, are needed to keep your pet’s eyes healthy. Be mindful that an eye condition can be extremely painful for your pet. If you ever have any concerns, seek an eye exam for your pet as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Eye Infections in Dogs and Cats
Although reasons for an eye infection in dogs and cats vary, the signs that something is wrong with their eyes generally include:
- Blinking more than usual
- Crusting on or around the eyes
- Eyelids sticking together (closed eye or eyes)
- Light sensitivity
- Puffy eyes
- Red, green, or yellow discharge
- Redness of the eyes
- Rubbing or pawing around the eyes
- Shaking the head
- Swollen eyelids and/or face
Panting, hiding, refusal to eat, excessive crying, and whining may be accompanied with these signs in more serious cases.
Essential Tip: Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the symptoms above. Essentials PetCare offers an Eye Package which includes a doctor’s exam, relevant diagnostics, treatment recommendations, and a portable prescription for medication, if necessary, for only $65. Book a visit now.
Diagnosing Eye Infections in Your Pet
In order to diagnose an eye infection, the doctor will perform a detailed exam of your pet’s eyes. Diagnostic tests will also be necessary, including measurement of the tear production levels, measurement of the eye pressure, and eye staining to check for injury/ulceration to the cornea. In more serious cases, bacterial cultures may be necessary along with blood work to rule out any underlying conditions.
Treating Eye Infections in Cats and Dogs
Following the pet’s examination, the veterinarian will recommend the best route of treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach because pet eye infections have a wide range of causes. Most cases are minor illness issues and can be treated with topical eye medications such as drops or ointments. More serious conditions may require oral medications in addition to this. Some conditions, such as KCS or cataracts, require life-long treatment and even surgery. Avoid over the counter medications unless recommended by the doctor.
Home Remedies for Eye Infections in Dogs and Cats
It is important to take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as you notice signs of an eye infection. Refrain from trying any home remedies as they will likely be ineffective, and the condition may worsen with time. In addition, be aware that using the wrong product in your pet’s eyes may be dangerous. Don’t delay proper treatment because the infection may spread. Since this can be a very painful condition for your pet and may even lead to blindness, proper medical therapy is the best option.
Preventing Eye Infections in Your Dog or Cat
You can avoid eye infections by paying close attention to your pet’s eyes during routine care. The outer layer of the eyeball, known as the sclera, should be bright white. The inner lining of the eye lid should be pink; if you notice this portion being white or red in color, visit your veterinarian.
Look for discharge, crusting, cloudiness, uneven pupil sizes, a noticeable third eyelid, or any change in eye color. These are all reasons to see the veterinarian right away.
Regular hygiene is vital. Keep your pet’s eyes clean. When cleaning any discharge or matter from your pet’s eyes, always wipe outward from the corner of the eye using a damp cotton ball. Be gentle to avoid injury. Proper grooming is important for longhaired pets in order to keep hairs from causing damage to the eyes. Never attempt to cut the hair around your pet’s eyes yourself as a quick move by your pet can lead to serious injury. Consult an experienced groomer for pets that need this service.
The visit to treat eye infections in your pet at Essentials PetCare takes about 20 minutes on average. Book a visit now. We are conveniently located at Walmart.