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Corneal Lesions in our Pets

2015-01-01

Corneal injuries are a serious matter in veterinary medicine. The cornea is the transparent front covering of the eyeball. It is less than 1 mm thick and consists of several complex layers. It is the most easily damaged part of the body, because it readily reacts to irritants from both the body and the environment.  Transparency of the cornea can be affected by multiple factors including injury, disease, or birth defect.Diagnosing a corneal lesion is something that should be done sooner rather than later. Usually an owner will notice; signs of pain in the eye, squinting, pawing, a change in the transparency of the cornea, or swelling around the eye. Upon examination by your veterinarian a fluorescein stain may be applied to the cornea to visualize any damaged tissue. A black light can be used to enhance this stain so the damage is readily seen.  The healing process of corneal lesions happens in multiple stages the first of which begins within an hour of damage. A routine uncomplicated or “simple” lesion can heal quickly, usually within 3-5 days.  Deeper lesions can have delayed healing time, and often require multiple progress examinations. Depending on the extent of the damage healing can take up to 6-8 weeks.  The current recommendation for most corneal lesions is a broad spectrum triple antibiotic ointment applied 3 times daily or a broad spectrum triple antibiotic solution applied 4 times daily.  Other ophthalmic solutions or ointments may be necessary on an individual basis.

Some dogs are more likely to have a problem with their eyes. One factor is their environment or life style. Many hunting dogs have cornea lesions because as they run through the tall grasses they can pick up a weed-on. A weed – on is just one seed that is found on tall grasses, it has a bard on one end and is frequently found under the dogs eyelid upon examination. After a day of hunting you may use contact saline solution to rinse the dogs’ eyes. This will help rinse away dust and debris picked up after a day of hunting.   If your dog is having signs of eye irritation it is recommend you visit a veterinarian as soon as possible, so that minimal damage is caused. 

Next are brachecephalic or “Short – nosed” dogs such as Shih Tzus and Pugs. These dogs lack the protection of a longer nose. This often results in more frequent injuries to the eyes. The bulging effect of the eye also makes them more susceptible for a condition called dry eye. Dry eye is where the eyes don’t produce enough tears on their own. Often these eyes are itchy, and the as the dog tries to find relief they tend to cause more damage by rubbing the eyes on furniture or with their paws. There is medication for dry eye and when given daily we see significant improvement. 

We all know how much we use our vision. The eyes may damage easily but can also heal quickly with proper care and attention.  If not attended to promptly, eye damage can become extremely painful and loss of sight is a possibility.