Your dog can easily scratch his eye while running through bushes or tall weeds or playing with other family pets. A dog eye scratch needs veterinary attention even if it seems minor. A scratched eye can be quite painful for your dog, and without treatment, it can worsen into a corneal ulcer.
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Dog eye scratch
The cornea is the outer surface of a dog's eye, and it has three layers. A minor scratch that only damages the outermost layer of the cornea is referred to as a corneal abrasion. If the scratch affects the second layer of tissue, this is called a corneal ulcer. These deeper scratches can damage your dog's vision.
Causes and symptoms
In most cases, a scratched eye is the result of trauma. This may occur if your dog has a fight with a dog or cat or runs through bushes with sharp branches or thorns. Corneal abrasions and ulcers may also be caused by a chemical burn. Dogs with prominent or protruding eyes are more likely to be injured. Some breeds that commonly face this problem include boxers, bulldogs, and pugs.
If you know your dog has suffered a trauma to the eye, take her to the vet. There are other potential causes of corneal ulcers as well, such as eye infections and diseases, like Cushing's disease.
Watch for symptoms that may indicate your pup has a scratched eye. Some common symptoms include red or watery eyes, swelling, squinting, excessive blinking, and rubbing the eye with her paw. If the eye is extremely painful, she may avoid allowing you to touch it and may show behavioral changes, such as lack of appetite and lethargy. You may also notice pus discharge from the eye or that the eye has become cloudy.
Scratched cornea dog treatment options
Your vet will likely use fluorescein dye eye drops to confirm the diagnosis. The dye is absorbed by damaged areas of the cornea but not by the healthy part of the eye. Then, the vet will use a fluorescent light to see what part and how much of the eye is injured.
Minor corneal scratches typically heal in three to seven days with proper treatment. Your vet may prescribe antibiotic dog eye drops to prevent infection and painkillers to make him more comfortable. If your dog is rubbing his eye, this can slow healing or cause further damage. Your dog may need to wear an e-collar until the eye has healed.
Potential side effects and complications
Schedule a follow-up visit for your pup to ensure the eye is healing well. In some cases, scratches can worsen, which can potentially cause vision loss. Additional treatment may be necessary, especially if the corneal ulcer is caused by an underlying disease.
If the ulcer isn't healing, a minimally invasive procedure may be necessary. This is usually performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist who will scrape the dead tissue from the eye and then perform a procedure called keratotomy, which encourages new cell growth.
In some cases, your dog will develop blood vessels in the eye to help with the healing process. Since these can block your dog's vision, once the scratch is healed, your vet may prescribe a steroid eye drop to reduce the size of the vessels.