My Dog May Have A Corneal Ulcer – Do I Need A Veterinary Exam?

Dogs have very sensitive eyes that make them susceptible to injuries such as corneal ulcers in that area. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or not, knowing what corneal ulcers are, how they occur, and the various treatment options can keep us more prepared if our pups ever suffer from them.

What are Corneal Ulcers?

The cornea is the clear outer layer surface of the eye and has many cells and nerve endings that make it a very sensitive part of the body. There are three main parts to a cornea:

  • Epithelium: This part of the cornea is a barrier that protects any dirt and debris from entering the eye. It also absorbs oxygen and nutrients from tears and transports them to the rest of the cornea.
  • Stroma: The stroma is the thickest part of the cornea and gives the cornea its strength and dome-like shape.
  • Endothelium: This is the innermost layer of the cornea and is a very thin sheet of cells that fills the space between the cornea and the pupil.

There are a few types of abrasions that can happen to the cornea, each with its own level of severity. A corneal erosion or corneal abrasion happens when there is a piercing or erosion of the first layer – the epithelium. A corneal ulcer is a much deeper erosion that goes through the entire first layer and to the stroma. These ulcers can cause significant disruptions in a pet’s vision and can be very painful. 

How Corneal Ulcers Occur

Pets can get corneal ulcers through a variety of traumatic ways, including:

  • Scratch, poke, or penetration of the eye
  • Disease
  • Infection
  • Burns

The primary cause of eye damage is some sort of trauma that occurs to the eyes. A pet can damage their eyes from rough play with other pets or from coming in contact with sharp objects or chemicals. Some breeds are more prone to corneal ulcers than others. Dogs such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs have more prominent eyes and may have a higher chance of getting eye injuries. 

Signs Your Dog May Have Corneal Ulcers

There are a few physical signs you may notice in your pup’s eye as well as varying behaviors they may be displaying that can alert you of a possible eye injury including: 

  • Redness of the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Pus or other discharge coming from the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Blurry vision
  • Film developing over the eyes

Corneal ulcers can be extremely painful to go through. If your pup is exhibiting some of the following behaviors consistently, then you should set up an appointment with your local vet:

  • Rubbing the eyes with their paw
  • Keeping the eyes closed for most of the time
  • Squinting due to sensitivity to light

What Are My Treatment Options?

Corneal ulcers require immediate treatment. If the ulcers continue to grow and are deep into the cornea, your pup will need surgery with hospitalization. Following surgery, your vet will likely recommend your dog to wear a protective medical collar to prevent any pawing of the eyes. Their activity will be very limited for the following weeks until the injury heals completely. Your vet may also recommend antibiotics in case of infections or to prevent possible infections. 

Although crazy accidents may happen, there are some options you can consider to prevent your pup from getting lacerations to the eye such as avoiding running through tall grass, keeping sharp objects away from your pup, and even using doggy goggles to protect the eyes. You can also get a wellness plan for your pet, which can help treat any health issues early on. If your pup is suffering from trauma to the eyes, consider bringing them in for a vet exam at easyvet where the vets can guide you on the best treatment options to ensure your pup gets healthy quickly!