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Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

 
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. November 16, 2020
Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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An ulcer is a wound that can occur in different parts of the body. However, in this AnimalWised article we are going to focus on explaining the symptoms and treatment of corneal ulcer in dogs, a wound that occurs in the cornea of a dog.

Due to its location it will always require veterinary intervention, since leaving it untreated can result in significant damage to the eye that even leads to loss of the vision.

What is the cornea of the eye?

The cornea is the outer, transparent and shinypart of the eye. With a concave form, it constitutes the first barrier for protection and penetration of light in the eye. Its location makes it sensitive to lesions, such as in corneal ulcer in dogs, which we will detail below.

The cornea is made up of three layers. The outermost layer is the epithelium, a very thin layer of cells. Then comes the stroma, the main supportive tissue of the cornea. Lastly, there's the descemet's membrane, the deepest layer in the cornea. These layers are too small to see with our naked eye, to observe them we would need to use a microscope.

Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - What is the cornea of the eye?

What is corneal ulcer in dogs?

The cornea has a superficial layer made up of epithelial cells. Any irritation, such as a scratch, the irruption of a foreign body or even an eyelash that grows towards it, is capable of injuring this layer, producing what is known as corneal abrasion.

When the damage transcends this layer and affects the middle or even internal layer of the cornea, we will be faced with the so-called corneal ulcer. The cornea will appear blurred and opaque in the damaged area.

These ulcers are very painful and require quick veterinary attention. In no case is it convenient for us to administer eye drops on our own, as they could cause the cornea to be perforated. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from corneal ulcer, you must take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible, before they lose their eyesight.

What causes corneal ulcer in dogs?

The most common cause of corneal ulcer in dogs is by blunt trauma. This includes your dog rubbing their eye on the carpet, getting scratched by a cat or any other contact where the cornea was hurt by a hard object. It could've even been by a chemical burn in the cornea, due to a shampoo, drywall dust, etc.

Less common causes include bacterial infections, viral infections and other diseases. These diseases begin in the eye of the dog and, if not treated in time, spreads through the body, causing other health problems. This includes other diseases such as epithelial dystrophy, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (“dry eye”) or endoctrine diseases.

You may also be interested in our article about cloudy eyes in dogs.

Symptoms of corneal ulcer in dogs

Corneal ulcer causes a lot of pain in our dogs. We can also identify other symptoms such as the following:

  • Tearing: very marked tearing in the eye
  • Itching: your dog tries to scratch their eye
  • Photophobia: the dog is bothered by light
  • Thirdeye doesn't retract: in an attempt to protect the eye
  • Larger ulcers can be seen with the naked eye as dull or blurred areas

Superficial corneal ulcers are more painful than deep ones. Your veterinarian will confirm its presence by putting a few drops of a fluorescein eye drop in the eye. If there is an ulcer, it will turn green. They will then need to see what type of ulcers it is and then find the correct treatment for your dog's condition.

Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Symptoms of corneal ulcer in dogs

Types of corneal ulcers in dogs

There are two types of corneal ulcers in dogs:

  • Simple corneal ulcers: they are the most superficial and therefore the most painful. Its appearance is usually sudden and without associated infection. If we detect the cause, they quickly heal in a few days. This is usually due to blunt trauma by a foreign object.
  • Complicated corneal ulcers: this group includes ulcers that do not heal in about 7-10 days or we cannot find out what caused them. They are deep corneal ulcers, corneal perforations or indolent ulcers, which we will explain in the last section of this article.

Treatment of corneal ulcers in dogs

Once the diagnosis is established, the veterinarian usually prescribes antibiotic eye drops to prevent infections from occurring. Eye drops that keep the pupil dilated and thus reduce pain are also recommended. It is important to complete the treatment and have the veterinarian check the eye to ensure the ulcer has completely healed. Treating this eye problem is essential to avoid complications or even the loss of the affected eye.

Treatment will vary depending on whether it is a simple or complicated corneal ulcer. Surgery is sometimes the necessary treatment, covering the eye with the third eyelid or a flap from the conjunctiva. There are also contact lenses that can be put on with the same protective function while the ulcer heals. If the dog tries to touch their eye, it is essential to use an Elizabethan collar.

Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Treatment of corneal ulcers in dogs

Indolent corneal ulcers

Indolent corneal ulcers in dogs is characterized by their slow healing. This type of corneal ulcers is common in Boxer dogs, although it can also occur in other dogs and is known to occur in older dogs too. This ulcer is caused by the lack of a substance that is between the outer and middle layer of the cornea and that acts like glue.

This absence causes the epithelium to detach, giving rise to a concave ulcer. This type of ulcers is not usually accompanied by an infection, however, it is also possible. They are treated with surgery to remove the affected epithelium and produce an abrasion that helps to join the layers. After surgery it is treated the same as other corneal ulcers. Talk to your veterinarian to understand what type of ulcers your dog has and how the recovery process will be like.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Corneal Ulcer in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Eye problems category.

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