The Vet Is In: Eye ProblemsJun 15th, 2010 | By Dr. Marvin Ordway | Category: Pets
With many health problems affecting dogs and cats, it may be safe to wait a day or two before scheduling a visit to your veterinarian.
Eye problems are a different story. With these, the watchwords are prevention and quick intervention, because things can go terribly wrong in a hurry.
The signs can be obvious. Generally, if a dog or cat is squinting or scratching at the eye, you need to see the vet the same day. If you wait, and the issue is a foxtail or corneal ulcer due to trauma or injury, it can result in blindness in two or three days.
Sometimes, the signs are all but invisible. A cat whose personality changes – say, from persistently social to reclusive, and wanting to be left alone – could have high blood pressure which can be easily treated. Left untreated, high blood pressure can cause the retina to detach and result in blindness.
Most of our companion pets go through life happily devoid of serious eye problems. However, there are some situations that warrant close attention.
Most often, eye injuries happen by accident: from scratches, getting poked while running through brush, which can puncture the cornea, or getting hit by cars, which can pop the eye out (we can sometimes put them back in and save the vision).
Second most common is cataracts, which can be congenital or result from conditions such as diabetes. Cataracts, essentially a lens defect, are prevalent in certain dog breeds. Reputable breeders often will have the eyes certified by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Many times cataracts are best left alone if not progressing. They can also be removed, at quite a cost, depending on the animal’s other health problems.
Many people confuse bluish-gray hazing, which is normal aging of the lens, with cataracts. Called “nuclear sclerosis,” this happens in dogs from about age 7 and in cats, closer to age 10, as the lens tissue becomes denser and denser. This causes reduced vision, particularly in dim light at night.
Glaucoma is increased ocular pressure within the eye, which can be inherited or the result of eye trauma, cancer, or infection, among other causes. The animal may whine, or have a painful red eye. If the pressure stays up for more than a few hours, damage may be irreversible. With quick intervention glaucoma can sometimes be effectively treated topically, but in other cases the eye must be removed to relieve the animal’s pain.
Other issues include eyelid problems of various types, and retinal atrophy, which initially results in loss of peripheral and night vision. This occurs primarily in dogs but also in purebred cats. We almost never see it in good old alley cats. At first, a client might notice that their pet isn’t seeing as well at night. This is a progressive disease and may lead to complete blindness.
Even when eyesight can’t be saved, many pets adapt beautifully. Their amazing sensory perception allows them to adjust and even thrive, especially if they have a loving “seeing-eye person” who can help safeguard them.
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