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Lifting the“eye”-lid on Ocular Emergencies

Written by: Dr. Courtney Anderson; Article title by: Dr. Carleigh Cathcart


Your pet’s eyes are an important organ that should be examined regularly to ensure they are healthy! Good vision in combination with their other senses allows your pet to experience this world to the fullest. Unfortunately, eyes are complex and easily susceptible to damage. Below are the top emergencies involving the eye, including signs to watch for in your pet so that concerns can be identified quickly and receive veterinary attention.


  1. Glaucoma - this condition occurs when the pressure in your pet’s eye reaches abnormally high levels. It is an extremely painful condition that can lead to permanent blindness if not treated immediately. Signs to watch for include: excessive blinking of the eye, not holding the eye open fully, the whites of the eye appearing red, a cloudy appearance to the eye, a persistent dilated pupil, acute vision loss or an eye that suddenly appears to be bulging out of the eye socket. Glaucoma requires aggressive treatment with eye drops used to lower the pressure in the eye to avoid losing function of the eye.

  2. Eye Trauma - this includes any traumatic injury to the eye or eyelids (ex. car accident, dog fight, cat scratch, etc.). Proptosis refers to an eye that is protruding out of the socket. This abnormality requires surgical correction to replace the eye. Another common trauma seen is eyelid tears/lacerations. Depending on the age and severity of the wound, surgical correction with sutures may be necessary. With any trauma near the eye, your veterinarian will want to apply a special stain on the surface to determine if a scratch is present.

  3. Uveitis - this condition occurs when the tissues responsible for supplying blood and nutrients to the eye are inflamed. Usually the pressure in the eye will be low. Signs to watch for include: excessive blinking of the eye, not holding the eye open fully, the whites of the eye appearing red, a cloudy appearance to the eye or a persistent dilated pupil. This condition is painful and is usually treated with topical eye drops to reduce the inflammation present.

  4. Lens luxation - similar to humans, our pets have a lens sitting behind their pupil that acts as a magnifying glass. This lens is held in place by fibers. If these fibers become weak the lens can move forward (anterior lens luxation) or backward in the eye (posterior lens luxation). Anterior lens luxation can increase the pressure in the eye, resulting in glaucoma. If the center of your pet’s eye appears different and your pet is squinting/blinking their eye frequently, the lens may have been displaced and veterinary care should be sought immediately.

  5. Corneal ulcer - an ulcer occurs when the most superficial surface of the eye called the cornea is damaged. Usually this occurs from acute trauma or eyelid masses, eyelashes or hair that chronically rubs on the cornea. A condition that we refer to as “dry eye” where there is inadequate lubrication of the eye, can also result in a corneal ulcer. Depending on how deep the ulcer is and how long it has been present for, a severity is correlated with it. Topical antibiotics and pain medication are commonly prescribed for ulcers after the eye has been stained to confirm an ulcer is present.



This image shows what the back of a normal dog’s eye looks like when your veterinarian uses an ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes. A healthy looking optic nerve (white-tan circle in the lower right corner) with blood vessels supplying nutrients to the eye is present.




It is important to seek veterinary attention if you are ever concerned about your pet’s eyes. Eye problems can worsen quickly so it is best not to wait. It is also crucial to not put any medication in the eye without veterinary advice as this can often make it more challenging to treat. If you have put medication in your pet’s eye, please make us aware. If you are unable to bring your pet in right away, a warm compress can provide temporary relief to an irritated eye. If you have a concern with your pet’s eyes after hours, please contact our clinic at 226-931-5362.


Written by: Dr. Courtney Anderson; Article title by: Dr. Carleigh Cathcart

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