A Primer On Corneal Damage in Dogs

Corneal damage is common in dogs. 

The cornea is a very thin, transparent layer of tissue that forms the front part of the eyeball. The eyelids protect the cornea, and the tear film nourishes the cornea and keeps it moist.

A Primer On Corneal Damage in Dogs: Dogs with “pushed-in” faces and bulging eyes are especially at risk.

How it happens

The cornea can become damaged by:

  • an eye infection
  • foreign objects (such as sand or splinters)
  • dry eye
  • or trauma (such as being scratched).  

Dogs with “pushed-in” faces and bulging eyes are especially at risk. When the cornea is damaged in any way, it is very painful. 

Primer On Corneal Damage
Image Tuscon Wildlife Center “DoctorTails”

What does it look like

Your dog may hold its eye closed, blink excessively, or rub or paw at the eye.

Often damage is secondary to an eye infection, and the eyes may appear red and watery. Without treatment, the cornea can scar as blood vessels enter the area to repair the damage. Such scars can show up as dark spots on the cornea that decrease transparency and possibly reduce vision.

Diagnosing corneal damage in dogs

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough eye examination, including looking for signs of corneal damage.

The veterinarian will use a special dye called fluorescein to cover the surface of the eyeball. 

Treating corneal damage in dogs

After the excess dye is washed away, any nicks, tears, scrapes, scratches, or ulcers on the cornea retain some of the dye and are stained a bright greenish or orangish color.

Treatment for corneal damage includes antibiotic eye drops and sometimes eye drops to dilate the pupil and ease painful spasms.  

Topical corticosteroids are generally not a good option because they can interfere with healing.  In severe cases, your veterinarian may sew the eyelids closed temporarily to protect the damaged area so it can heal.

With proper treatment, corneal damage usually heals rapidly without permanent scarring or vision problems.

Related articles:
Eye Discharge in Dogs: What Is That Goop In My Dog’s Eyes?

Further reading:
Disorders of the Cornea in Dogs
Bulging Eyes in Dogs: When Your Dog’s Bulging Eyes Are Not Normal, And You Should Be Concerned

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