As the senior dog population grows along with the number of purebred eye diseases, pet parents must remember proper eye care for dogs. The eyes are fantastic organs but also very fragile, and damage is often irreversible.
What’s more, many of our purebred companions are prone to hereditary diseases, so we must stay vigilant regarding potential visual issues.
Even so, not many of us give much thought to eye care, although it should be an integral part of our pet maintenance. So let’s look at how we best care for our dog’s eyes and keep them clear and bright for as long as possible.
Eye Care For Dogs: How Do I Care For Me Dog’s Eyes?
Proper dog eye care involves the following:
Wipe Eye Boogers And Tear Stains
The first step to good dog eye hygiene is keeping a handy box of pet eye wipes nearby. Wiping away any crust or debris clears bacteria or fungi breeding in the eye area. It’s also important to wipe away tear stains from tears that could be leaking down your dog’s eyes.
Making a point of wiping away any discharge from your dog’s eyes every day also gives you a chance to examine them. This way, you can catch any signs of redness, irritation, or other issues before they become more serious.
Check Your Dog For Hereditary Eye Problems
The next thing to do with your dog is to check if they have any underlying eye issues. This may seem obvious, but not all dog eye problems are easily detectable. Many common dog eye conditions, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) or Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), are ticking time bombs in your dog’s genetics.
This is why taking your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist or dog eye doctor to check for any underlying conditions is essential. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to eye disease than others.
Short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs are also very vulnerable to disorders such as cherry eye, dry eye, and corneal ulcers. Many of these problems will need surgery to correct and be quite costly, so be sure to invest in pet insurance. For instance, dog glaucoma treatment costs between $2000 and $3500.
Following this, ensure you take your dog for regular veterinary check-ups and eye exams at least once a year. You want to catch any issues early. Also, never try to diagnose and treat an eye infection yourself. A vet needs to conduct tests such as Schirmer tests and even biopsies to check for underlying conditions, and improper treatment can cost your dog their sight.
Feed Your Dog A Good Diet For Eye Health
Diet is an integral part of dog eye care.
To be clear, not all dogs can enjoy the luxury of a fresh and raw diet; indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for all dogs. Each dog has unique dietary needs, and a poorly formulated homemade diet is far more dangerous than the cheapest Walmart kibble. So it’s always important to consult a veterinary nutritionist before embarking on raw feeding for your dog.
However, one reason to look at a less processed diet for keeping your dog’s eyes healthy is that the more processed the food is, the more inflammatory glycotoxins it puts in your dog’s system.
Advanced Glycation End-products, or glycotoxins, are many different compounds from extreme heat processing. In humans, we can link them to many diseases, ranging from cancer to diabetes. Of course, they are also terrible for eye health. In studies, canned dog food has the most glycotoxins, followed closely by dry kibble. The less processed food is, the healthier it is for your dog’s vision.
Supplements and nutrients for dog eye health
Even if you feed your dog kibble or canned food, you can still do much with antioxidants. The vital thing to slow down any failing eyesight through diet is to limit the damage caused by free radicals with targeted antioxidants. You can do this with good dog eye health supplements but be sure to know what to look for.
One supplement that is great for eye health is omega-3 fish oil supplements high in EPA and DHA. These are the most bioavailable omega-3s for dogs, as dogs can’t use plant sources as effectively. But always be careful of any fish oil supplements as they may be rancid.
One study on Beagles that weight between 20 and 30 pounds showed that the following supplements slowed down retinal damage in aging dogs.
- vitamin C: 180 mg.
- vitamin E: over 300 IU/kg
- lutein: 20 mg,
- zeaxanthin: 5 mg,
- Beta-carotene: 20 mg,
- Astaxanthin: 5 mg,
You can adjust the dosage for the size of your dog. However, be careful not to overdo it. Beta-carotene is turned into vitamin A and stored in the liver. Too much of it can cause vitamin A toxicosis over time.
Likewise, too much vitamin C can cause several health problems in dogs, causing their body to excrete calcium rather than absorb it, possibly contributing to calcium oxalate kidney stones. Therefore, always consult a nutritionist and ensure no supplement is given in excess.
Remember that vitamin E works best with selenium, as together, they make a potent antioxidant compound in the body. However, beware that most dog food uses sodium selenite as a selenium additive, which may cause more oxidative damage. Always look for natural selenium sources such as Sel-Met (Selenomethionine) or selenium yeast.
Other essential nutrients include enough taurine and sulfur-bearing amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. Taurine is a massive part of the anterior part of the eye and could prevent dry eye and cataracts. A taurine deficiency (often genetic in dogs such as Cocker Spaniels and many other breeds prone to eye diseases) can cause retinal damage.
Zinc and cysteine together make up the compound that the surface behind the retina uses to help a dog’s night vision and make it feel like your dog’s eyes glow.
Wash Your Dog’s Eye Out With A Good Eyewash
If your dog has trouble opening one eye and they are tearing excessively, they may have something irritating it. For these cases, keep a good doggy eye wash in your first aid kit, although saline solution can work in a pinch.
Hold your dog’s head securely, and squeeze a few drops of liquid into the corner of their eye. Keep the lids slightly open so that the liquid gets into the eye. Wipe away the excess liquid with a cloth.
If the irritation persists after a few hours, see your vet immediately. A foreign object can scratch the cornea and cause permanent damage if you can’t remove it.
Apply Drops If Necessary
In some cases, your dog may need daily eye drops. Eye drops for infections and conjunctivitis may be temporary until the infection or inflammation clears. Your dog may also need drops for allergies. Drops may be a more permanent feature for dogs with dry eye or KCS, depending on the cause.
Your vet will determine what kind of eye drops your dog needs. They may be:
- Artificial tears
- Antiinflammatory or NSAIDs
- Or Antibiotics
Choose Harnesses Instead Of Collars To Protect Your Dog’s Eyes
Collars, in general, aren’t great for walking dogs. They apply all the pressure onto the neck area and often cause irreversible damage to the delicate trachea. But many don’t know that pulling on the neck increases eye pressure or what is technically called intraocular pressure (IOP).
One study showed that pulling on a collar significantly increased IOP. This is incredibly dangerous for dogs with conditions such as glaucoma, where there is already too much pressure within the eye. It’s also bad for dogs with weak or thin corneas and similar eye conditions. Choosing a good harness for your dog is much safer for their eyes.
Other Tips For Dog Eyecare
- Secure your dog in the car, and don’t let them hang their head out of the window as flying objects can damage them.
- Be careful when bathing your dog, or if you use any kind of pest control spray, not to let anything get in your dog’s eyes.
- Groom the area around their eyes. Excess hair in the eye area can obscure vision and irritate the eyes. They can also drain away fluid from the eye.
Healthy Dog Eyes vs Unhealthy Eyes: When to See A Vet
Let’s look at the difference between healthy and unhealthy eyes:
Healthy dog eyes are:
- Clear and bright
- The white area (sclera) is clear white
- The pupils should contract with light exposure and be the same size
- There should be no discharge, whether its runny clear tears, thick boogers, mucus, gunk, or crust
- The inner eyelid should be a healthy pink (you’ll need to roll it down to see this).
Signs of unhealthy dog eyes include:
- Any change in pigmentation, such as cloudiness, a yellow or orange blob in the cornea, red or pinkness around the white of the eye. If a brown-eyed dog’s eye suddenly turns bluish, it could be Interstitial keratitis, glaucoma, or cataracts.
- Discharge such as excessive tears (epiphora), mucus, yellow or green gunk, and crust around the lids
- Pawing at the eye or rubbing it against furniture
- Unable to open the eye, excessive blinking, or only partially opening it
- Finding that if you peel the lid back, the lining of the eye is either very pale yellow or an angry red.
Remember, the eye is a very sensitive organ and vulnerable to long-term damage. It’s best to see a vet and not try to treat any eye diseases at home.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
Can Dogs Use Human Eye Drops?
Human eye drops for dogs are usually not a good idea. Sometimes simple saline drops or artificial tears to wash out your dog’s eye are fine. But dog eyes differ significantly from ours, with a third eyelid and reflective surface. So medical drops need a veterinarian’s expertise.
Good dog eye care means cleaning your dog’s eyes daily with a safe, natural wipe and trimming away excess hair in the eye area. It’s vital to ensure your dog has no underlying genetic conditions since many of these can be debilitating late in life. Finally, be aware that it can be easy to neglect eye care. Always keep in mind that simple activities such as walking your dog with a collar or allowing them to hang their head out of a car window may be hazardous for their visual health.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.