Canine Corneal Abrasions

by Betty Lewis
    Untreated, corneal abrasions can lead to more serious ulcers.

    Untreated, corneal abrasions can lead to more serious ulcers.

    Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    Your pooch's natural curiosity can lead to some minor eye injuries, such as while scratching around in shrubs or brush or in the course of greeting a cat. A corneal abrasion, a scratched eye, isn't always serious. But if Chip exhibits an irritated eye, he should see a vet.

    The Cornea

    The cornea is a clear membrane covering the front of the eyeball. It is made of three layers of specialized skin cells. The epithelium is the outer layer, covering the stroma, the cornea's main tissue. The deepest layer is Descemet's membrane. All three layers are clear, visible only with the help of special stains that color the cornea's unique skin cells. If a few layers of the epithelium have eroded, the eye is said to have a corneal abrasion or corneal erosion. If the erosion goes beyond the epithelium and into the stroma, it becomes a corneal ulcer.

    Symptoms of Corneal Abrasions

    Chip may paw his eye or blink a lot if he is bothered by a corneal abrasion. Other symptoms include swelling and blood in the eye. His pupil may be distorted or react abnormally and his cornea may be cloudy. If there's a foreign body in his eye, you may see it.

    Causes of Corneal Abrasions

    It's not difficult for Chip to get a corneal abrasion. A poke or scrape, a foreign body, or just about any irritation can damage the first layer of his cornea. If Chip was rolling around in the grass, he may have picked up a speck of debris in his eye. Or perhaps he got a little too close to the neighbor's cat and suffered a swat to the face. A misdirected eyelash can cause an abrasion in the upper part of his cornea; lower abrasions are typically the result of embedded foreign bodies. If his third eyelid has a foreign body, he'll likely have an abrasion near the inner corner of his eye.

    Treating a Corneal Abrasion

    The good news for you and Chip is that corneal abrasions tend to be superficial and heal quickly, usually in about three to five days. However, he needs to be checked out by the vet -- if his abrasion is caused by a foreign body, it won't heal without proper treatment. As well, corneal abrasions can lead to other issues, including corneal ulcers or keratitis. The vet will administer a special dye to the dog's eye and look for damaged eye tissue. If a foreign body is in his eye, the vet will remove it and may administer medication, such as an antibiotic ointment or drops to prevent infection.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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