Eye Care for Animals: A Introduction to Veterinary Ophthalmology

Eye care for animals is a specialized veterinary field. The eyes are very sensitive and require specific care.

Veterinary Ophthalmologists

Veterinary ophthalmologists are animal eye doctors. They have completed veterinary school and continued their education in the field of ophthalmology for up to three years. The veterinarian then undergoes intense training and a series of tests before becoming certified and opening their own eye clinic for animals.

Animal eye doctors are well-versed in ocular (eye) disorders and diseases, ocular anatomy, and the physiology of many species. Ophthalmologists also learn how to perform surgical procedures on the eyes of many types of animals.

Healthy Eyes

A healthy eye in an animal is clear, moist, and bright. The pupils should be the same size and centered between the eyelids. The whites of the eyes should not be any other color than white, with only a few blood vessels. When a light is shined in an animal's eye, the pupils should shrink and then enlarge when there is a lack of light.

Unhealthy Eyes

There is a cause for concern when an animal's eyes look dull, milky or sunken. An eye that is dry or has a thick discharge coming out of it is a sign of illness.

An ophthalmologist should be sought if one or both eyes are not centered, or if the pupils are not equal in size or fail to respond to light. If the whites of an animal's eye are bloodshot or any color other than white, an ophthalmologist can determine if there is an underlying condition.

Common Animal Eye Problems and Treatments

Animals can develop glaucoma when there is too much pressure within the eye because of an excess of liquid. Not treating this condition can result in blindness. Glaucoma in animals is treated with medications or surgery.

Uveitis is inflammation or infection inside an animal's eye. This dog eye infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungus, cancer, cataracts, an autoimmune disease, or injury. A cat eye infection can also be a result of uveitis. Uveitis is not always curable, but it is treatable with medications.

KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) causes dry eye in an animal because there is a lack of tear production. The eyes are red, itchy and have a thick discharge. KCS is treated with antibiotics and tear replacement medications, as well as medicines that stimulate the animal's own tear production.

Cataracts in eyes affect the opacity of the lens, making one or both eyes look milky or clouded-over. This is often caused by old age, inflammation, trauma, retinal degeneration, diabetes or genetics. Cataracts leak proteins into the eye and can cause inflammation (uveitis) and blindness. Eye cataract surgery involves the removal of the lens and part of the lens capsule. Some animals may require a lens implant.

Eye care for animals is the specialty of a veterinary ophthalmologist. This type of doctor can complement the care of an animal's primary veterinarian to provide the highest quality of life.