Symptoms of Common Canine Eye Problems

Canine eye problems may seem minor, but if left untreated, they can cause permanent damage that can lead to blindness. Cataracts, glaucoma, cherry eye, conjunctivitis and inflammation are common canine eye conditions. Retinal degeneration, progressive retinal anomaly and corneal ulcers are other eye diseases encountered by a few dogs. Injury can also lead to corneal ulcers, diabetes and cause cataracts. In addition, certain canine breeds are genetically predisposed to eye conditions such as bilateral glaucoma.

Common Symptoms of Canine Eye Problems:

  • Pain in the eye
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Irritation and inflammation
  • Abnormalities of the eyelid

Pain in the Eye

This is characterized by sensitivity to light, watering of the eyes and squinting. The dog might rub his eyes with his paws, rub his face to the floor and cry with pain. The pet may also lose his appetite and appear listless. The causes of pain in the eye are acute glaucoma and corneal injuries.

Discharge from the Eye

A clear discharge from the eye indicates a problem in the tear ducts. A painless discharge and red eyes indicate conjunctivitis, while a painful discharge indicates corneal injury. If the pet exhibits signs that include a thick yellow or green discharge, it’s a strong indicator of infection or the presence of a foreign body in the eye.

Irritation or Inflammation

This is often associated with the eyelids. The eyelids appear red and swollen and cause slight loss of vision accompanied by squinting.

Abnormalities of the Eyelid

Dogs have three eyelids as opposed to humans who have two. The third lid lies beneath the dog’s lower eyelid. However, when the eyeball is pushed back in its socket, this third eyelid is visible above the lower eyelid. Thus, if the third eyelid is visible, a medical exam is advised, as something might be wrong with the eye.

Eye Conditions in Dogs Include:

  • Cherry eye
  • Eye injury
  • Extra eyelashes
  • Cataract
  • Hard eye or soft eye

Cherry Eye

The canine eye is lubricated by a secretory gland that lies beneath the dog’s lower eyelid. If this gland protrudes, the condition is called a cherry eye. This condition is seen in dogs of all ages and breeds.

Injury to the Eye

When eye injury is present, the dog keeps his eyes semi-closed, squints, avoids bright light and blinks constantly. The third eyelid tries to assist healing by covering the wound. However, if left untreated, this could lead to scar tissue formation and also cause a blind spot.

Extra Eyelashes

Sometimes, pets have extra eyelashes on the eyelid that act as irritants to the eye. This condition is called distichiasis and can be resolved by the removal of the unwanted eyelashes.


When fluid gathers in the eye, the normally clear cornea becomes opaque and bluish gray in color. If this condition is accompanied by pain, it indicates glaucoma or keratitis. Cataract is indicated if this condition isn’t accompanied by pain. Although the eye is opaque, pets may not suffer from loss of vision.

Hard Eye or Soft Eye

Hard eye or a hard eyeball, accompanied by a dilated pupil, indicates glaucoma. Soft eye or a soft eyeball, accompanied by a contracted pupil, indicates a condition known as uveitis.

Pet owners should seek prompt medical help if their pet exhibits any signs of canine eye problems. Older pets in particular are more susceptible to eye conditions that develop alongside underlying health concerns.