Signs of a Serious Eye Injury or Condition in Your Pet

Many eye injuries are fairly minor. A minor poke in the eye with a blunt object can result in tearing and redness. Corneal abrasions — a scratch on the eye’s surface, or cornea — often fall into the category of a fairly minor injury (when treated properly! If left untreated, this fairly minor injury can become very serious.) Minor ailments can be treated with a same-day or early next-day visit to the veterinary clinic.

But the eye is an extremely fragile structure and as such, eye injuries and ailments often fall into the “serious” or “emergency” category. Today, we’ll look at a few common eye problems and the symptoms, so you know when it’s time to rush your pet to the 24-hour animal hospital.

One example of a serious eye problem is retinal detachment. This occurs when the retina, a structure inside the eye, detaches, resulting in severe pain and swelling in the eyeball and the surrounding area. This ailment is most often associated with congenital deformities.

Lens luxation occurs most frequently in pets with cataracts, but it can happen to any animal at any age. It occurs when the inner lens slides and twists out of position, leading to extreme pain and swelling of the eyeball and surrounding area. I have a dog who is at extremely high risk of this condition due to a previous eye injury that left him blind in one eye, which has since developed a cataract.

Protrusion is an extremely frightening event to witness. Protrusion is exactly as it sounds — the eyeball is dislodged and protrudes from the socket. It frequently results from trauma such as a bite to the face or a head trauma. This occurred to my dog when he attempted to run under the bed while playing and he struck his forehead on the bed rail. This was sufficient to cause protrusion. Bug-eyed dogs like chihuahuas and pugs are most prone to protrusion, but it can occur to any dog.

Trauma is another common cause of serious eye injuries. Objects can become embedded in the eye. The eye can become lacerated. And as mentioned above, the eye can be popped out of its socket.

Signs of a serious eye injury — one that requires immediate treatment — include:

  • Obvious pain
  • Swelling of the eyeball or area surrounding the eye
  • Obvious injury to the eyeball
  • Inability to open or close the eyelid
  • Sudden inability to see

It’s important to remember that failure to seek immediate treatment can result in permanent blindness in both eyes, even if just one eye is injured! This is due to the anatomy of the eye. An optic nerve runs out the back of each eye, and it connects to the brain, making vision possible. The two optic nerves connect, and as a result, swelling can spread from the eye, down the optical nerve and to the other eye’s nerve, resulting in irreversible damage.

In short, if your dog has an obvious eye ailment — if you can clearly see that something is not right and it fails to resolve on its own within a couple minutes — immediate treatment is required.

If there is an object embedded in the eye, do not attempt to remove it. Get your pet to the veterinary hospital immediately. Also, if your pet’s eye is stuck open, as in the case of protrusion, you will need to keep the eye moist to prevent drying. You can do this using saline, moisturizing eye drops or a small amount of room-temperature bottled water (simply dip a sterile bit of gauze or a cotton ball in the water and allow it to drip onto the eye a couple times per minute.)

We’ll explore each of these ailments, the causes and the treatment in a future article. Check out our related article for information on the most common less severe eye ailments.

Photo Source: Ilker on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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