Small animals like guinea pigs, rats, mice and reptiles like snakes and lizards often sustain eye injuries while in their cage, as a result of contact with bedding. Hay and woodchip bedding are the two most common sources of corneal abrasions — a scratch on the very outer lens of the eye.
Cats and dogs tend to suffer eye injuries while playing or engaging in other activities like a ride in the car (dust and debris can get kicked up, causing an eye injury.)
Fights or trauma are another common source of eye injuries; these tend to be much more serious in nature.
The single most common signs of an eye injury such as a corneal abrasion are:
- Squinting or keeping the eye closed;
- Bloodshot whites of the eye; and
- Pawing at the eye.
If your pet shows signs of a minor injury like a corneal abrasion, the first step is to flush the eye to remove debris. The pet’s eye will naturally attempt to remove the debris with tearing. Aid in the flushing process using a wound wash saline solution or human eye drops. Unrefrigerated bottled water will also suffice for eye flushing; it’s not ideal as it’s not sterile, but it’s generally quite clean and it will serve to flush out debris.
Never force or slide your pet’s eyelid open, as this may drag debris over the fragile cornea. Instead, gently pull the eyelid away from the eyeball and flush it.
Your pet should recover within approximately five to ten minutes if they’ve simply sustained a minor trauma (e.g. they’re poked in the eye, but it doesn’t cause an actual injury.)
If the pet has sustained a corneal abrasion, they will continue to squint and the eye will continue to water. If you look at the eye in bright lighting, you’ll notice that there may be a very fine line across the eye’s surface. It may look like a tiny hair on the eye’s surface — this is a corneal abrasion. This will require prompt treatment at the veterinary clinic. Your vet will prescribe eye drops and medications to prevent infection and to ease inflammation.
Signs of an emergency situation include swelling to the eyelid, swelling of the actual eyeball, bleeding, an item lodged in the eye, extreme discomfort and protrusion (where the eyeball actually pops out of the socket. These symptoms require immediate treatment at an emergency clinic.
Signs of an eye infection include discharge, redness and minor swelling of the eyelid. This also requires prompt (though typically, this does not require immediate emergency treatment.)
Check in tomorrow for more information on first aid for some of the more severe eye injuries that pets may sustain! In the interim, stop by our pet care archives!