One of the more common ailments that affect a dog’s eyes is corneal ulcers. Just like it sounds, a corneal ulcer is an open sore on the outer layer(s) of the cornea – the clear tissue on the front of the eye.

How does a dog get a corneal ulcer?
There are endless ways in which a dog can get an ulcer in his cornea. In fact, anything that causes a disruption to the outer layers of the eye can cause an ulcer to develop.

This includes trauma like scratches, bites, and even your dog rubbing or scratching his face too aggressively to foreign bodies like dirt and shampoo, and bacterial and viral infections.

What are the symptoms of an eye ulcer in dogs?
Clues that your dog is suffering from a corneal ulcer vary from mild to severe. Because injuries of the eye can quickly lead to loss of vision and eye hemorrhaging, it’s important to know what to look for.

Symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

·       Excessive eye tearing and/or weepiness

·       Squinting and flinching

·       Swelling around the eye

·       Pawing and rubbing of the eye

·       Cloudy appearance to the eye

·       Lethargy

·       Reduced appetite

How to diagnose a corneal ulcer in dogs
First and foremost, schedule a visit to your veterinarian. Your vet will perform an exam on the eye(s) and use dye to make any ulcers visible under a blacklight. After seeing the ulcer, the vet will be able to determine what type of ulcer your dog is suffering from.

The best-case scenario is an uncomplicated (or simple) ulcer. These types are primarily contained in the outermost layers of the cornea and are considered superficial. With early detection and intervention, these ulcers can heal within 10 days after the use of some topical eye drops or gels.

Complicated ulcers are when the ulcer penetrates the deeper layers of the cornea and becomes infected. The types of complicated corneal ulcers include chronic or persistent ulcers, corneal foreign bodies, and stromal ulcers which affect the deepest layer of the eye.

Treating corneal ulcers in dogs
The severity of your dog’s corneal ulcer will determine his treatment. For simple ulcers, treatment includes topical antibiotics most given in the form of eye drops several times daily along with pain medication.

Complicated or persistent ulcers require additional treatment including more topical antibiotics given every few hours, oral antibiotics, pain medication, and the use of an e-collar to help protect the injured eye. You may also need to frequently visit your vet for continued check-ups and monitoring.

If this fails, then debridement would be the next step your veterinarian would take. This procedure entails your vet using an abrasive Q-tip or barbed instrument to scrub the eye and remove dead cells from the ulcer in an attempt to encourage full healing. As a last resort, veterinary eye specialists may recommend surgery.

Recovery from a corneal ulcer
Most corneal ulcers come with a great prognosis and heal within 10 days. The more complicated the ulcer, the longer the healing time – which varies from weeks to months. To get the best possible recovery timeline, you should strictly follow your vet’s directions and protect your dog’s injured eye to the best of your ability.

If you fear your dog’s vision is being compromised or healing is slow, always consult your vet.