The cornea protects the iris and pupil. It's the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye and it also assists light entering the eye to reach the back of the eye at the correct angle for clear sight. However, the cornea can be damaged, and a corneal ulcer is characterised by loss of corneal cells to a significant depth. A corneal ulcer essentially creates a deep abrasion in the cornea. This problem can develop for a number of reasons including trauma, infection, underlying disease and tear deficiency, which causes the eyes to become too dry. Sometimes there's no clear reason for your dog developing a corneal ulcer, but some breeds seem to be more prone to eye ulcers than others, such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers.
Symptoms Of A Corneal Ulcer
If your dog has a corneal ulcer, their eye will be red and painful. It's common for the affected eye to water, and your dog may have cloudy discharge coming from their eye. Squinting and sensitivity to light may also be apparent, and your dog may rub at their eye with their paw or try to rub their eye against furniture. As corneal ulcers cause pain and discomfort, it's not uncommon for dog's to resist being petted on the head or to withdraw from physical contact completely.
Treating a Corneal Ulcer
Corneal ulcers aren't particularly difficult to diagnose. An eye exam will allow your vet to spot the ulcer and they may insert a few drops of dye into your dog's eye to determine how deep the ulcer is. The cornea will be swabbed and the swab will be tested for the presence of bacteria, as it's possible for corneal ulcers to become infected.
Corneal ulcers need to be surgically repaired, and the repair will be carried out using general anaesthetic. The goal of treatment is to close the ulcer to prevent bacteria entering the cornea and to bring your dog relief from the pain and discomfort they have been experiencing. In addition to repairing the cornea, if the cause has been established, this will need to be addressed to prevent any further damage to the cornea. Antibiotics, drugs to stimulate tear production, anti-inflammatories and cleansing eye drops may be required depending on what has caused the ulcer. Your dog will have to wear a surgical collar until their eye heals, as this will prevent them from rubbing their eye and causing further irritation.
Corneal ulcers respond well to treatment and don't tend to cause any long-term problems. However, seeking veterinary care promptly is advised to ensure your dog is back to their usual self as quickly as possible. Contact a vet service for more information.