CORNEAL ULCERS IN PETS
The cornea is the clear windshield at the front of your pet’s eye. The cornea allows light to enter the eye and aids in focusing the light onto the retina. The surface of the cornea is covered by a layer of cells called the epithelium which protects the cornea from infection. If the epithelium is damaged we refer to it as a corneal ulcer.
Ulcers are commonly caused from minor trauma to your pet’s eye and will usually heal on their own within a few days. If injured the cornea is particularly susceptible to infection, because it has no blood supply, so patients are often prescribed antibiotics to prevent an infection. If an ulcer has not healed within a few days there may be some other factor preventing healing. This can include abnormal hairs around the eyelids, foreign bodies, problems with the way the cornea heals and infection.
If your dog is rubbing an eye with his or her paw or rubbing their face on the carpet, please give us a call; your pet may have a corneal ulcer. Other signs may be squinting, tearing or increased eye discharge. If you have any questions about your pet’s eye health, give us a call.
Specific Types of Corneal Ulcers:
Ulcers caused by external factors. Several conditions can cause chronic trauma to the cornea resulting in an ulcer. These include entropion (rolling in of eyelids), ectopic cilia (hair growing from inside the eyelid), distichia (extra eyelashes), or poor conformation in certain breeds. Other factors such as foreign bodies around the eyes or ulcers caused by chemicals can also result in chronic ulcers.
Refractory (indolent, recurring or non-healing ulcers). In some pets an ulcer does not heal properly because there is a problem with the way the corneal cells are repairing themselves. This type of ulcer can occur in any dog, but are most common in the boxer breed. Medication will not correct this type of ulcer, although antibiotics are still used to prevent infection. In order for these ulcers to heal, a procedure will need to be performed on the cornea. In rare cases a more aggressive surgery might be needed.
Infected ulcers - the cornea has no blood supply and has a limited ability to fight infection. If an infection occurs it can rapidly progress to cause sever damae to the cornea. If caught early aggressive antibiotic treatment can halt the infection. If more than 25% of the corneal thickness is lost from infection surgery might be needed to repair the damage.