Corneal Ulcer in Cats and Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment

If you see your pet displaying indications of distress, it could be brought on by pain or excessive discomfort. Typically, a change of behavior signals this. A cat or a dog may keep pawing its face or rubbing its head on furniture or carpet. When you see these odd activities, pay attention.

Be alert, and see if your pet is squinting or blinking more than usual. If there is a soreness, swelling, or yellowish/bloody ocular discharge, this can suggest a corneal ulcer. It is definitely time to see the vet.

What is a corneal ulcer?

Before we can answer the question, we must first find out how the cornea is. The eye’s cornea is a thin transparent membrane on the front part of the eye. The cornea has three layers– the epithelium on the outside, the stroma in the middle, and the innermost layer called Descemet’s membrane.

A damaged epithelium is referred to as an abrasion or erosion. If the damage reaches the stroma, this is the condition that is called a corneal ulcer. This condition is excruciating, and prolonging it may cause more trauma to the eye.

If the ulcer reaches the next layer, this might cause a more severe condition called a descemetocele. Should Descemet’s membrane rupture, the liquid inside the eye leaks. This causes the eye to collapse and might result in irreversible damage. Before the eye reaches this level of damage, treatment must be done.

What are the reasons for corneal ulcers?

Most of the time, trauma is the factor. Skidding on rough ground or getting scratched during a fight may wound the cornea. In some cases, chemicals, abnormal hair growth, or dry eyes might be the cause. Bacterial or viral infections might also trigger the problem. This is one reason cat and dog vaccinations are important.

For some breeds, epithelial dystrophy or weak corneas are genetic. Brachycephalic breeds of dogs are prone to it due to the structure of their eyes. Animals with endocrine problems may likewise be victims.

What kind of treatment is needed?

If you suspect damage to the cornea, bring your family pet to a trusted facility like Harbor Animal Hospital. To confirm if the case is a corneal ulcer, a fluorescein stain test is carried out. An orange-colored stain is put on the cornea and turns green when it sticks to the ulcers.

Superficial abrasions can be treated with medication. Ophthalmic antibiotic eye drops and ointments can accelerate the recovery process however should be administered frequently.

Surgery is required for severe corneal ulcers that do not respond to medication or if a descemetocele has formed. Conjunctival tissue is transposed over the affected ulcer. The vet surgeon may suture the third eyelid to protect the eye. After the suggested recovery time, the pet must be returned to the veterinarian to ensure that the ulcer has healed.

Is surgical treatment always effective?

Normal healing is not always achieved after surgical treatment. Sometimes, dead or dying cells build up around the ulcer. It is referred to as indolent corneal ulcers and is more common in older pets. To solve this problem, surgical extraction of these cells is necessary.

A procedure called keratectomy is performed by a vet surgeon while the animal is under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes tiny grooves on the stroma using a tool called a diamond burr. This procedure stimulates the abnormal cells to self-heal, and the perforation allows brand-new epithelial cells to attach.

The Final Note

If ever you notice your cat or dog showing symptoms, do not think twice about getting it examined by the veterinarian. Always follow the vet’s advice in such scenarios since corneal ulcers are always progressive and aggressive. Quick action can save your pet’s eye.