FYI Eyes

Dr. Arnold's Do’s and don’ts for healthy pet’s eyes


Eyes are small and easy to miss, so keep your eye on your pet’s eyes for sudden changes such as redness, discharge, squinting, swelling, or rubbing. Know what a normal, healthy eye looks like, and recognize symptoms that may be a sign that there is trouble brewing. Change can be sudden, and the eye usually doesn’t get better on its own

Don’t give your pet an eye medication prescribed previously, or for another pet’s eye condition. Always see your veterinarian before putting any medication into your pet’s eye. A classic example is an owner who has a dog with allergies and gets a medication with steroids to treat their dog’s eyes. You would not want to give this to a dog that may look like it has allergies, but actually has an ulcerated cornea. The steroid suppresses the immune system, and bacteria get into the cornea and "eat the cornea up." Not a good outcome for your pup.


Many pets’ eyes start to look cloudy around middle age; 7 years in most cats and dogs. This is usually a normal age-related change called nuclear sclerosis; humans get it too. With nuclear sclerosis, pets can see just fine, they just can’t focus as well in dim light (similar to their owners). A veterinarian can help distinguish between this normal change and more serious conditions, such as cataracts or corneal disease.


If you have a horse, however, and they have any cloudiness in their eyes, see your veterinarian immediately. This is an emergency. Your horse may have a corneal ulcer, and prompt treatment can save your horse’s vision.


To help keep your pet’s eyes healthy, Dr. Arnold recommends practicing a bit of preventive "medicine."Even though they are delicate, eyes are resilient and can often recover from traumatic injuries with quick treatment to repair wounds and antibiotics to prevent infections.


Antioxidants – The retina has a lot of metabolic activity, and reactive oxidants can develop, damaging the eye as it ages. Much research has been done on antioxidants, and studies seem to show that these can be helpful in slowing aging of and oxidative damage to the eye.


Limit exposure – UV exposure from the sun can damage your pet’s eyes, just as it can damage yours. Walk your pet when the sun isn’t too bright, and keep in mind that if it’s too bright for you to see comfortably, it’s too bright for your pet. UV exposure can create reactive oxygen species that may be mediated by the use of antioxidants. Special veterinary ocular vitamins do exist, but many reliable over-the-counter supplements also are available. Talk to your veterinarian if you are interested in learning more about these treatments.


Doggles – These canine goggles can help protect your pooch from UV rays and debris. While some dogs simply will not tolerate them, others seem to be quite comfortable. And, while we’re at it, sure, it’s fun and we all know how much our canine companions love it, but letting your dog hang his head out the car window is asking for trouble in the form of eye trauma. Just don’t do it. And, while we’re at it, no riding around in the back of a pickup truck (in a restrained crate is OK).


Find out if your dog’s breed is prone to a specific ocular disease. If so, schedule a screening exam with the Ophthalmology Service. "It’s always easier to treat a problem when we catch it early," said Dr. Arnold.

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Dog Eyes

Dogs’ eyes, like those of most predators, are set forward giving them binocular vision and an enhanced ability to judge distances.

The pigmented iris is most visible in dogs, while the white part (the sclera) is far less obvious than in the human eye.

Dogs can see better in dim light than people can, but are less able to sharply focus on detail.

Dogs have upper and lower eyelids as well as a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which is in the inner corner of the eye.

Dogs have lashes on the upper eyelid to help keep debris out of the eye.

Dogs have a colorful organ called the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer behind the retina that improves the ability to see in darkness. Light comes through the retina, hits the tapetum, and is reflected back into the eye, making the most of available light. That’s why your dog’s eyes look green in photos and when you shine a light on them at night. Humans get the dreaded "red-eye" appearance in photos because we have blood vessels only in the back of the eye that reflect the light.

Dogs see in color, but we suspect their color vision is very similar to red-green colorblind people.

Cat Eyes

Being predators, cats’ eyes are set forward.

Compared to humans, a cat’s vision is greater at night and inferior in daylight.

Like dogs, cats have a tapetum lucidum at the back of their eyes to improve night vision.

In bright light, a cat’s iris closes to a narrow slit to protect the sensitive retina and improve depth perception.

Cats have a third eyelid just like dogs but, unlike dogs, cats have better control over being able to deliberately raise and lower it.

Cats can see some colors, not as well as dogs, but they can distinguish between red, blue, and yellow lights.

Horse Eyes

Horses’ eyes are set on the sides of their heads and they can see almost 360 degrees around themselves, handy for watching out for predators.

Horses have a slight blind spot directly in front of their muzzle with a second blind spot about six feet behind the tail.

Horses have a third eyelid for lubrication and protection, and sensory hairs that trigger a blink reflex.

Horses see most things with one eye, called monocular vision, instead of both eyes simultaneously (binocular vision). They use many different, and often subtle, visual cues to help them with depth perception.

Horses can focus by using muscles to change the shape of the eye’s lens, which is what people do, although people are able to focus over a much wider range.

A horse’s large eyeball magnifies everything 50 percent bigger than we perceive it, a useful survival adaptation for a prey animal.

Horses can’t see as well at dusk and are more likely to run into people, gates, and other horses (their night vision hasn’t quite kicked in yet, but their color perception has


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