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Common Eye Problems in Dogs

by Lauren Samet

Just like people, dogs can suffer from a range of eye problems. While many dogs are able to cope with deteriorating vision, particularly in a home they know well, it makes sense to support your pet’s eyesight as much as possible. 

While many health-related problems such as joint stiffness or digestive problems are easily identified by caring owners, many eye problems can go unnoticed until the severity increases. For this reason, it makes sense to regularly check your dog’s ocular health, whereupon any issues can quickly be identified and resolved. 

As eyes are such complex organs, it is wise to consult your vet if you notice anything untoward, no matter how minor it may seem to you. In this way, a qualified professional will be able to investigate the issue and suggest any treatment required to keep your dog’s vision in optimal condition. 

Common symptoms of eye problems in dogs can include:

Discharge - Take note of excess tear production or pus. This may be visible in the form of staining around the eye, though appreciate that many pale-coated breeds will naturally experience discoloured “tear stains” even in optimal health.

Unnatural Eyelid Use - If you notice that your dog is blinking more than usual, or is only partially opening their eye(s) then this may be an indication of discomfort or infection. 

Cloudiness - Cloudy or opaque eyes are often a sign of cataract problems which can reduce vision by limiting the amount of light entering the eye. 

Redness - A number of different potential eye problems can cause redness. For example, physical damage or eye infections can lead to inflammation. Also, pay attention to discolouration or swelling to the tissue around the eye, such as eyelids. This tissue should be a healthy pink colour, without signs of redness or swelling.  

Rubbing - Like us, dogs suffering from ocular discomfort may try to resolve the issue by rubbing their eyes. This can include rubbing the eyes on furniture or carpets, so if you suddenly start to see your pet rubbing its face more than normal, further investigation is warranted. 

Bulging Eyes - If you notice that your dog’s eyes seem to be bulging then you should seek veterinary advice. It may be a sign of glaucoma, a health condition that can result in loss of vision. 

Visual Difficulties - If you notice behavioural changes then it can be wise to investigate the potential for eye problems. As a dog’s vision declines, so you may find your pet walking into objects or displaying uncharacteristic fear or aggression, even with people they know. This is often simply because they can no longer identify such people. 

But with all this said, what are the most common eye problems your dog is likely to experience?

Corneal Problems

The cornea is the clear film of cells over the surface of the eye. It acts as a protective barrier between the external environment and the sensitive inner workings of the eye. As a result, it can be prone to a range of problems such as physical damage or infections. 


Occasionally whilst running through long grasses or across sand beaches, and even playing too hard with toys, dogs can scratch the surface of their eye, which can be painful and the result is some blurred vision or inflammation. 


Dogs with long fur have a tendency to suffer from eye irritation if hair is regularly allowed to make contact with the cornea. Besides the physical contact, getting fur in the eyes can also transfer oils and dirt. For this reason, it can be wise to observe whether your dog’s fur is getting into their eyes. If so, this hair can be manually trimmed or even - as with some owners - placed gently into a hair tie to keep it out of the way.  


Bacteria, or other pathogens, can attack the cornea, leading to what many of us know as “conjunctivitis”. This can result in inflammation, redness and/or excessive production of tears. 

Dry Eyes

Damage to the cornea can occur if there is an issue with tear production, leading to dry eyes. You may not know it, but dogs actually have three eyelids, rather than the normal two. A gland behind the third eyelid helps to produce lubricating tears, and on occasion, this may prolapse. This leads to a condition known as “cherry eye” but can normally be repaired effectively by veterinarians. 

The cells that make up the cornea are some of the fastest-replicating cells in the body, allowing most minor scratches and grazes to quickly heal. All the same, it is wise to treat any eye problems as potentially serious. It is advisable to seek advice from your vet in the case of any concerns. They will often prescribe eye drops that promote healing of the surface or which can help clear up issues with tear production or eye itchiness.

Eyelid Problems

Have you ever wondered why you blink when something comes near your eyes? The reason is that your eyelids provide a helpful barrier to prevent physical damage. The eyelids also help to keep the surface of the eye moist by spreading tears across the surface. Lastly, and importantly, they also prevent dust and dirt from entering the eye.

Ingrowing Eyelashes

Just as a dog’s fur may irritate the cornea if it regularly makes contact, so it is possible for eyelashes to cause similar problems. Generally speaking, ingrowing eyelashes tend to be a genetic problem, with some breeds far more prone to the issue than others. 

There is typically little that you as the caring owner can do at home; fortunately, veterinarians are skilled at resolving such issues, which will normally require an operation to resolve. 

Lens Problems 

The lens is a flexible, clear, jelly-like “blob” that can change shape with the help of the tiny ciliary muscles to focus light for a clear image. 


To do its job properly the lens must be clear enough to let light through. It must also be flexible enough to change shape and focus light on the back of the eye. However, with age, the lens can lose transparency and become opaque. 

Mild cases, known as lenticular sclerosis, are common with old age. The more severe form of this is known as a cataract. Cataracts can result in less light being able to penetrate the lens, resulting in reduced vision. Both conditions create an eye that appears slightly milky or white.

Studies in people have demonstrated links between vitamin C levels and the appearance of cataracts. For this reason, VitaPaws’ EyeWell Plus includes high levels of vitamin C to help offer optimal support against cataracts.

Retinal Problems

The light entering your dog’s eyes passes through the lens, which helps to focus the image onto the back of the eye. It is here at the back of the eye that you will find the “retina” – the part of the eye that is rich in the light-sensitive cells responsible for vision. A healthy retina is vital for good sight however sometimes problems can arise. 

Macular Degeneration

Dogs (or people) suffering from macular degeneration may experience slowly worsening eyesight. Colours may seem less bright and blurred vision can arise. Indeed, macular degeneration is considered the most common source of blindness in people, and dogs can also suffer from this age-related decline in visual acuity. 

There is disagreement about the specific causes of macular degeneration, but it seems to be linked to both declining levels of lutein in the eye and age-related free radical activity. For this reason, some dog owners opt to supplement their pets with lutein. EyeWell Plus contains not only beneficial levels of lutein but also vitamin E, which is thought to help fight the oxidative damage that occurs with age.  

Vitreous Humour Problems

The eye is not hollow - instead, it is filled with a clear liquid known as “vitreous humour”. This liquid helps to regulate the shape and size of the eye, ensuring enough pressure to maintain its spherical shape, however, when this pressure is incorrect problems can begin to arise. 


If there is overproduction of vitreous humour fluid, or existing fluid is not filtered properly, pressure can build up within the eye chamber. This additional pressure can change the eye’s shape which makes focusing harder. It is also possible that it could damage the optic nerve (the neuron that transmits visual signals to the brain), which can result in vision loss in most serious cases. Glaucoma is more common in cats than dogs but can be a problem if the fluid ducts within the eye become blocked.

Eye Health Support

Some breeds are more prone to eye health issues than others due to their genetics. However, for some pooches with longer locks, simply keeping the hair trimmed around their eyes or out of their face can help prevent issues with irritation and dirt build up (remember to only use blunt scissors and ask a vet to help if you’re not confident – remember dogs need their eyelashes to prevent dirt entering the eye!), as can a gentle sweep around the eye area with a damp cotton pad or soft cloth.

Nutritional supplements are popular for people wishing to maintain human eye health; therefore VitaPaws have created EyeWell Plus for Dogs to encourage a diet that provides nutritional support for eye health. Check with your vet to ensure this type of supplement is suitable for your dog alongside its regular diet and always read the label. Alongside vitamin A and zinc, EyeWell Plus also includes lutein, a carotenoid thought to support eye health which is naturally found in the macula of healthy eyes with vitamins C & E and selenium.

Talk to your Vet

This article only includes a few of the more common eye problems in dogs, but if you think your dog has an issue with its eyes or sight, or notice it behaving differently as it gets older, consult a veterinarian to ensure your pet gets the care and attention it deserves.