The eyes are the windows to your pet’s soul, and you can see their love and devotion shining through each time you meet their gaze. However, your furry pal’s eyes can become clouded, inflamed, or injured, as they can develop a range of issues. 

A pet’s eye problem can rapidly become a major emergency, so knowing what to look for and when to seek veterinary care is critical for maintaining your furry pal’s ocular health. To help you determine when your pet’s eye issue requires emergency care, follow our Urgent Pet Care Omaha team’s eye problem guidelines.

#1: Conjunctivitis in pets

Conjunctivitis (i.e., pink eye) occurs when the eyelid’s pink lining and the eye’s white part (i.e., sclera) become red and swollen. Conjunctivitis can be caused by:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • A foreign object lodged in the eye
  • An allergic reaction
  • Dry eye
  • A scratch or injury
  • Airborne pollutants
  • Eyelid or eyelash abnormalities

When conjunctivitis becomes an emergency: Although conjunctivitis is rarely an emergency, the condition may be signaling a more serious problem. If your pet appears uncomfortable and is unable to keep their eye open, seek urgent veterinary care to provide them with relief and prevent the problem from progressing.

#2: Corneal ulcer in pets

A scratch or injury to the cornea (i.e., the eyeball’s surface) can cause a corneal ulcer. However, some ulcers develop because of anatomical abnormalities, such as the eyelids rolling in (i.e., entropion). A pet with a flattened muzzle is genetically predisposed to developing a corneal ulcer, but any pet can suffer an eye injury.

When a corneal ulcer becomes an emergency: Ideally, our Urgent Pet Care Omaha team should treat your pet’s corneal ulcer as soon as possible, because the condition can rapidly progress and damage the eye’s deeper structures. If your pet is pawing at their eye, or the eye has excessive discharge or is cloudy, schedule an appointment with our team. 

#3: Cataracts in pets

When the proteins in your pet’s eye clump together, they form a cloudy film (i.e., cataract) in the lens. Cataracts can be slow-growing, as an increasing number of proteins gradually bind together, or they may seem to form overnight. Most commonly, cataracts develop in older pets, but they can affect pets of any age. Cataracts are often an inherited ocular problem, but diabetes, injuries, a poor diet, and aging changes can also cause cataract formation.

When a cataract becomes an emergency: Left untreated, cataracts can become thick enough to interfere with the eyes’ filtration, increasing intraocular pressure and leading to glaucoma. Glaucoma can be incredibly painful for pets and should be treated as soon as possible. An untreated cataract can also cause lens luxation and depending on where the lens falls, the condition can cause glaucoma and pain.

#4: Cherry eye in pets

Cherry eye is a condition in which the tear gland attached to the third eyelid prolapses (i.e., slips out of its pocket). Typically, you won’t notice this gland unless a problematic condition develops. When the gland prolapses, a pink lump, often the size of a cherry, forms in the corner of your pet’s eye. Some breeds, such as cocker spaniels and bulldogs, are more prone to this condition than other breeds, and their tear gland pops in and out of place unless your veterinarian surgically repairs or removes it.

When cherry eye becomes an emergency: Cherry eye is not considered an emergency, and we recommend you see your family veterinarian to have this condition evaluated. The treatment goal is to prevent the eye from drying out or becoming damaged. Only seek care at Urgent Care Omaha if the cherry eye is damaged. Otherwise, your family veterinarian can provide the care your pet needs in this situation. 

#5: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca in pets 

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca ([KCS], i.e., dry eye] occurs when the tear glands fail to keep the eyes properly lubricated. This condition is common in cocker spaniels, bulldogs, pugs, and other flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) breeds, and is most commonly caused by immune-mediated diseases that attack the tear glands. Medication side effects, injuries, and nervous system disorders can also cause tear-production problems.

When keratoconjunctivitis sicca becomes an emergency: Without a protective tear layer, your pet’s eyes are more susceptible to infection and injury. If you notice a sudden change in your pet’s eyes, they may require urgent care.

#6: Glaucoma in pets

Glaucoma occurs when the pressure within the eye increases because of improper fluid drainage. Increased intraocular pressure can also cause damage to the retina or optic nerve. Glaucoma is often a hereditary condition, but a dislocated lens, injury, tumor, or other issue that impairs fluid drainage within the eye can also cause the disorder.

When glaucoma becomes an emergency: Glaucoma is particularly painful for pets, so if they are pawing at their eye, squinting, or exhibiting conjunctivitis, eye cloudiness, an enlarged pupil, or eye bulging, seek immediate treatment.

#7: Proptosed eye in pets

Proptosis occurs when the eye globe is traumatically forced forward out of the orbit. The eyelids become trapped behind the globe, the tissues within the orbit swell, and the eyeball is unable to return to its normal position, making it susceptible to further injury, and your pet may lose their vision in the affected eye. Proptosis is much more likely to occur in flat-faced pets with bulging eyes, but substantial traumatic force can cause this problem in any pet.

When a proptosed eye becomes an emergency: A proptosed eye is always an emergency and requires immediate treatment if you have any hope of saving the eye and preserving your pet’s vision. Because trauma, such as being struck by a car or fighting, typically causes a proptosed eye, your pet should have a thorough veterinary exam to determine the injury’s extent.

Immediate care is often necessary for a pet’s eye problem, as ocular conditions can rapidly worsen if left untreated. If your pet is squinting, rubbing their face, or producing excessive tears, schedule an appointment with our Urgent Pet Care Omaha team.