Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Common Eye Problems in Pets

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If your pet’s eye is bleeding profusely or experienced a trauma, these are considered “RED” – or true emergencies – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

If your pet is squinting, has eye discharge, or a significantly swollen eye, these are considered “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.


Back in June of 2023, Dr. Rogen, our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, joined us on Facebook Live to discuss common eye problems in pets. Below, you can read a summary of the discussion, or you can watch the video of Dr. Rogen’s more in-depth answers and tips.

Between dry summer months and poor air quality conditions, which have been more frequent here in Minnesota due to the wildfires in Canada, our pet’s eye surface can suffer! While many eye problems aren’t emergent, they can be urgent, which is why it’s important for pet parents to know how to assess their pet’s eye health and ensure their pet continues to have healthy eyes and eyesight.

Common Symptoms 

When monitoring your pet for eye irritation this summer, every pet parent should be on the lookout for these common symptoms: 

  • Squinting/Holding Eye Closed (with or without watering) 
    • The combination of a closed eye and watering usually means something has happened to the eye and needs to be addressed, especially if it’s not improving quickly.  
  • Chronic redness or green/yellow, snotty-like eye discharge 
    • Always an indication to seek veterinary care. 
    • Note: Little tiny “eye boogers” in the corner of a pet’s eyes are very common, especially in dogs, during allergy season. These are not considered eye discharge. If the pet’s eyes are open and comfortable, “eye boogers” aren’t something to worry about.
  • Eye surface looks hazy blue or has a divot 
    • Either of these are a critical sign to seek immediate veterinary care.
  • Protruding/bulging eye 
    • Seek immediate veterinary care. 
    • Can be caused by a number of things including trauma or a slow, chronic problem. 
    • Note: With trauma eye emergencies, we can sometimes replace and restore vision. 

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Eye-Specific Prevention Tips 

While not every eye problem is preventable, there are many things pet parents can do to prevent inflamed eyes or eye traumas. Here are a few suggestions:   

  • Purified eye wash or saline rinses 
    • These can be really helpful – but DO NOT use contact solution or any eye rinse that contains chemicals. 
    • Resist the urge to remove an object in your pet’s eye. Instead, irrigate and rinse it out. Just take off the cap, shoot aggressively, and really rinse the eye surface hard if you think there’s something in your pet’s eye. 
    • Use after taking your dog to the park or in the woods to get all that seed, debris, and other particles out of your pet’s eyes. 
    • Add this to your pet’s first aid kit! 
  • Artificial tears 
    • Use artificial tears to irrigate the eye surface & make it feel better. 
    • Any big brand names of over-the-counter human artificial tears at your local drugstore are safe and effective for pets. 
    • You won’t hurt your pet’s eye by using artificial tear drops – lubricating and rinsing the eye isn’t going to damage the eye or change any treatment options. 
    • Add this to your pet’s first aid kit! 
  • Humidifier  
    • During dry summer months, set up a humidifier in your bedroom or living room – wherever your pet tends to sleep. A humidifier can help reduce eye irritation and reduce the risk of your pet developing an eye ulcer. 
    • This can really make a substantial difference for pets who don’t sleep with their eyes fully closed – such as a French bulldog who sleeps with the eyes open a crack! 
  • E-Collar 
    • If your pet is rubbing or scratching their eyes, put on an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) to prevent self-trauma. Sometimes, just stopping the rubbing can break the cycle of irritation.  
  • Rex Specs 
    • If your dog likes to run through the woods or accompany you while you’re hunting, Rex Specs are a great investment! These dog-specific athletic visor goggles are a nice, secure fit and are often more comfortable for dogs than regular dog goggles. They also have multiple types of lenses, including: 
      • Clear Lens: Perfect for dogs who don’t have a visual problem, but need something to protect their eyes while hunting, hiking, or playing at the dog park.
      • Polarized Lens: Designed for dogs who have sensitivity to light.

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Preventative Measures for Eye Health in General 

An annual eye exam is a wonderful way to ensure your pet’s eyes look normal. You don’t need a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist to do this – just ask your family veterinarian to look at your pet’s retinas for an overall assessment. Detecting abnormalities earlier often leads to better outcomes. You can also ask your family veterinarian about vitamin supplements called Ocuglo that may benefit your pet’s overall eye health. Know that supplements are not necessary, and the data is mixed, but you can decide with your family veterinarian if a supplement would be a good option for your pet.  

In addition to annual eye exams, we recommend pet parents take some time at least once a month to really look specifically into their pet’s eyes. This closer examination at home can help you become familiar with your pet’s eyes and recognize when something has changed.  

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We hope this information helps you feel more confident in protecting your pet’s eyes and noticing changes in their eye health. If you are ever concerned about your pet’s eye health, consult with your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. If you are unsure if your pet requires emergency care, you can contact a 24/7 emergency vet to determine the best course of action.  

More Reading: 

Content provided by Andrew Rogen, DVM, DACVO.

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