Corneal Ulcers: Causes, Treatments in Dogs and Cats

Flickr Image for Corneal Ulcers in Pets

Courtesy of manuelsvay / Flickr

Courtesy of manuelsvay / Flickr

One of the most common age-related issues in human beings, eye problems also affect our furry friends. By the time they reach middle age (ages 7-9), most dogs and cats experience some dwindling of sight. However, when the problem threatens to rob them of their vision overnight, it may be the result of corneal ulceration. Never heard of it before? Keep reading!

The front clear part of the eye, the cornea lets light in and forms a cover over the iris and the pupil. When the sensitive outer layer of skin (the epithelium) that protects the cornea is scraped, scratched, or erodes, the defect is considered a corneal ulcer. In most cases, the condition is extremely painful and will cause pets to squint incessantly or rub at their eyes. However, if the ulcer deepens, spreads, or becomes infected, it can rob an animal of its sight.

Causes of Corneal Ulcers in Pets

Although more common in dogs, corneal ulcers or ulcerative keratitis does affect cats. The most frequent cause of the condition is obtained injuries. An ulcer may develop because of blunt trauma caused by non-stop rubbing, or a laceration caused by contact with something sharp. Pets that are allowed outdoors may also encounter dangerous chemicals that can burn the cornea. Furthermore, erosion can be caused by irritating substances like dust or shampoo that gets caught in the eye and wears down the epithelium over time.

A far less common cause, corneal ulcers may be the result of viral or bacterial infections that start in the eye and develop into something more serious. More generally, dogs and cats that suffer from dry eye due to decreased tear production (keratoconjunctivitis) are at a greatly elevated risk of developing corneal ulcers.

Symptoms of Corneal Ulcers in Pets

When human beings have an eye issue, they see a doctor immediately. But when a dog or cat has ocular problems, they often try to hide it. When the pain becomes too intense, however, pets generally paw at the affected area; not knowing, of course, that this rubbing only exacerbates the injury. The damaged cornea will also be more sensitive to the light, which means your furry friend will squint, blink, and nictitate more than usual. In some cases, a discharge will accumulate in the corners of the eye and may run down the face. These streaks are often mistaken for tear stains when the true cause is corneal ulcers.

Diagnosis of Corneal Ulcers in Pets

Minor damage caused by scratches, erosion, or abrasions can seldom be seen without the use of special equipment. If the corneal ulcers are suspected, your pet’s veterinarian may perform a fluorescein. This simple test involves a special stain that is placed on the cornea and will immediately adhere to ulcerated areas. Stain tests are generally the only eye tests needed to detect superficial damage to the cornea. But when the damage is more serious, i.e., when the ulcers are very deep, the doctor must take samples for culture and examination before treatment is undertaken.

Treatment options of Corneal Ulcers in Pets

Just like any other injury, treatment is based on the extent of the damage; consulting with your pet’s veterinarian is a must.

The good news is most corneal ulcers aren’t really ulcers, they’re abrasions! They distress in only a very small amount of skin loss to the outer layer of the cornea, skin that will grow back. It is for this reason that the most common treatment for corneal ulcers is rest and relaxation. Eye drops like Akwa Tears may be prescribed to prevent bacterial infections and shield the recuperating region, as well as mild analgesics to relieve pain and inflammation.

The bad news is that when corneal ulcers are large and growing, surgery may be required to save the eye. After all, you can’t simply tell your pet to stop scratching at a painful, irritated eye—which means the injury will invariably grow worse over time. The only way to deal with the issue and allow for normal healing is to remove dead or damaged layers of corneal skin and/or perform a corneal graft. Both procedures are extremely painful and expensive and have long recovery times.

Prevention of Corneal Ulcers in Pets in Key

As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Corneal ulcers are a progressive, degenerative injury that must be caught before they grow larger or deeper. Failure to do so will cause your furry friend unnecessary pain and may rob him of his sight! Our advice?

Far too many loving pet parents ignore the early warning signs of this potentially serious condition. They don’t do it on purpose, of course. Because these symptoms of corneal ulcers are so broad and could be caused by anything from a virus to seasonal allergies, most overlook fairly obvious signs of ocular irritation. This is perfectly understandable if the symptoms last for only a few hours, but if they persist for any longer, always contact your pet’s veterinarian for advice.

Has your dog or cat suffered from corneal ulcers?

How did your pet get diagnosed? What medications or treatments did your pet’s veterinarian prescribe? How did the treatments help? Let us know by leaving comments in the ‘Leave a reply’ link at the bottom of this post. Thank you.

Keeping Your Pet Safe from Winter Household Items

Courtesy of Chris Vaughan / Flickr

Courtesy of Chris Vaughan / Flickr

While we know to steer our beloved pets away from items like chocolate and household cleaners, there are lesser-known hazards around the home that our cats and dogs can easily digest. During the colder months, our four-legged friends are often able to spend less time in the great outdoors, leading to the build-up of pent up energy and mischief. To keep your pets safe and sound during this season, make sure they don’t digest the following items.


Both dogs and cats are opportunistic eaters who will occasionally try new things. If left within reach, many wintertime plants are toxic to our pets. The popular poinsettia, for example, can cause nausea and vomiting if consumed. However, it is not nearly as dangerous as lilies are for cats. Swallowing a single leaf can result in sudden kidney failure in our feline friends; if you own breeds that are particularly susceptible to this condition, like Persian or Siamese, make sure these beautiful but dangerous blooms are elevated out of reach. Pet parents should contact their veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline ASAP if any of the aforementioned plants are ingested.


With people not going “out on the town” as much due to blistery weather, there may be an increased amount of booze around the house. While a few extra mugs of eggnog won’t kill you, it can do serious damage to your pets, especially diminutive breeds. Remember, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, which means its effects will hit a small animal almost immediately. Even a few laps of an intoxicating drink could result in a deadly case of alcohol poisoning. Common symptoms of potentially dangerous inebriation include vomiting, seizures, and respiratory failure. Since many cocktails sugary and sweet, pets will imbibe them if given the opportunity; and once started, a cat or dog will continue to lap the alcohol up until stopped.


While we may not enjoy the freezing temperatures and icy conditions winter brings about, there’s no denying that our stomachs longingly rumble at the thought of cakes, pies and other delectable sweets. As every dog pet parent knows, canines must steer clear of chocolate; even a small amount of the world’s favorite flavor can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while larger quantities may precipitate seizures and heart arrhythmias. But what you may not know is that raisins, currants, and grapes can be every bit as dangerous. Found in fruitcakes and many other treats, these ingredients can cause kidney failure in dogs.

Liquid Potpourri

A home redolent nutmeg or pine may be inviting to guests, but it poses a risk to your pets. When heated in a simmer pot, these scented oils can cause serious chemical burns that have claimed the lives of cats in the past. Although not quite as sensitive to these hot oils, dogs can be harmed by them as well. The only way to prevent an injury with 100% certainty is to keep these items out of reach. Do not place them on low-lying tables or shelves that pets have easy access to.

Manufactured Fire Logs

It simply wouldn’t be a toasty winter night without a roaring fire. Unfortunately, the most popular commercial fire starters and logs contain ingredients that can be harmful to pets. Although the waxes and oils in these products are not chemically toxic, the sawdust can cause serious intestinal issues, including blockage and bloating. As you might expect, the seriousness of these issues depend on how much of the log your pet consumes; large dog have been known to eat entire logs in no time. If this occurs, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Control immediately. Even though your furry friend will almost certainly regurgitate the indigestible sawdust in these products, it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Other household items causing problems for your pets?

Let us know about them by click the ‘Leave a reply’ link at the end of this post. Thank you.

VetRxDirect to attend NAVC Conference?

Organized by a nonprofit group, the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) Conference gives members of the veterinary community a forum to share ideas, sharpen their skills, and to learn about the latest developments in animal care.

Visit the NAVC Conference website.

Visit the NAVC website.

Programs at the 2014 NAVC Conference

The purpose of all professional conferences is to disseminate information via learning sessions. The NAVC Conference offers over 1,200 veterinary CE sessions, Masterclasses, and Professor Luncheons for attendees. These learning opportunities can be accessed by veterinarians, veterinary technicians, practice managers, or support staff team members.

Speakers at the 2014 NAVC Conference

Because sharing ideas is the focus of most professional conferences, speakers are the star attractions. They share their stories and encourage others to learn as much as they can about the veterinary profession. At the 2014 NAVC Conference, there will be more than 350 internationally-known veterinary speakers, all of whom plan to present at least 1,200 different sessions!

Exhibitions at the 2014 NAVC Conference 

After the speakers discuss innovative veterinary techniques, equipment, and supplies, guests can get a look at them on their own at two convenient venues.  These tools and techniques are designed to make life easier for the thousands of animal doctors who attend the event each year. Exhibit halls at this year’s conference will feature over 650 exhibitors, many of whom will showcase the latest advances in veterinary science for the first time. VetRxDirect’s booth number is 4109 in the Orlando World Center Marriott. We look forward to speaking with veterinarians and veterinary staff from all around the country.

Location of the 2014 NAVC Conference

As serious as the subject may be, the organizers of the NWAV Conference were thoughtful enough to hold their annual colloquium in Orlando, Florida, one of the nation’s most popular tourist towns. Hosted from the 18 to the 22nd of January, attendees can split their time between learning sessions and local tourist attractions, including Walt Disney World.

Statistics of the 2013 NAVC Conference

According the official numbers, nearly 16,000 people attended the NAVC Conference in 2013. More than 6,000 of them were veterinarians and almost 4,000 were exhibitors.  Students, technicians, family and guests make up most of the rest of the crowd. As in the past, there are five days of continuing education (CE) programming and four days of exhibition.

Continuing education at the 2014 NAVC Conference

The purpose of most professional conferences is to share knowledge with others in the field. The NAVC Conference offers over 1,200 CE credit hours to choose from, which allows attendees to attain as many as 41.5 hours of addition training at the conference. All guests can sign up for masterclasses, hands-on labs, professor luncheons, and lectures after they register.

The following subjects will be covered at this year’s NAVC Conference: canine sports medicine, veterinary forensics, surgery (orthopedics, soft tissue), animal welfare, emergency medical and critical care, dermatology, holistic medicine, dentistry, gastroenterology, diet, customer service, technical programs and much, much more.

Will VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy talk to your pet’s veterinarian at the NAVC Conference?