Dogs frequently suffer irritating eye inflammation at this time of year. The eyelids suddenly appear red and swollen and the animal may rub them frequently or keep the affected eye half-closed. The eye waters profusely at first, but the discharge may become more purulent if secondary infection occurs.
Most of these eye conditions are simply a reaction to pollen and dust blown by the strong drying winds that are common at this time of year. The lining of the eyelids, the conjunctiva, reacts by becoming inflamed, and tears are produced in an attempt to wash the irritant substance away.
Simple treatments are often effective. Move the animal out of the wind, dust and strong sunlight. A solution which is compatible with the tissues of the eye is made by adding a teaspoonful of common salt to 600ml of boiled water. Keep this solution in the refrigerator and bathe the eyes 3 or 4 times daily. If the inflammation does not subside within 24 hours consult your veterinary surgeon.
Some animals, like their owners, are more sensitive to certain pollens. If your dog suffers from an allergic condition, avoid exercising it in areas of uncut native grasses.
Animals pushing their way through long grass may get a grass seed lodged in the eye. It usually reacts by keeping the eye tightly closed and resists any attempt to open the eyelids.
Even if the owner is successful in opening the eye. it is often difficult to see the foreign body as it can be lodged in the many folds of the conjunctiva or may have worked its way between the third eyelid and the eye ball.
Injuries to the surface of the eye ball, the cornea, cause similar reactions and acute pain. Cat scratches or wounds from sharp branches are the most common causes of corneal injuries. A bloodstained watery discharge from a tightly closed eye should always be treated as a sign of serious eye injury and should be investigated by your vet.
When the cornea is injured its blood supply is stimulated. The tissues become swollen, the blood vessels surrounding the area become engorged and a bluish opacity replaces the normal crystal-clear appearance.
Dogs with very prominent eyes, such as pugs, Pekinese and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, are prone to develop corneal ulceration — an erosion of the surface of the cornea as the result of a bacterial infection. This condition requires vigorous treatment to avoid permanent damage.
Eye infections can also be part of a more generalized disease. Distemper is often accompanied by a purulent discharge from both eyes.