Emergencies in Veterinary Medicine: “Eye”-mergencies

In veterinary medicine, we treat most situations involving the eye as an emergency. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your pet’s eyes – they only have 2! Below are some of the conditions that could possibly be occurring when Fido’s eyes don’t seem quite right.

Eye Infections

Similarly to humans, pets can get eye infections too. You may notice a coloured discharge coming from the eye, redness around the eye, squinting or the pet pawing at the eye. Infections can be irritating for your pet so it is best to get into your veterinarian ASAP if any of the above signs are observed.


Ulcers on the eye can be due to various reasons. Signs of an ulcer include pawing at the eye, squinting and in more severe cases, odd opacities of the eye. No matter the cause or the clinical signs, ulcers are painful. Getting your pet into the veterinarian as soon as possible is critical for proper healing and comfort of your pet. Ulcers are often diagnosed using a fluorescein staining test. This stain “sticks” to ulcers, so when it is washed away, the ulcer will glow under black light. Untreated ulcers can lead to permanent damage of the eye – be sure to address concerns about the eyes immediately!

Dry Eye

Like humans, pets can suffer from keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or in simpler terms, dry eye. This can cause irritation of the eye and discomfort for your pet. Your veterinarian may want to do a Schirmer tear test to quantify your pet’s tear production in order to diagnose the condition in your pet. This condition is most often treated by removing the inciting cause (if possible) and/or eye drops/ointments.

Chronic conditions

There are also several chronic conditions of the eye that can occur, many similar to those in humans. These include glaucoma, lens luxation, retinal detachment and cataracts to name a few. These conditions can often be caught during a pet’s wellness exam – be sure to see your veterinarian at least annually to ensure your pet is in tip top shape!

Written by Jessica Sirovyak, RAHT, CCR