What is a Dog Eye Ulcer and How is It Treated?

When people think of ulcers, they almost immediately think of something associated with the stomach or other parts of the gastric system. However, ulcers can affect other parts of the body, and for dogs, there’s an ulcer that can affect their eyes devastatingly. It’s a corneal ulcer that can otherwise be characterized as a mere scratch on the eye. If you’re noticing your dog squinting a lot or holding its eye shut constantly, there’s a good possibility that it has developed an eye ulcer.

Causes of Corneal Ulcer

Dog eye ulcers could be caused by a lot of things. You could imagine the many things that a dog could get into to get its eyes scratched. But you’d be surprised at how the simplest, every day things could do the job. Surely, trauma and injury could damage the eyes, but even getting a foreign object such as hair, dirt, or even grass could scratch the eyes as well. There are also eye disorders that can cause corneal ulcers. Entropion is a birth defect where the eyelids roll inward. If a dog is born with this disorder, it’s highly likely to develop an eye ulcer because its eyelashes are in constant contact against the eye. Another disorder that can cause eye ulcers in dogs is distichiae, where abnormal eyelashes grow out. These eyelashes are again likely to rub against the eyes, scratching them in the process. Dogs that have bulging eyes are also more likely to develop corneal ulcers simply because of their eye structure. Bulging eyes have more exposure to the elements, which dries their eyes out faster. Drier corneas are more susceptible to scratching and ultimately ulcers.

Types of Corneal Ulcer

Eye ulcers in dogs can either be superficial or deep. Superficial ulcers are considered to be mild cases. The scratches are only on the outermost layer of the cornea or the epithelium. Deep ulcers are considered severe. They affect the layer beyond the epithelium called the stroma, which is also the main connective tissue of the entire cornea.

There’s also an ulcer that happens spontaneously on dogs that are middle-aged and beyond. It’s called indolent ulcer, and it affects some breeds more than others. This type of ulcer is also known as SCCED or spontaneous chronic corneal epithelial defect. Breeds such as Boxers and Golden Retrievers are more likely to develop this eye condition, but there’s still no solid explanation exactly as to why.

Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer

It’s particularly difficult to actually spot a scratch on your dog’s eye. However, there are plenty of telltale signs that could tell you that something might be wrong. Squinting is one the first sign. A scratch on the cornea may interfere with the actual vision of your dog. Squinting is a way to compensate for this, or it may be just the fact that the scratch is bothering your dog too much that squinting might relieve the sensation. Another symptom of corneal ulcer is when your dog just can’t keep its eye open. For those who have experience wearing contact lenses, you know how difficult it could be to keep your eyes open when you somehow scratch your lens. It’s the same situation with a dog eye ulcer.


If ever you suspect your dog to have a scratched eye, it’s imperative that you bring it to the veterinarian right away. Through a series of special tests, a vet could easily diagnose a corneal ulcer. Your dog’s vet will place a dye on the surface of the eye, which will then illuminate under a blue light. If there is a scratch on the eye, it will be visible under the blue light. It’s imperative to have this diagnosis done straight away. If an ulcer heals incorrectly on its own, it might cause a lot of eye problems later on that might be cause for surgery or even the total loss of an eye.

Corneal Ulcer Treatment

The severity of the corneal ulcer will ultimately dictate just what kind of treatment your dog will get for its eye. Medications will be administered to reduce your dog’s pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent infections. The development of an infection on a scratched eye will make matters even worse.

Other medications will be administered to support the immune system into healing its own body. Any superficial ulcers should heal within three to five days of starting medication. If a mild eye ulcer doesn’t heal within 10 days, it might be time to get a second opinion. Deep and more serious ulcers may require surgery. You’ll have to consult with a veterinary ophthalmologist in order to get a proper treatment course. Regardless of what you do, just don’t try to heal your dog’s eye ulcers at home. You could essentially put your dog at more risk for infection. Seek a professional consult, and your dog should be on a good course to wellness.

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