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How Well Does Your Pet See?

June 21, 2017
Plain English Version

Courtesy, Animal Planet

Here is another way pets are like people. They can have vision problems. Sometimes the symptoms are easy to detect. Your dog or cat may start bumping into furniture or you. Bumping into things can all be early symptoms of eye disease in pets.

The eyes also tell a story. They may be cloudy or filled with mucous. Animals share many of the thirty or so most common eye ailments people suffer. These include injuries, infections, cataracts, and glaucoma. Corneal wounds affect the clear surface at the front of the eye. Dry eye robs the eye of moisture and can lead to pain. There also are some eye ailments that animals inherit.

It is not always easy to spot vision problems. Pets do not respond to eye charts. It is like vision problems with infants. Pets cannot tell us if something is wrong with their eyes. A doctor said we must look at their eyes and their behavior. Signs of eye distress include squinting, clouding in the lens, gunky discharges or redness.

Eye problems may be much easier to detect in dogs than in cats. A doctor said cats may mask their vision loss by using their whiskers. They may be almost blind before people detect a vision problem. Owners should pay attention to the eyes’ appearance or signs of pain.

More dogs than cats need treatment. There are high-risk breeds such as cocker spaniels, basset hounds, poodles, and terriers. Inflammation and vision loss are especially common in dogs.

When dogs stick their heads out of the car window, injuries can happen. The wind exposes their eyes to airborne dust and debris. Cat vision problems usually happen when cats interact with other animals. They may pick up infections that cause the herpes virus. It may be years before the virus erupts. One doctor said it is like shingles in human beings.

Few veterinarians specialize in animal eye diseases. Most family veterinarians do offer eye exams during checkups. They usually can treat simple infections. You should see a specialist when a pet needs surgery or if there is an uncertain diagnosis.

Source: The New York Times June 6, 2017

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