One of the most common problems that veterinarians see in dogs and cats is ocular discharge, or discharge from the eyes. This discharge can be clear and watery, mucoid, purulent (pus) or even bloody. Ocular discharge usually means that there is some conjunctivitis present, but there are many, many causes for conjunctivitis.
Some of the most common causes of conjunctivitis and ocular discharge are:
- Infection- Bacterial infection is usually secondary to other problems in the eye, and hence is usually not contagious. Contagious causes in dogs are rare, and in cats can be caused by certain viruses and bacteria. Antibiotics are usually prescribed in simple cases.
- Allergies- Allergies, usually to environmental allergens such as pollen and grasses or to food allergens, can occur in some animals. If allergy is the cause, both eyes are usually affected and there may be other signs of an allergy, such as itchy skin or vomiting as well as the weepy eyes. Allergies are often treated with steroid drops or anti-histamines.
- Trauma- Damage to the eye can be caused by foreign bodies such as grass seeds and dust. Fights with other dogs or cats may mean that the patient has sustained an injury by the other animal’s claw. On occasion, the foreign body may be stuck in the eye and may continue to cause irritation. The damage is often sustained by the cornea, which is the clear membrane over the eyeball, and a corneal ulcer results. Most corneal ulcers in healthy pets heal within ten days, but antibiotics will be required to keep infection away as the ulcer heals, and pain relief is usually necessary.
- Dry eye- This condition is medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and mainly affects certain breeds of dogs. The tear glands do not produce enough tears, and dry eye results, leading to secondary infections. Treatment involves special types of drops and is usually needed for life.
Although eye problems are common, eyes are delicate organs and it is important to take them seriously and take your pet to a vet as soon as there is any ocular discharge or irritation.