Every pet owner must advocate for their pet and, in this post, we’re sharing some fundamental information you should know about animal eyes. 

1. There is tremendous variation in disease among different species. I’m not even referring to exotic species but rather domestic animals like dogs and cats. For instance, diabetic cataracts are very common in dogs but nearly unheard of in cats. Similarly, medications that are commonly safe and effective in one species may be neither in other species. A common example is the inadequate antibacterial spectrum and propensity for adverse effects of neomycin and polymyxin B in cats. 

2. Many animals have a tapetum lucidum, which is the cause of the bright green or red “shine” often seen in photographs. The tapetum lucidum is a reflective area adjacent to the retina that amplifies light to improve night vision. This is one factor that helps some species have better night vision than people (who lack a tapetum lucidum). Assessment of a dog or cat’s dim-light vision is a valuable diagnostic tool. Veterinarians (and pet owners) may evaluate menace responses, cotton ball tracking, and maze testing in various lighting conditions. If a dog fails any of these tests in dim-light, early retinal degeneration (such as progressive retinal atrophy) may be present. 

3. Cloudy eyes is more commonly due to disease than strictly age-related. As animals age, many pet owners dismiss the development of cloudiness in eyes. However, cloudiness is one of the most common and apparent signs of eye disease and may be associated with vision loss and/or pain. Anatomic localization (cornea, anterior chamber, lens, vitreous) is critical to determine the nature of the disease and what, if any, treatment is necessary. Fortunately, most conditions are manageable and/or curable.

4.  “Pink eye”, otherwise called conjunctivitis, is rarely a primary ocular disease in dogs. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, conjunctivitis signifies a more substantial ocular disease such as uveitis, glaucoma, corneal ulceration, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye). In these cases, a comprehensive ophthalmic examination often reveals the underlying problem.

5. Just like with physicians, veterinarians may have difficulty diagnosing animal eye problems. Veterinary ophthalmologists undergo years of extensive training to refine their diagnosis and management abilities. Referral to board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists will often be necessary for challenging medical or surgical cases. In situations where referral is not possible, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists may provide advice via teleconsultation.