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SouthCare Animal Medical Center

When should you take your pet to the vet for eye problems?



Whenever a pet shows any signs of discomfort near or observable changes to their eyes, the animal needs to be examined. Look for warning indications in your dog:

#1. Does Your Pet Have Eye Pain?


  • Squinting or closing the eye

  • Excessive tearing

  • Light sensitivity

  • Tenderness to the touch

  • Protruding nictitating membrane

  • Behavioral changes, for example:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Whining

  • Pawing or rubbing at the eye

#2. Have Your Pet’s Eyes Changed in Appearance?

Noticeable differences in the animal’s eyes may indicate a problem.

Physical changes in:

  • Size

  • Shape

  • Color

Your cat or dog may be experiencing a problem caused by an inner eye disease. Signs of these diseases are indicated by changes in eye pressure and an abnormal firmness or swelling of the eyeball. These symptoms could be related to diseases such as:


  • Are they equal in size?

  • When light is shined directly into the eye, do they contract?

  • Are they dilated?

Eye discharge:

  • Watery

  • Thick green or yellow

  • Mucoid

  • Is there any indication of pain?

Loss of clarity or transparency, with the cornea appearing:

  • Smoky

  • Cloudy

  • Blue-gray

  • Entirely opaque

  • Is there any sign of associated pain?

#3. Is the Surface of Your Pet’s Eyeball Smooth?

When examining the surface of the eyeball, you probably will not be able to look at the eye beneath the skin and eyelids and may need to take your dor or cat to a veterinarian immediately. When examining the surface of the eyeball, the veterinarian will look for indications of:

  • Corneal abrasions

  • Ulcers

#4. Do Your Pet’s Eyes Appear Unusually Sunken or Bulgy?



This is an examination that is usually and more safely conducted by your veterinarian. Please do not attempt to assess your pet’s eyes, as the eye and surrounding tissue is quite delicate.

The veterinarian may begin this examination by closing the pet’s eyelids and gently pressing on the surface of the eye. This helps them determine if there is a difference between the feel of the eyes; for example, if one feels harder or softer than the other. Additionally, this will provide information to let them know if the eye is tender to the touch as the animal will react with a show of pain. Knowing there is pain may help to point to the cause of the problem.

If the animal’s eye is bulging, it may be the start of an abscess, hematoma, or tumor. This part of the examination will also check for:

  • Swelling of the face around the eye

  • Tenderness to the globe when lightly pressed with a finger

  • Signs the animal has difficulty opening and closing their mouth

  • Evidence of a head injury.

#5. Is Your Pet Losing Vision?

Similar to a vision test for humans, when checking a dog or cat for vision loss, one eye will be covered while the other is not. Move as if you are going to touch the uncovered eye, and if the animal can see, it will blink as the finger gets closer to its eye.


If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, get it to your veterinarian right away. The basic steps of an eye examination help the veterinarian uncover initial information. Based upon these findings, the veterinarian will be able to identify the next step to take toward determining a final diagnosis of the your pet’s eye condition.