Your pet's eyes are more than the windows to their souls. Their eyes express joy and sadness, and indicate when they want to play, go out for a walk, or cuddle up in your lap. Dog and cat's eyes also reflect their overall health, and are delicate organs that are susceptible to infection and some of the same diseases that we are.
Dog EyesA dog's eyes are similar in structure to our own, with a couple exceptions—one being a third eyelid called the nictitans. This thin shutter protects the eyeball from tall grasses and environmental pollutants, as your dog romps and plays. The third eyelid also has a tear gland located deep within its tissues, called the third eyelid gland (TEG). Each eye of a dog actually has two tear glands—also called lacrimal glands— unlike people who have one.
Cats also have a third eyelid that closes from the side and appears when the eyelid opens. This membrane partially closes if the cat is sick, but it is often visible in cats that are sleepy and content. If your cat regularly shows its third eyelid, it's time for a visit to the vet.
Signs of eye problems in dogs and cats
If you notice a discharge or red irritated eyes, or if your pet rubs its eyes with a paw or on the ground, don't delay—please seek expert advice as soon as possible.
Possible signs of infection or disorder:
- Mucus or gray discharge indicates an irritation or allergies; yellow or green discharge indicates infection
- Red inner lids can indicate infection or irritation
- Redness in white of eye can indicate glaucoma, inflammation or deeper infection
- Cloudiness can indicate cataract or injury
- Difference in pupil size can indicate a tumor, nerve problem or inflammation
- Aversion to light
- Bulging of the eye may indicate tumor, abscess or glaucoma
Squinting equates to discomfort, possibly from a foreign body, scratch or infection
Maintaining Healthy Eyes in Dogs and Cats
Treat your pets' eyes in the same way as you treat your own eyes and the eyes of your family. The eyes reflect the overall health of your pet, so provide it with an excellent diet and nutritional support. Here are some other tips for maintaining your pet's eye health:
- Don't let your dog or cat ride in the car with its head out the window. Foreign substances can easily lodge in your pet's eyes and cause an infection or injury.
- Avoid exposing your pet to pollutants, dust and chemicals that can irritate its eyes.
- Beware of the dry plant seeds and foxtails that are prevalent in early fall. Dogs running through fields and on trails are very susceptible to getting them lodged behind their third eyelid.
- Schedule a yearly checkup for your pet. Veterinarians are able to diagnose many diseases before symptoms arise, by examining an animal's eyes.
Natural Treatments for dogs and cats with eye disorders
Good nutrition plays an important role in the overall health of your pet and can help to maintain healthy eyes and vision. When an animal has severe vitamin deficiencies or is malnourished, cataracts and other eye disorders can develop.
There are several vitamins, botanicals and other nutrients that help to nourish the eyes:
Vitamins A, C and E have antioxidant properties which fight free radicals that can damage the lens of the eye.
Bilberry extract (Vacciuium myritllus) derived from a fruit similar to the blueberry, contains active ingredients for eye health and proper vision. The berries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanosides -- the red pigments that are beneficial in ophthalmology and vascular diseases. Nicknamed "the vision herb" bilberry has a substantial body of research that confirms its benefits for human eyes. This herb is very helpful to animals with early stage eye disorders, or for animals that have a genetic predisposition to eye problems.
Zinc is a mineral linked to good vision and may protect eye tissue from damaging light and inflammation. Zinc is found in healthy retinal tissue.
Lutein, a carotenoid found in dark, leafy greens, is also found in the retina of healthy eyes where it acts as a shield against harmful light and may help protect the eyes against damage from ultraviolet radiation.
Quercetin is a natural antioxidant bioflavonoid that protects cells from damage by free radicals.
Alpha Lipoic Acidis the "universal antioxidant" because it works in both water and fatty tissues, providing antioxidant protection to all your pet's cells. It restores numerous biological functions that become diminished with aging and helps to prevent cataracts.
Mixed Carotenoids contain antioxidants found in carotenoid-rich food, that is, produce that are rich in color. Two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, provide antioxidant protection in the macular region of the ey and have been found to reduce the incidence of caratacts.