Eye Ulcer in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Jul 02, 2008
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Ulcerative Keratitis in Dogs

The cornea -- the transparent part of the eye --forms a cover over the iris and pupil. It also admits light to the inside of the eye. A corneal ulcer occurs when deeper layers of the cornea are lost; these ulcers are classified as superficial or deep. If your dog's eyes are tearing excessively, or it is squinting, there is a possibility of a corneal ulcer (or ulcerative keratitis).


  • Red, painful eye
  • Watery eye
  • Squinting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Rubbing at the eyes with a paw
  • Eye may remain closed
  • Discharge
  • Film over the eye


  • Trauma, blunt or penetrating
  • Disease
  • Tear deficiency
  • Infection
  • Can not close the eyelids completely
  • Paralysis of facial nerve
  • Foreign body
  • Burns from a chemical substance

Wounds are often the cause, usually from playing or scuffling with another dog or cat. However, there also may be a foreign object under the eyelid. In some breeds, the eyelids have a tendency to roll inward, causing the eyelashes to irritate the eye’s surface.

The following breeds, all characterized by short noses and prominent eyes, are more likely to develop this problem.

  • Pug
  • Boston terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Shih tzu
  • Any breed with a short, flat face/muzzle

Boxers are particularly inclined to develop severe cases of this disease. If there is persistent wetness around the eyes, taking it to the veterinarian is recommended. These dogs can have an eye pop from its socket and require surgery to put it back. A harness is better than a leash because of this. If the eyelids do not close completely, consult your veterinarian about a possible surgical correction.


Your vet will conduct a thorough eye examination, including an inspection of the eye and cornea. Diagnostic dyes are often used to look for corneal erosions or ulcers. In addition, samples will be collected and cultured for bacteria and fungi — this will also rule out conjunctivitis. Blood tests may be done to rule out any viral infections.

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