Eye Injuries in Dogs

5 min read

Corneal and Scleral Lacerations in Dogs

The cornea is the transparent outer layer at the front (anterior) of the eye. The sclera, the white of the eye, is composed of a tough covering that protects the eyeball. In medical terms, a penetrating injury is a wound, or foreign object that enters the eye but does not completely pass through the cornea or sclera. A perforating injury, on the other hand, is a wound or foreign body that completely passes through the cornea or the sclera. Needless to say, the latter is a greater risk to vision.

In medical terms, a simple injury involves only the cornea or sclera and may be penetrating or perforating. Other eye structures are not injured in a simple injury. A complicated injury perforates the eye and involves other eye structures in addition to the cornea or sclera. In fact, it can affect one or all parts of the eye. The entire middle layer of the eyeball that contains the blood vessels, and which is composed of the iris, the area between the iris, and the choroid -- the layer between the sclera and the retina -- can be injured by a complicated perforating injury. There may also be trauma to the lens, which will lead to cataracts or lacerations to the eyelid.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of an injury to the eyeball may be represented by the suddenness of the symptoms (e.g., pawing at the eye, blinking rapidly, swollen, inflamed); blood in the eye, or a blood filled mass (subconjunctival hematoma), left from a sealed laceration; a foreign object in the eye that can be visually detected; the pupil is distorted, either reacting abnormally or shaped differently; the front clear covering of the eyeball, the cornea, is clouded (cataract); or, the eye is protruding. Any of these symptoms may be indicative of an injury to the eye.


The causes for an injury to the eye are all around, but some of the most common occurrences that lead to an injury follow:

  • When your dog has been running through heavy vegetation
  • Gunshot, fireworks, or other rapid projectiles in the vicinity of your dog
  • Pre-existing visual impairment or deformity in the structure of the eye
  • Young, naïve, or highly excitable dogs that have not learned caution
  • Fights with other animals; most notably, cats will scratch at the faces of dogs


If your veterinarian finds a foreign object in the eye, appropriate treatment will be determined. The nature, force, and the direction of the object's impact will help to identify which tissues may be involved. The visual response to a menace (i.e, blinking in response to an object being brought close to the eye), as well as aversion to bright light, will be assessed. The pupils will be examined for size, shape, symmetry, and light reflexes. If a foreign object is not found, your veterinarian will consider an ulcer of the cornea, or some other naturally occurring cause that is affecting the eye, before looking into trauma to the deeper parts of the eye.

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