Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and hearing. The eyes are somewhat weaker than these senses. Disease-related, poor eyesight, therefore, restricts the dog less. Nevertheless, in addition to smelling and hearing, good vision is part of the overall package and therefore one of the dog’s feel-good factors.
The eyes – a sensitive sensory organ
A healthy dog’s eye has many natural protective mechanisms. The eyeball sits surrounded by a layer of fat deep in the bone cavity of the dog’s head and is protected by the two eyelids. Eyelashes are needed to protect the eyeball from contact with foreign bodies. The third eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, wipes dirt particles off the cornea, like a windshield wiper. The clear tear fluid protects the dog’s eyes from infections, prevents them from drying out, and thus ensures a clear view of the dog’s eyes.
However, due to their exposed location, the eyes are exposed to a variety of external influences. Foreign bodies can get into the eye and irritate the eye. There is a risk of injury when sniffing in the undergrowth and even ranked fights are not always without injuries. Drafts, bacteria, or viruses can also cause inflammation of the eyes. Other causes include immune-mediated eye diseases. The immune system mistakenly recognizes the body’s tissue as foreign and fights it. Diabetes mellitus or kidney disease can increase the risk of certain eye diseases.
In addition to the general impairments of the eyes, there are also breed-specific eye diseases in dogs, which are determined by the shape of the head, the shape of the eyelid fissures, genetic predisposition, or hereditary factors. The preventive examination for hereditary eye diseases is therefore required by many pedigree dog clubs for the breeding license. Last but not least, older dogs naturally lose their eyesight.
Eye tests in dogs
A dog’s eyes should always be clear and the conjunctiva should not be excessively red. A red coloring or constantly watery eyes indicate that something is wrong with the eyes. Frequently, however, no external changes can be detected in the diseased eye. If there is any suspicion, dog owners can do initial small tests at home to check their dog’s vision. The cotton ball test is well suited. Here you take a cotton ball, sit opposite the dog and drop the cotton. A well-sighted dog will watch the silently falling cotton ball. Or you can take a large piece of cardboard and cut two holes in it that are the same distance apart and roughly the same size as the dog’s eyes. Hold the box close to the dog’s face. Then you slowly wave your hand over the small peepholes. A seeing dog will now blink.
However, these tests cannot replace a visit to the veterinarian. If eye diseases are treated in time, a complete cure is often still possible, even through surgical interventions. In the worst case, poorly sighted or blind dogs can still get along reasonably well in the home environment.
First aid tips for eye injuries
Eye injuries are usually emergencies and should be treated promptly accordingly. This means that the dog owner can do nothing but cover the eye, for example with a gauze bandage or a damp cloth. Then the veterinarian must be consulted immediately.