The Importance of Proper Eye Care

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Keeping pets’ eyes clean contribute to their health and wellness by preventing irritation and infection that can be painful and possibly lead to loss of vision. Pets have very few effective or safe ways to clean their own eyes—they either rub their eyes with paws (that have sharp toenails!) or rub their faces on the carpeting or furniture. These methods can lead to scratches on the eye surface or irritation of the skin around the eye. It is best that pet owners perform a weekly examination and cleaning to keep their best friends’ eyes healthy.

What are signs that your pet may have an eye infection or other eye problem?

Healthy eyes should be clear and moist. If there is any redness, discharge or swelling of the surrounding skin, there may be an eye infection or other problem. Examine the white part of the eyes (sclera) and the pink tissue of the eyes (conjunctiva) for any discoloration (yellow or bruising) or large engorged blood vessels. The black center of the eye (pupil) should be examined for cloudiness or bluish discoloration. Older pets can develop age-related cloudiness (called nuclear sclerosis) and it is important to have your veterinarian distinguish between this and cataracts. Also check that the pupils are the same size. The colored portion around the pupil is the iris and should be examined for black or red spots or growths. As pets age, the iris can develop ragged edges and is considered normal. Alert your veterinarian to any changes that you notice.

Proper preventive eye care includes:

1. Weekly examination to look for eye problems. Contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.

2. Weekly cleaning—see directions below. Some pets may require more frequent cleaning to keep their eyes healthy and comfortable.

3. Address tear staining. Light-colored pets may develop brown or pink stains on the skin and hair below the inside corner of the eye. This happens when bacteria and yeast on the hair and skin react with the tears. Many dogs and cats have an underlying problem causing their tear staining, including clogged or shallow tear ducts, excessive tearing, allergies, or eye irritation caused by abnormal eyelids or eyelashes. You should have your veterinarian examine your pet to determine if they have a condition that can be corrected.

4. Keeping eyes clear of mucus. Just like humans, pets can have "sleepies" (rheum) in the morning and have mucus discharge after being exposed to wind, dirt and pollen. Your pet will be most comfortable to have mucus removed frequently. Infections are often caused by bacteria that overgrow on mucus…so keep the sleepies away!

5. Keeping hair trimmed away from the eyes. Scratches can occur if hair rubs against the surface of the eye (cornea). This is particularly important in breeds that have skin folds near the eye (Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Bulldog, Persian cat, Himalayan cat, etc). Hair around the eye can also "pull" tears out of the eyes and cause tear staining as well as a dryer, less comfortable eye. It is always important to use blunt-nosed scissors when working around the eye.

6. Apply an eye lubricant ointment before bathing, cleaning the face, or applying topical insecticides to prevent eye irritation from grooming supplies.

Cleaning your pets’ eyes

Natural pet products that are slightly acidic and contain natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties are recommended for routine weekly eye cleaning. Halo Herbal Eye Wash is an excellent natural pet product that is gentle enough to use daily and helps to open clogged tear ducts to prevent infection.

Directions for eye cleaning:

1. With a warm moist cloth, remove any debris at the corner of the eyes or on the skin around the eyes.

2. Hold the dropper or bottle using your thumb and index finger. Rest this hand on top of the pet’s head to help stabilize your hand.

3. With your other hand, use your thumb to pull down the lower eyelid. The lower eyelid acts as a pouch to receive the drops.

4. Hold the dropper or bottle close to the eye but do not touch the eye’s surface.

5. Squeeze the correct number of drops onto the eyeball, aiming for the center of the eye and then release the head.

6. Your pet will blink which spreads the cleaning solution over the surface of the eye.

7. Wipe any excess cleaning fluid, tears or debris away from the eyes.

8. Praise your pet and offer a healthy natural treat when you are finished!

Follow these guidelines to keep your pets’ eyes healthy. If you suspect a problem, contact your veterinarian for advice.

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