631– Eye Emergencies Can Go From 0 to 60 in a Blink

Eye Emergencies Can Go From 0 to 60 in a Blink

Host Laura Reeves is joined by veterinary ophthalmologist Stacey Halse for a deep dive on eye emergencies in our dogs.

Dr. Stacey Halse, veterinary ophthalmologist, with one of her Dobermans.

“Eyes are a very unique structure when it comes to every other organ, well, most other organs in the (dog’s) body,” Halse said. “They have what you call the fancy word for is a blood aqueous barrier. It kind of protects the inside of the eye from the rest of the immune system. The eye itself is called an immunoprivileged site. And so when things go wrong and the regular immune system kind of gets into the eye, it can go very wrong very quickly.

“And so emergencies can go from, oh, it’s just a little scratch, just… to suddenly you’re like, “Oh, now the eyeball’s melting out of the face.” And so that’s always very scary, both for an owner and a dog.”

Eye Infections in Newborns

“One of the biggest things that you can do is get that eyelid open even though the eyes are only supposed to open at about two weeks old, you don’t want that material to stay in there. And so if it’s not draining yet, warm compressing and just gently massaging those eyes open to get that material draining because if it stays in there, it’s going to ruin the eye. It’s going to cause scar tissue that can affect the puppy for the rest of its life. And I haven’t seen it a ton, but in the worst case. case scenarios, usually the shelter dogs that are kind of not brought in to care, but they can lose their eye. And so outside of medications, just getting that eye open is really the most important part.”

Steroid Cautions

Generally, any ulceration or scratch of the eye’s surface should NOT be treated with steroids.

“If there’s an ulcer there and you don’t know because you don’t have the staining and all this stuff, you just wanna be cautious and kind of just do the topical antibiotics. In general, something like neopolybac, which a lot of people have, or a topical drop, most often if I’m prescribing it, I’ll use Tobromycin because you only need something that’s superficial. But I feel like a lot of the time people have neopolybac in the dog world.

“You just have to make sure there’s no steroid in it. So the two steroids that can be a neopolybac is hydrocortisone or dexamethasone. Dexamethasone probably the most common, but hydrocortisone is the one that’s most commonly missed because people are just looking for dexamethasone on the thing. And one little trick that I teach students as well as owners is that if there’s a pink strip on the box, it’s a steroid. Tan is antibiotic, pink is steroid.

Corneal Ulcers

“The cornea is only about 0.8 millimeters thick, so it’s super, super thin. And so an infection anywhere else, not a huge deal. An infection on the surface of the eye can be very bad very quickly. You can lose the eye within 24 hours. I’ve had one in the hospital that I was medicating aggressively and then we still lost the battle. And it like developed an ulcer in the hospital. This was like during my residency and we started treating right away and we still lost it.

“I don’t wanna freak everyone out but that’s the worst case scenario. – If there’s a little bit of squinting, and if you ever see a divot on your dog’s eye, just take it in.”