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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Corneal Abrasion




Condition Overview

The cornea is covered by a protective surface layer of epithelial cells. Any irritation, such as a scratch or foreign body, damages this surface layer. A corneal abrasion usually heals in about 3 - 5 days by a process in which the adjacent epithelial cells enlarge and migrate over the defect.


Swelling at the site of the injury, as well as edema (swelling caused by fluid in your body's tissues), causes the are to appear hazy and opaque (an object that is neither transparent - allowing all light to pass through, nor translucent - allowing some light to pass through) when viewed under magnification. The opaque area also stains positive with fluorescein dye.


There are various different causes for a corneal abrasion. An object in your pet's eye that isn't washed out with tears or removed by you or your vet can scratch the surface of the eye. Grass seeds like foxtails often get stuck underneath the eyelids. Then, every time you pet blinks, the seed digs deeper and makes the sore worse, and an ulcer can develop.


Corneal abrasions and ulcers are diagnosed using a special flourescein dye that is applied to the eye. Damaged tissues will pick up the dye.
Corneal abrasions in the upper part of the cornea may be caused by misdirected eyelashes. Lower corneal opacities suggest an imbedded foreign body. Abrasions near the inner corner of the eye suggest a foreign body beneath the third eyelid.


All corneal injuries must be seen and treated by a vet to avoid complications, including the keratitis and corneal ulcer. Broad-spectrum topical antibiotic drops or ointments are prescribed every 4 - 6 hours to prevent infection.

A topical atropine preparation is used to keep the pupil dilated, which reduces eye pain. Keep your dog out of bright light, including bright sunlight, when the pupil is dialated. The atropine had a bad taste and many dogs will foam at the mouth if they get some in their mouths while you are medicating them. This will pass in 1 - 2 minutes.

The eye is examined periodically to monitor progress. Treatment is continued until the abrasion is healed.


One great way to prevent corneal abrasions is to keep your dog's head inside the vehicle while driving. When dogs stick their heads out from windows, they are susceptible to wind blown debris entering the eye and causing significant damage.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have a corneal abrasion.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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