A dog having its eye examined by a veterinarian.

Pet Eye Health: Everything You Need to Know About Common Dog & Cat Eye Disorders — Part I

Eyes are one of the most important parts of the body that dogs and cats depend on. Aside from helping your pet achieve the cutest pout to beg for treats with, eyes are important for helping your dog or cat recognize their surroundings and navigate the world around them. But sometimes trouble can arise in the form of eye disorders and affect your pet’s vision and comfort.

In this two-part series we are going to cover some of the most common eye disorders that we see in veterinary medicine and break down how these conditions are identified and treated in the clinic.  

Common Eye Disorders in Dogs and Cats

While not every animal will encounter an eye disorder in their life, keeping up with regular eye exams is crucial for getting the full picture into how your pet is feeling, as the health of an animal’s eyes can offer key insights into their overall health. 

If your pet does happen to have eye trouble, it’s important to contact your veterinarian right away. Some of these disorders are congenital, and others are acute and constitute an emergency. Regardless of the cause or severity, early intervention and prompt treatment is key to achieving better results and recovery. More serious eye disorders can lead to pain, diminished quality of life, and even blindness, so pet owners should consult their vet as soon as they notice any abnormalities in their pet’s eyes. 

Knowing what these eye diseases are, how they present in both dogs and cats, and what common treatment options are can empower pet owners to proactively care for their pet’s eye health and keep their sight at its best. So, let’s get started.


What Is Entropion? Entropion is a disorder where the eyelids roll inward towards the eye. As a result, the eyelashes are constantly rubbing on the eye causing chronic irritation, ulcers, pigmentation of the cornea, and pain. It can affect just the upper or lower eyelid or both eyelids.  

How It Present in the Clinic: Clinical signs of entropion include excessive tearing and “goopy” eyes. Entropion is usually congenital and seen more commonly in dogs. Certain breeds are predisposed to this disease such as the Chinese Shar Pei, Blood Hound, Mastiffs, Irish Setter, English Bulldog, and Great Dane. Most dogs are diagnosed by one year of age.

Treating Entropion: Surgery is needed to fix entropion. Some veterinarians will do this surgery at their practice, and others will refer you to an ophthalmologist. In some cases, two surgeries are needed because you don’t want to overcorrect the entropion and then have the eyelashes improperly positioned. Your veterinarian or ophthalmologist will be able to guide you through exactly what to expect for your pet during the surgery, as well as afterwards, during their recovery period. 


What Are Cataracts? Cataracts develop when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque.  Cataracts can be inherited (typically affects young dogs), be due to age, be a side effect secondary disease such as diabetes, be due to trauma, be a nutritional imbalance (for example, in puppies on milk replacer), or be chronic uveitis, which we’ll discuss a little later.

How It Present in the Clinic & Treatment: Most cataracts I see in practice are due to old age or secondary to diabetes. Surgery can be done by an ophthalmologist to remove the cataract, depending on the case and the owner’s decision. When the cataracts are secondary to a disease, the disease needs to be under control before surgery can be considered. Cataracts affect vision, but most animals adapt well to having them and do not experience any significant impact to their quality of life.  

Lenticular Sclerosis

What Is Lenticular Sclerosis? Lenticular sclerosis is a common disease seen in older animals. This is when the eye gets a bluish haze to the eye. Owners often mistake lenticular sclerosis for cataracts, so it’s important to speak with your veterinarian to get a correct diagnosis.  

How It Present in the Clinic: Lenticular sclerosis develops when the lens fibers degenerate over time and cause the lens to develop translucency. Translucent lenses take on a blue, hazy appearance and only allow partial light through the lens. Lenticular sclerosis doesn’t cause blindness, but does cause a loss of fine details, which can affect an animal’s overall vision and ability to navigate life.  

A dog with glaucoma

Glaucoma in the dog's left eye


What Is Glaucoma? Glaucoma is an eye emergency and quick action can save your pet’s vision. Glaucoma is usually seen in dogs and occurs when fluid (aqueous humor) cannot properly drain out of the eye. This causes an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), which will lead to blindness and is painful.

How It Present in the Clinic: Early clinical signs are usually squinting and a slightly red eye (the white part of the eye looking red). Other clinical signs can include the eyes looking like they are bulging, corneal edema (blue /white haze in the eye), decreased appetite, dilated pupils, loss of vision, acting painful, and lethargy. It usually starts out in one eye and will eventually progress to the other eye.  

In primary glaucoma, IOP builds up due to the malformation of the angle between the cornea and the iris. As a result, the aqueous humor cannot drain out of the eye properly and causes IOP to build up. Secondary glaucoma occurs secondary to other diseases such as uveitis, cataracts, and cancer. These conditions cause decreased drainage of aqueous humor and result in the IOP to increase.

Glaucoma is diagnosed by a veterinarian by measuring the IOP of the eyes with a tonometer.  Once the diagnosis is made, then eye medications will be prescribed to try and decrease the IOP within the eyes. Your pet may also be referred to an ophthalmologist. In the case of secondary glaucoma, the underlying cause may need to be treated as well. Surgical correction can be done in the case of primary glaucoma.    

Treating Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a progressive disease and vision is usually lost at some point. Early intervention is important because this can slow progression, and it’s a very painful disease. If IOP cannot be controlled, sometimes removal of the eye is done. As drastic as this sounds, these patients are not visual and the eye is only causing them pain.


What Is Uveitis? Uveitis is inflammation inside the eye. It is usually caused by a leaky blood vessel inside the iris. Clinical signs can be squinting, rubbing the eye, decreased vision, severe redness to the eye, and a hazy or cloudy appearance to the eye. Uveitis tends to be painful.  

How It Present in the Clinic: Uveitis can be due to an underlying disease. Diseases that can cause uveitis are tick borne diseases, leptospirosis, cataracts, a corneal ulcer, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, or trauma.

Diagnosis involves a full physical examination, full bloodwork including a urinalysis and tick screening test, an ophthalmic examination, and checking intraocular pressures with a tonometer. With uveitis, IOP tends to be low.  

Treating Uveitis: Treatment for uveitis involves eye medication and usually oral medication to decrease pain and inflammation. Treatment of any underlying conditions will also need to be done. The eye usually starts improving within 24 hours of treatment. Multiple rechecks with your veterinarian will also be done to monitor progress.

Untreated uveitis can lead to secondary complications such as lens luxation, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. In severe cases of uveitis, blindness can occur.

A veterinarian examining a cat's eye health.

Working with Your Veterinarian for Optimal Eye Health

Navigating your pet’s eye health is an undertaking that should not be done alone. Partnering with your veterinarian is important in ensuring your pet's eye health remains optimal. By maintaining open communication, scheduling regular check-ups, and adhering to your vet's recommendations, you can help prevent, detect, and treat eye disorders early on and achieve best-case outcomes for your pet’s health. Remember, your veterinarian should be your closest ally in protecting your furry friend's vision and overall well-being. Be sure to use them as the invaluable resource that they are for any questions, concerns, or emergencies. 

Have more questions about eye disorders in pets? Stay tuned for Part II of our eye disorders series to learn more about common eye issues that we see at Sugar River Animal Hospital and how they can impact your pet’s health. In Part II of Eye Disorders we’ll cover dry eye, corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, and trauma to the eye, but be sure to check out our blog for more resources on eye health for dogs and cats. 

If you have questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (603) 287-1181, or you can email us at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram.


  • Cat Eye Care
  • Dog Illness & Disease