This story is all too common with consequences that were serious yet avoidable for this pet. The owner of a nine year old Labrador Retriever noticed one evening when she came home from work that her dog was squinting. She took a closer look with a light source to see if there was anything obvious in the eye. She saw nothing abnormal so the assumption was that there was a speck of dust, an eyelash or a minor irritation in the eye. It was late and she was tired from a long day and figured it would go away. Next morning the Lab was not squinting quite as much so she figured that whatever was there was improving and off she went to work. That evening, however, when the owner returned home, the eye was totally closed and when gently forced open she saw an eye that was opaque blue, very bloodshot and obviously painful. A visit to the emergency center revealed that her pet had a deep corneal ulcer and that since no ophthalmologist was on call the dog was placed on antibiotics and referred over to a veterinary opthalmologist as soon as an appointment could be made. Unfortunately, before the appointment could be scheduled the eye ruptured and required emergency surgery to remove the eye and permanently close the lids.
What went wrong? Was this neglect on the part of the owner or a scenario that could happen to any of our pets? When it comes to eyes there is little room for casual approach to problems. Eyes are one of the most susceptible tissues to inflammation and infection. What occurred in this case is not unusual. What started out as a minor scratch progressed to an ulcer infected with bacteria that can rapidly “melt” the cornea. When this occurs there are fewer and fewer layers to keep the integrity of the eye intact. Even a minor bump can result in a ruptured eye. Fortunately for this Labrador, cats and dogs do very well with vision from only one eye. Since their other senses are so acute they can often compensate for the loss. But for the pet owner, this is a very bitter pill to swallow. Knowing now, what she didn’t know then, a routine scratch, ulcer or minor abrasion in an eye can become serious very quickly.
The lesson in the case of this Labrador is clear. When any type of problem is noted with your pet, contact your local vet as soon as possible. It doesn’t necessarily mean a visit is in order but at least we (or your doctor) can weigh in on what the severity is based on a few quick questions and answers. Of all the structures in the body, the eye might be the most dramatic tissue to illustrate how quickly things can go seriously wrong. Closely following medication instructions is the second most important contribution, you can make to your pet’s health.
We are here to support you in making the most of what you and your pet have to offer to one another. Make sure you don’t put us in the unfortunate position of having to give you bad news because a somewhat minor problem was ignored or overlooked. It is our goal to participate in the long and rewarding relationship you enjoy with your pet.