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What is Corneal Irritation? How do you deal with it?

Corneal Irritation in Your Pet

Corneal irritation, which is also referred to as keratitis, is a disorder that occurs when the cornea becomes irritated or inflammed.  Many different things can cause this irritation, such as dust particles, bacteria and viruses.  Even the wind or your pet’s own hair can cause corneal irritations.


  • Understanding the Cornea

The cornea plays an important role in your pet’s vision.  It is made of special cells and is the clear layer that covers the front of the eyeball.  When these cells become damaged, it takes about one week for new cells to grow and replace those that were damaged.  In order to remain clear, the cornea does not contain blood vessels.  Instead, it depends on tears to bring oxygen and nutrients to the area, as well as to remove waste.  There are, however, nerve fibers in the cornea.  As a result, it is very sensitive. 

Unfortunately, the cornea is the area of the eye that is most affected by disease.  Glaucoma and infections such as feline herpes and toxoplasmosis can cause a great deal of harm to the cornea.  Medications such as Timoptic eye drops and Trusopt eye drops, however, can help pets with glaucoma overcome the problem.

  • The Scratched Cornea

The good news is the cornea heals fast. It generally does not take long for the eye to heal if just the cornea has been scratched.  On the other hand, an irritated cornea can be quite painful to your pet and, if it left untreated, it can become infected and potentially lead to blindness.

When substances other than tears enter the eye, there is a risk of the cornea getting scratched.  Usually, your pet’s eyes will respond to these foreign substances by immediately tearing up.  Your pet may also rub its eye if the eye is irritated.  This can cause further damage.  In response to this irritation, your pet’s eye may become inflamed.  Inflammation of the eye can lead to permanent damage.  So it is important to consult your veterinarian if this happens to your pet in order to ensure its long-term visual health.

  • Risk Factors for Corneal Irritation

Dogs that enjoy riding in cars with their heads out the window are prone to corneal irritation.  Dogs who hunt and work to move through high grass and brush on a frequent basis also tend to develop corneal irritation more often than other dogs.  Certain dogs and cats are also expose to corneal irritation, particularly those that have flat noses and bulging eyes.  This is simply because their eyelids are unable to completely protect their eyes.  Some dog breeds with this problem include the Pug, the Pekingese, the Boxer, the Bulldog, and the Boston Terrier.  Cat breeds with this problem are the Himalayan and the Persian.

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