Dog eye ulcer & what causes them

Dog Eye Ulcer – Symptoms, Treatment and How to Recognise Ulcers

Dog corneal eye ulcers are the 3rd most common eye problem that dogs suffer from, a dog eye ulcer also known as a corneal eye ulcer is damage to the surface of the tissue in the cornea (the clear part of the eye), and can form from many different reasons. They can be very painful for your pet and if not treated correctly they can cause eye loss!

Here at Pretty Pup we will explain more in detail, the symptoms, treatment, causes and what you need to do if you see an ulcer appear.


What is a corneal ulcer?

The cornea makes up the front of the eye, it is made up of 3 layers which are specialised skin cells,

Epithelium – This is the outer layer and made up of very thin cells, usually if this layer is damaged it is known as an erosion or corneal abrasion and has a fairly quick healing time.

Stroma – This is the main supportive tissue of the cornea, fluid is absorbed from the tears into the stroma which can give a cloudy effect to the eye, the tissue of the cornea makes up 90% of its thickness. When this layer is damaged this is known as a corneal ulcer.

Descemet’s membrane – This is the deepest yet thinnest layer, if damage erosion has got to this layer then it is a very deep ulcer, clear fluid can leak out from the eyeball which can rupture the eye, quick action or surgery is required at this point and  is very serious, the eye can collapse and can cause eye loss or permanent damage.

Eye ulcers seem to appear very quickly and can rapidly get worse, in most cases eyes heal at speed so with the right treatment most ulcers tend to heal within 3-5 days unless complications develop.

If you notice anything with your dogs’ eye, we recommend you book an appointment with your vet ASAP…do not leave them!


What causes eye ulcers?

There are many of ways dogs can get eye ulcers, with the main cause of an eye ulcer in dogs is trauma, this can be anything from a carpet burn, play fighting, to a foreign object such as a grass seed getting stuck in their eye lid, its hard to know when they happen as it could be when out walking (scratch it on branch), walk in to a sharp object at home or playing with another pet. However, when they do happen they are quite quick to show symptoms or show they are in discomfort.

Other eye ulcer causes:

  • Eyelash problems – (Entropion) eyelids turning in, which causes rubbing on the eyes irritating them making them sore and painful causing eye ulcers.
  • Eyelids
  • Irritating chemicals
  • Bacterial/viral infection

Epithelial dystrophy – (weakening of the cornea)

Symptoms of eye ulcers

When dogs are in pain, they have numerous of ways of showing it, if your dog appears to have any of these symptoms get them checked out with your veterinarian.

  • Blinking more than normal
  • Squinting or closed eye
  • Discharge in eye
  • Cloudy eye
  • Red inflamed eye
  • Rubbing or scratching face

Dog’s eye contains more nerves than any other part of its body. This is why when a dog tears it eye it is very discomforting and painful for them.

How to treat dog eye ulcers

You can’t typically see superficial eye ulcers with the naked eye, so your veterinarian will use an eye stain called fluorescein, once the stain is in the eye it grabs to the ulcer and will show a fluorescent colour that identifies that an ulcer is present. There are many different ways an ulcer will heal depending on the type of ulcer, it can be anything from medication and eye drops to heal it up to surgery. If your vet finds a deep corneal ulcer and your dog needs surgery, they will be referred to a specialist ophthalmologist for specialty care.

Another way that can heal an eye ulcer is ‘stitching up the third eyelid’ method. By temporarily stitching the eye up it gives they eye an extra layer of protection, it keeps the eye lubricated and stops foreign objects from getting into the eye. The third eye is held in place with connective tissue. Once the ulcer has healed the ‘third eyelid is unstitched the dog eye is back to normal.


Eye ulcers are very painful for dogs, so to help take the pain off, stop swelling and infections developing they are usually given anti-inflammatory tablets, as well as eye lubricants to keep the eye moist.

in its healing stage, antibiotic eye drops are used again to stop infections developing these however can be given up to 4 times a day.


Dogs at risk of eye ulcers

Some dog breeds are more prone to eye ulcers than other breeds, flat-faced breed (brachycephalic) are at a higher risk as they’re eyes are very exposed, and bulge. This can cause dry eyes which can cause eye ulcers. The dogs which are at higher risk are:

  • Pugs
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Cavalier king Charles spaniel
  • Shih tzus

Plus, many other flat-faced breeds

Healing process of eye ulcers

A lot of eye ulcers are able to heal with eye drops and medication with a recovery time of 3-5 days however if your dog required surgery then the healing process is very important and is not always a quick recovery. Regular check-ups are required and keeping the dog’s eye clean is very important. Dogs will naturally try to rub and scratch their eyes when in pain, so using an Elizabethan collar (also known as the cone of shame) will also prevent your dog from doing this, the design is made to come just past their nose which offers protection from licking, scratching wounds or surgical incisions dogs can still do everyday task in the cone such as eating and sleeping, and should not be removed until fully healed! Lubricants are essential to keep applying to the dog’s eye as they keep it nice and moist. Regular check-ups are crucial as the vet can see the progress of the eye in its healing stages.