Should You Pluck Your Dog’s Ears?

A large percentage of the dogs we see are smaller breeds, and many of these have a predilection to ear infections. Also, a lot of them are breeds that have naturally hairy ears. Breeds like poodle, Bichon Frise, shih tzu, Lhasa Apso, and many others traditionally have a lot of hair in their ear canals.

Hair in a dogs ear
This hair should definitely be plucked from the ear.

For years a debate has raged over whether we should pluck this hair from dogs’ ears. I’ve been practicing for over 29 years now, and have seen the pendulum on that argument swing both ways. My personal feelings are that it is in the dog’s best interest to have the hair in the ears consistently and periodically removed. Keep reading and I’ll explain why.

When I graduated from vet school in 1987 (OSU – go Bucks! 🙂 ) it was widely agreed that all dogs with naturally hairy ear canals should have the ears regularly plucked and cleaned. However, about 15 years ago the board certified dermatologists (we don’t have EENT specialists in veterinary medicine, so difficult ear cases are referred to dermatologists) started recommending that if a dog doesn’t have a recurrent ear infection problem, that the hair in the  ears should be left alone, and not routinely plucked out.

The reasoning behind their recommendations requires a little understanding of the nature of most ear infections in dogs. The vast majority of the ear infections we see in dogs are not due to bugs they “caught”, like one might catch a virus. Instead, most ear infections in dogs are caused by organisms or bugs that are naturally present in the dog’s ear all the time.

In our practice, about 70% of ear infections are caused by one specific yeast called Malassezia pachydermatis. Malassezia is a normal, commensal organism on dog skin. What this means is that there is always some (a little or a lot, usually just trace amounts) of this bug all over the dog’s skin, including in the ears. So even in a dog’s ear that looks 100% completely clear, there are still a few of these yeast organisms in the ear. Of the other 30% of ear infections we see, a majority of these are Staph, a bacteria that, again, is normal in the ear all the time.

In most dogs, the immune system functions properly to keep these yeast and bacteria in check, and keep it from flourishing. So a dog only gets an ear infection when the immune system is not working correctly. So what are some of the things that can keep the immune system from functioning properly? Here are just a few:

External Factors

  • Hair in the ears
  • Floppy ear flaps, as in the retrievers and hound breeds, among others
  • Naturally tight ear canals, as in pugs, Shar Peis and bulldogs, along with many small breeds
  • Water in the ears – this applies to the dogs that swim a lot, like the retrievers, as well as any dog after getting bathed
  • Warm, moist environment – we see a lot more ear infections in Florida than I did in Ohio, in part due to the warm, moist weather

Internal Factors

Internal factors include anything that can contribute to weaker immune systems in the dog:

  • Allergies – in Florida, this is by far the number one contributing factor to ongoing ear issues in dogs. Because of our warm, moist weather year-round, as well as an abundance of pollen and mold in the air all year round, many dogs suffer from allergies. In dogs, allergies manifest as itchy skin and poor skin immunity. This routinely leads to ear infections in dogs.
  • Underlying disease – dogs with ongoing medical issues such as diabetes and hypothyroidism are much more prone to ear infections than otherwise healthy dogs
  • Pure bred dogs – most pure bred dogs have naturally weaker immune systems than their mixed-breed brethren

So, the thinking of the dermatologists in recommending not plucking ears is that when the hair is plucked it causes a small micro-inflammation in the hair follicles. This small micro-inflammation then weakens the immune system of the ear canal, and that leads to ear infection by organisms already present in the ear, as previously outlined.

However, it’s been my experience in the 15 years or so that we’ve not been plucking ears that dogs’ ears were much healthier and the micro-environment of the ear canal much healthier back when we routinely plucked ear hair.

When a dog’s hair is plucked for the first two or three times, yes, there might be a little micro-inflammation. However, the follicles rapidly adapt to the plucking, and soon the hair plucks out extremely easily, and with little or no inflammation. So by starting hairy-eared puppies early with routine grooming – including a thorough plucking of any hair in the ear canals – the ears can be kept healthy and hair free very easily.

Should You Pluck Ears or Not?

So we’ve now traveled full circle, and our strong recommendation is that any dogs (at any age) with significant amounts of hair in their ears should have the hair plucked out routinely, usually at least every 6 weeks. It’s been our experience that that is the easiest, most reliable way to keep the ears clean and infection free.

Plucking hair from the ears allows a deep, thorough cleaning of any built-up wax or debris, and allows the canal to breathe, thus keep the canal drier. It’s the warm, dark, moist environment of the hairy ear canal that contributes to ear infections. So if you’re an owner of one of these hairy-eared breeds, advise your groomer that you want a thorough ear plucking and cleaning on every visit. It’s what’s best for your dog.

Introducing Surgery Without Anesthesia!

In our quest to bring the newest and best innovations in veterinary medicine to our practice and our patients, we’ve recently obtained the revolutionary HO CryoProbe™ cryosurgery unit.

Introducing Surgery Without Anesthesia!

Cryosurgery is the practice of using cold applications to freeze and kill tissues, thus allowing the body remove them and heal naturally on its own. It can be used to successfully treat:

  • Small eyelid masses, whether cystic or solid core
  • Small to large masses on the gums, called epuli
  • Papillomas, which are essentially warts that can be found anywhere on the body. They range in size from 2 to 10 mm, and often bleed
  • Lick granulomas, which are large callouses usually found on the legs
  • Skin tags of all sizes
  • Sebaceous gland masses, both cystic and solid core
  • Perianal adenomas, which are small benign masses found around the anus
  • Other skin tumors, from 1mm up to about 2 cm.

The CryoProbe Is Safe for Even the Oldest and Sickest Patients

The CryoProbe X - Surgery without AnesthesiaThe HO CryoProbe™ uses gaseous nitrous oxide, which freezes tissues to -127°F, thus killing the tumor cells with pinpoint accuracy, which the body then removes naturally. The advantages of cryosurgery over traditional surgery include:

  • No general anesthesia is necessary
  • In most cases, not even a local skin block is necessary
  • The average procedure takes less than one to two minutes
  • There is minimal to no bleeding, and almost no discomfort for the pet
  • There are no sutures to be removed, and thus the pet doesn’t need to wear an E-collar
  • It’s a completely out-patient procedure; the pet doesn’t have to stay in the hospital at all
  • Because there is no anesthesia, it can be used on very old or debilitated pets that would otherwise not be surgical candidates
  • The cost is much less than a full-blown surgery with anesthesia, monitoring, etc.
  • In most cases, the tissue can still be biopsied for pathologic review, if deemed necessary.

So, if you or someone you know has a pet with one or more skin masses that you’d like to have removed, but you’ve been putting it off due to cost or fear of anesthesia, now there’s a great alternative. The CryoProbe™ offers us a great opportunity to help so many more pets than we ever could before. If you think your pet might be a candidate for this procedure be sure and call the office for an appointment.

Here are some videos from the company that show how easy the HO CryoProbe™ is to use:

More Uses for Cold Therapy Laser

Takota getting laser therapyWe continue to find new, innovative ways to use the high-powered, cold-therapy laser. This is a picture of Takota, a 9 year old, neutered male golden retriever. Takota has hypothyroidism, as well as severe seasonal allergies.

His thyroid condition and his allergies are all well controlled at this point, but he recently developed a lick granuloma on one front leg. Lick granulomas form when a dog (they don’t occur in cats) licks a given spot on a leg incessantly. As the pet licks the leg it gets irritated; as it gets irritated it triggers increased licking. Increased licking causes increased irritation, and a perpetual loop is formed.

There are many ways to treat lick granulomas, and none is any better than the others. Each case is different, and different treatments work for different cases.

We’ve recently started to use the K-Laser Cube 4 cold therapy laser to treat these areas. The Cube 4 is a 15 watt Class 4 cold-therapy laser. It is the highest powered cold therapy laser on the market today.

Tissue Effects of the Cold-Therapy Laser

Cold therapy laser has many benefits and absolutely no side effects. Among other benefits, it:

  • Increases blood supply to the treated area
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Decreases pain, irritation and itching
  • Increases oxygenation of treated tissues
  • Reduces free radical formation in the area. (Free radicals are toxic molecules that form when tissues and cells are damaged. Their presence causes further tissue damage.)
  • Increases energy production and healing in affected areas

This is just a short list of all the benefits of the cold therapy laser.  The laser can be used on any tissue in the body to achieve the results we just listed. In general, anywhere there is inflammation can benefit from laser therapy.

Differences in Cold-Therapy Laser Machines

Our laser – the K-Laser Cube 4 – is the highest powered laser on the market. This is important, as some areas that we treat are deep within the body. For instance, hip dysplasia in large breeds, such as labs and rottweilers, is a serious problem that can lead to chronic breakdown. To treat the hips in some of these dogs that weigh up to and over 120 lbs, it takes a high-powered laser to achieve maximum efficacy.

Many of the lasers currently sold in the veterinary market are low-powered lasers. Many are less than 1 watt, which means they aren’t even Class 4 lasers. These lasers simply do not have the power to penetrate tissues more than 1-2 mm. They cannot treat deeper tissues, or tissues with chronic damage.

Other than price, there is no advantage to these low powered lasers. Our high-powered K-Laser Cube 4 has no side effects. It is very comfortable for the pet, and adds only a slight warming sensation to the treatment area. Most pets lay comfortably while being treated.

Besides being the highest powered laser on the market, the Cube 4 also uses 4 separate wavelengths of laser light. This is done intentionally, as each wavelength of laser light achieves a different purpose. Different cells respond to different wavelengths, and by covering a broader spectrum of wavelengths more tissues can be positively impacted. Most of the cheaper laser models on the market use just one – or at best 2 – laser wavelengths.

As our knowledge of the therapeutic effects of high-powered cold laser therapy grows, so will our ability to positively impact more pets and more problem areas in the body. Because we have the absolute best laser available today, there is no therapeutic treatment we won’t be able to provide.

Learn About Toxic Plants for Pets

Lily Tox
All parts of the Easter Lily are toxic to cats,
and can cause renal failure and death.

The Hudson Library is hosting a free University of Florida Pasco Cooperative Extension seminar titled “Plants NOT for Your Pets”.  The seminar is being held July 7th from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hudson Library, 8012 Library Rd.  The seminar will cover both indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to pets, and will focus on dogs and cats. To pre-register, visit and search on Pasco County Cooperative Extension. Space is limited, so register early.

FHO Surgery, 6 Days Post-Op

Well, our very own Tucker is now 6 days post-op, and doing great. For the original story of his surgery, click here.

Tucker received Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) surgery last Wednesday, May 27th. Post operatively, he received cold laser therapy that day, and twice since. Normally, this surgery takes a long time to recover from, and typically the pet doesn’t even touch their toe to the ground for at least two weeks post-op.

Here is a video of Tucker that we shot today. He’s already close to 50% weight bearing on the leg, and is moving comfortably, and with minimal pain.

The reason for the rapid improvement in this case is probably due to two things:
1.) He’s a small breed dog, and not carrying any extra weight. Overweight dogs do much worse with any orthopedic surgery, and more so with advanced, reconstructive surgery like Tucker received; and
2.) The K-Laser cold therapy laser. Laser therapy, and in particular the high-powered K-Laser Cube 4 that we have – the most powerful laser on the market today – has changed the landscape of veterinary care when it comes to orthopedic and other injuries. What used to take 2 months to heal now takes 2 weeks, and the progress we used to hope for in 2 weeks we’re now seeing in 4-5 days.

Tucker is doing great, and we expect him to continue to improve to full recovery. We’ll post more video in the future as his condition warrants.

Tucker Gets Major Orthopedic Surgery

Many of you know our two mascots – Tucker and Tess. They’re our receptionist, Diane’s, two little shih tzus. Recently, Tucker injured himself jumping off the sofa.

At first he carried his right rear leg completely up as he walked. He was what we term three-legged lame. However, by the next day he was almost completely normal on the leg. He put up to 95% of his normal pressure on it, and he didn’t seem unduly sore.

At that time, I performed an orthopedic exam to try to localize the problem. In an ortho exam, we place the pet on his side with the effected leg up. I start at the toes and move up to the hip, feeling every bone and every joint for any area that is swollen, moves in the wrong direction, feels out of place, or where he gives me a pain sign.

For Tucker’s ortho exam, everything felt relatively normal. Nothing was out of place or swollen, and he wouldn’t give me a pain sign anywhere. However, we all know Tucker pretty well, and know that he’s a very stoic dog. He hates to complain. So I figured that he was simply masking whatever was going on. I put him on a general anti-inflammatory and ordered exercise restriction, and waited to see how things went.

Dislocated Hip
Dislocated hip in Tucker

Two days later we found out when he again started carrying the same leg, and was once again three-legged lame. This time I got to perform my orthopedic exam while he had an active problem, so the problem was a lot easier to find. In short, his hip was out of the socket. This was confirmed with x-rays, as you see to the right.

Dislocated hips are relatively common after any form of blunt trauma to the pelvis. We tend to see them after hit-by-cars, falls from elevation, and occasionally after dog fights. However, it’s relatively rare to see them from something as simple as jumping up and down off the sofa.

A lot of things have to go wrong for the hip to dislocate. There is a very thick, tough ligament that goes from the very end of the femoral head (that’s the ball in the ball-and-socket hip joint) to the acetabulum (that’s the socket part of this same joint). This ligament has to tear for the hip to dislocate. Also, the joint capsule that envelopes the entire joint has to tear as well. And finally, the combined muscular tendons of the area have to fail to some degree. So for a hip to pop out of place, a lot of tough structures have to give way.

Because of the tearing and failing of all these tissues, repairing a dislocated hip is not as simple as TV would have you believe. It’s not a matter of simply “popping it back in place” and everything’s fine. Getting it placed back in the socket is a simple matter, but getting it to stay there is very difficult. The vast majority of cases pop out again with the first challenge to the joint. And so was the case with Tucker. Irrespective our efforts to save the joint we couldn’t get the hip to stay in.

FHO on Tucker
Tucker’s post-op film after his successful FHO surgery.

So that meant the next step was a major orthopedic surgery called a Femoral Head Ostectomy, or FHO for short. In an FHO we remove the femoral head and neck completely, so that there is no hip joint. Instead of the normally function hip joint, the pet instead forms a muscular attachment of the rear leg to the pelvis.

This sounds like it might be unstable, but in fact it actually works very, very well. The way I explain it to clients is that after an FHO the back leg works similar to the front leg. If you study the anatomy of a dog’s front leg you’ll realize that there is no joint between it and the body. The front leg forms the shoulder joint through its attachment to the scapula (shoulder blade), but that entire apparatus is attached to the body by muscles only. There is no bone-to-bone joint that attaches the shoulder/shoulder blade to the rib cage. Instead, it’s all held in place by the muscles of the shoulder.

After an FHO the rear leg functions much the same way. The gluteals and other large pelvic muscles hold the femur in place. Because there is no bone-to-bone contact the pet feels no discomfort and walks relatively normally.

Tucker resting comfortably post-op
Tucker resting comfortably post-op

Theoretically, FHOs work best in small to medium sized dogs. However, I’ve used the procedure in dogs up to 130 pounds, and almost universally they do very well.

We performed an FHO on Tucker earlier this week, and so far everything is fine. Of course, we’re treating him with the K-Laser to increase his recovery rate and decrease his post-op pain, but I have no doubt that long-term he’s going to do very well.

Tucker laser post op
Laser treatment on Tucker 2 days post-op

Tapeworms in Dogs and Cats

TapewormsTapeworms are a common finding in dogs and cats in Florida. They present as small, white to off-white, flat segments usually seen on the stool or on the animal’s perineum (around the anus). The worm segments are usually around a quarter inch long, although they can be much longer.

Tapeworms and Intermediate Hosts

Tapeworms are in a class of internal parasite that has an obligatory immature stage that has to go through an intermediate host. The most common tapeworm we see uses the common dog flea as its intermediate host. The other tapeworm – which is much less common – travels through mice, rats, and other small rodents.

What this means is that the dog or cat has to eat the intermediate host to spread to its next carrier. For instance, in a house that has two dogs, just because Buddy has tapeworms does not mean that Lady will have them, too. For Buddy to have gotten tapeworms he had to eat a flea that had the larval form of tapeworm in it. When he ate the flea he then developed the adult form of the worm.  For Lady to get tapeworms she would also have to eat a flea with the tapeworm larva in it. That is, if Lady ate one of the tapeworms that Buddy passed, she WOULD NOT get tapeworms. Tapeworms can ONLY be passed by ingestion of the intermediate host, which in this case is a flea.

So we often get the question that if we are going to worm Buddy for tapeworms, shouldn’t we just go ahead and worm Lady as well? Not necessarily. While the fact that Buddy has tapeworms means that he must have had some fleas at some point in the recent past, it does not automatically mean that Lady has tapes, too. However, if Buddy has been exposed to fleas, then so has Lady, and so she has a decent chance of having tapeworms, also.

In these cases we usually opt to worm Buddy and wait and see if Lady has them, too. The easiest way to diagnose tapeworms is to just visually see them on the pet’s stool, or on the hairs of the perineum.

Diagnosing Tapeworms

Tapeworms on poop
Tapeworm segments on a dog’s stool

Tapeworms do not usually show up readily on the routine fecal float exam that we do in the office. That’s because the fecal float relies on free-floating worm eggs in the stool. When we diagnose worms in pets with a float we are looking for the eggs that the worm passes, not the worm itself. However, tapeworms don’t pass discreet eggs. Instead, they pass egg packets – called proglottids. It’s actually these proglottids that clients see on their pet’s stool.

So if you suspect that your pet might have tapeworms simply keep an eye on their stools and on their rear ends to see if they’re passing any proglottids, and if so we’ll worm them appropriately. And in Florida, we highly recommend year-round flea control for all dogs and cats that go outside.

Mushroom Compound to Prolong Canine Cancer Patients

Up until just recently, when a man’s best friend is diagnosed with cancer, such as hemangiosarcoma, even if the dog received chemotherapy treatment the prognosis was extremely guarded for living a long, full life. Hemangiosarcoma is relatively common in dogs, and is usually fatal.

At this point, this cancer, which is an aggressive tumor of blood based organs and tissues such as the spleen, remains incurable. Unfortunately, over the past two to three decades, there has not been any significant advancement in the standard of care for dogs with hemangiosarcoma, and early detection is rare due to the lack of effective testing for the disease. By the time the tumors have become large enough to detect, the cancer has often already progressed to advanced stages.

Coriolus mushrooms
Harvested Coriolus mushrooms

Within the past few years, however, there have been promising findings for owners of dogs who have hemangiosarcoma, according to a study conducted by Jennifer Reetz and Dorothy Cimino Brown, two faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. The study revealed that canines that were treated with a compound which was derived from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor, exhibited the longest survival times that have ever been reported for canines suffering from hemangiosarcoma. The compound is usually called Coriolus PSP, or PSP for short.

According to the study results, the median survival time of the dogs that were tested increased as the PSP dose increased, and the longest median survival times that were reported to date were linked to the dogs that were on the highest dose of PSP. In other words, the higher the dose of this mushroom compound supplemen, the longer the dogs survived with the cancer. Additionally, the dogs receiving the highest doses exhibited slower progression of the cancer in comparison to the dogs receiving chemotherapy.

Chinese medicine has been using the Coriolus versicolor mushroom (Yun-zhi mushroom) for over 2,000 years now. Standardized, purified polysaccharopeptide (PSP) is the compound that is found in the mushroom which is considered to provide immune-boosting and liver detoxifying properties. Just in the past twenty years, studies have theorized that this compound also exhibits tumor-fighting properties.

While the Yun-zhi mushroom has been known in China for centuries, the Western world only recently became aware of it. When studies exposed the chemotherapy and radio-therapy reducing properties that the mushroom demonstrated, clinical trials in the Western part of the world ensued.

In random double-blind clinical trials, humans who were undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments took Yun-zhi for two months. These human subjects experienced tremendous improvement in the reduction of radiation and chemo side effect symptoms such as nausea, poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue and sweating. Yun-zhi also helped stabilize the white blood cell counts of these patients. Overall results of treatment revealed an efficacy rate of 83% to 86%.

Currently there is a clinical research trial at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine involving a supplement derived from the mushroom compound called I’m Yunity. This will be a randomized, controlled, single phase study that will compare the effects of the supplement to standard care chemotherapy. Most likely, the results will not be published for at least another couple of years, but at least the research institutions are starting to recognize herbal and alternative therapies as actual possibilities in the treatment of canine cancer.

So, while dog owners may still be left in the dark regarding a cure for hemangiosarcoma, the Yun-zhi mushroom supplement gives us a glimmer of light. If we can prolong the time that we have with our cancer-stricken canine friends for several months (or maybe even up to a year) with the assistance from the natural supplement derived from the Coriolus versicolor, we will have more time to accept their fate while we spend quality time and provide them with the best final months of their life that we possibly can.

At Acupet Veterinary Care, we routinely use mushroom therapy in our cancer patients (mushroom therapy can help most types of cancer, not just hemangiosarcoma). CAS Options is a pharmaceutical-graded derivative of several different species of mushroom, and we’ve seen tremendous benefit in those cancer patients we have on it.

A New Healthy Weapon Against Arthritis and Pain

Perna canaliculus, the green lipped mussel
New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels

We’ve seen a spate of back injuries lately, and so it’s prompted me to discuss Perna canaliculus once more.  Perna canaliculus, or Perna for short, is the technical name for the New Zealand green lipped mussel. It is a bivalve mollusk, found exclusively in the intertidal zones around all of New Zealand.

Perna has been known for years as a medicinal nutritional supplement that helps alleviate the signs, symptoms, and ongoing progression of arthritis and osteomyelitis. It is effective in minimizing the inflammation associated with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Technically, Perna inhibits 5-lipoxygenase, which is necessary for the formation of some of the inflammatory chemicals found in arthritis. By blocking 5-lipoxygenase the inflammatory response is reduced.

Perna canaliculus was discovered when anecdotal evidence led scientists several decades ago to discover that members of the Maori people who lived along New Zealand’s coast suffered fewer cases of rheumatic disorders than those who lived inland. It was also found that Perna was one of the mainstays of the coastal-dwelling Maoris’ diet.

Besides blocking 5-lipoxygenase, Perna also contains high levels of a unique Omega 3 fatty acid called eicosatetraenoic acid, or ETA. Now, we’ve known for a long time that Omega 3 fatty acids in general are very beneficial in the alleviation of pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. However, the usual sources of Omega 3’s are fish and flaxseed, and they contain primarily EPA and DHA Omega 3’s.  And while EPA and DHA are both good, ETA is a much more potent anti-inflammatory than the commonly found Omega 3’s.

Published reports are consistent in their findings that Perna mussel produces an anti-inflammatory response. A Clemson University study found that Perna was effective in reducing the onset of rheumatoid arthritis as well as reversing it in mice and rats. Out of eighteen test animals with arthritis that were fed Perna mussel, only three developed arthritis compared to 10 out of 15 in the control group. Another study found that the green-lipped mussel was effective in reducing pain, swelling, and stiffness in 60 human patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. And importantly, a French study using 53 patients suffering from osteoarthritis in the knee reported that the Perna extract was “well tolerated by the participants with no adverse conditions reported.”

Because of its potent anti-inflammatory effects, we strongly recommend that Perna be included in any joint supplement prescribed to help control the pain and inflammation of arthritis, including back pain and inter-vertebral disc disease. It is rare that routine over-the-counter joint products found at pet stores or health food stores contain Perna as one of their ingredients. Typically, you have to go to a health care provider to get this potent supplement.

EZ Joint ChewsOur EZ Joint Chews that we use routinely for arthritis and back issues not only contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, but they also contain high levels of Perna and other Omega 3 fatty acids. And unlike most over-the-counter products, they are pharmaceutical grade, insuring the highest level of purity and bioavailability. They come as an extremely tasty chewy treat that most dogs love, and remarkably, are no more expensive than most over-the-counter medications found at the big box pet stores. We highly recommend them for any form of joint condition.

Click here to learn more about arthritis and hip dysplasia in dogs.

Ophthalmic Emergencies in Pets

Eye emergencies in petsWe’ve seen a spate of eye issues the last few weeks, and there seems to be a universal hesitance on the part of our clients as to what to do about the typical sore, red eye. Most eye emergencies are not true emergencies, but more a matter of discomfort for the pet.

Before we get into home treatments for routine eye issues, we should say that there are a couple of eye injuries that are true emergencies, and which warrant a trip to the ER if our clinic isn’t open.  The two most common true eye emergencies are: 1.) Cuts or penetrations of the corneal surface, and 2.) Traumatic proptosis.

Anytime the eye is cut or an item penetrates the cornea (the glass globe that forms the front of the eye), this should be considered an emergency. The sooner we get to see a damaged eye the better our chances of preventing infection and further injury, and potentially saving the eye. Smaller lacerations and focal penetrations can often be sewn closed, and larger wounds can sometimes be managed with grafting techniques. But time is of the essence.

Traumatic proptosis is when the eye is displaced forward of the eyelids, or colloquially, when the eye is popped out of its socket. In larger breeds with deep set eyes this is very uncommon. However, for the smaller breeds, and especially those with short muzzles, such as shih tzus, Lhaso apsos, Pekingese, etc., this is a very common occurrence.

Once the eye is forward of the eyelids there is no way it can be replaced without sedation and surgery. The surgery isn’t complicated or difficult, but again, the sooner it’s performed the better the chances for success. When the eye is proptosed forward, the eyelids can’t blink over it, and it dries out very quickly. Getting the eye replaced and the lids closed on top of it prevents further damage, which happens rapidly.

Other than these two traumatic injuries, most other eye problems can wait to see us the next day. If your pet exhibits any ophthalmic difficulties, or if you think her eye is sore, some things you can do at home to give her relief include:

  • Flush with normal saline. Routine contact lens saline flush that contact wearers use to clean their lenses is by far the best thing to use to flush an eye. It’s osmotically correct for the eye, doesn’t sting, and can do no harm. It helps to flush out any foreign bodies, and moisturizes and soothes the eye. You can flush as often as you like to keep the pet comfortable.
  • Warm compresses.  Use a regular, clean washcloth soaked in warm water (use a bowl or the sink basin, and fill it with water as warm as you can stand it if you put your whole hand in it). Apply the compress gently to the effected eye for 10 minutes or longer. Again, this soothes the eye and helps to increase blood supply to the area.
  • Keep the pet in a dark area. Many eye issues are accompanied by photophobia, or aversion to light. In those cases just dimming the lights or keeping the pet in a dark room can help to relieve some discomfort.
  • Commercial eye lubricants such as Articial Tears and Genteel are generally safe for any eye condition and can be used to keep the eye lubricated and provide additional comfort.

Things to avoid in eye emergencies include any over-the-counter eye medication to “get the red out.”  These preparations are typically vasoconstrictors, and usually do more harm than good.

Likewise, putting anything in the eye, such as using a Qtip or similar object to try to wipe out the eye should be avoided. And at the first possible opportunity get the pet it to us to look at the eye so we can diagnose the problem and formulate the best course of action.