How to Safely Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye – Without a Veterinarian
Here’s how my veterinarian treated my dog’s scratched eye, plus tips for dealing with eye scratches in dogs. Georgie has been to the dog veterinarian twice for eye-related problems: once for a scratched eye, and once for an eye infection.
I researched how to treat dog eye injuries and symptoms of cornea or retina problems in dogs – but there is no substitute for an actual diagnosis from a veterinarian! I didn’t think Georgie’s eye problem was as bad as it turned out to be, and I felt guilty for not taking her to the vet until three days had passed. That’s our rule, though. We have two dogs, and we don’t usually take them to the veterinarian when they first show signs of being “under the weather.” Even a gurgling stomach in dogs may not warrant a vet visit, especially since my dogs will lick the sidewalk if an ice cream cone or chicken drumstick touched it. Just like our own human healthcare – we don’t go to the family doctor at the first sign of a sore throat or tummy ache. But since dogs can’t talk, it is a bit more difficult to assess how bad their injuries are. Here’s what I learned about how to treat a dog’s scratched eye…
According to PetMD, there’s probably a foreign object in your dog’s eye if he is squinting, blinking rapidly and/or avoiding bright lights. That’s exactly what Georgie was doing.
Symptoms of an injury to a dog’s eye
Dog eye scratches or injuries are commonly seen when he:
- Is pawing at his eye
- Is blinking rapidly – and his eye is swollen and inflamed
- Has blood in his eyes
- Has a blood-fill sac or mass in his eye (subconjunctival hematoma) – which may be leftover from a sealed cut in your dog’s eye
- Has a foreign object in the eye that you can actually see
- Has a distorted pupil (the little black part) that reacts abnormally or is shaped differently
- Has a protrusion of eyeball or the front clear covering of your dog’s eye
Sometimes the only sign of an injury on your dog’s eyeball is his behavior. That’s how it was with Georgie: we couldn’t see anything in her eye, but she couldn’t open it! She was giving us a perpetual wink, which was only cute for one minute. It got even less cute as the hours wore on.
How to look at your dog’s eye
“Keep dog pet calm and talk in a soothing voice,” write the veterinarians in Eye Injuries in Dogs. “It’s important for you to remain calm under the circumstances, because your dog will know if you are anxious. Your anxiety will add stress to the situation. As you talk soothingly, gently lift the upper eyelid and look for debris lodged underneath. Do the same with the lower eyelid. Be careful not to force or slide your pet’s eyelid open because you don’t want to drag the foreign object over his fragile cornea. Instead, softly pull the eyelid away from the eyeball.”
You probably won’t be able to see a scratch on your dog’s cornea, retina, or eyeball because it’ll be teeny tiny. My veterinarian used a special dye to see Georgie’s scratched eye; I describe it below.
But, when you look into your dog’s eyes and see an object, the Pet MD veterinarians recommend flushing it out with room temperature water. If that doesn’t work, try to gently ease it out with a damp cotton swab.
I’d never be able to do this with my dog Georgie, but could probably get something out of Tiffy’s eye. In fact, I’ve had to take two tiny pine needles out of that dog’s eye! It was a pain, but it seemed to work. If you stay calm and keep your wits about you, you may be able to flush a small object out of your dog’s eye. But if you can’t remove it quickly and easily yourself, don’t risk further damage to your dog’s eye. Cover it with a bandage and take your dog to your veterinarian right away.
Signs of a scratched eye in a dog
If your dog’s eyes are bloodshot or if he’s squinting or tearing up a lot, he may have a scratch on his eye. First, gently lift your dog’s eyelids and check for debris. If you don’t see anything, cover the eye with a clean damp cloth and bandage the cloth to your dog’s head. Like a mummy! I’m kidding – but make sure he can see.
Remember the collar your dog wore when he was neutered? It’s called an Elizabethan collar; now is would be a great time to dig it out of the garage. If you don’t have one, bandage your dog’s paws so he won’t paw or scratch at his eye. Get thee to the vet!
According to Pet MD, other signs of a dog’s scratched eye or eye injury include a watery, green or yellow discharge coming from his eyes. These symptoms may indicate a foreign object trapped under the eyelid, abnormal eyelash growth, blocked tear ducts, an eyelid defect, an eye infection or allergies. In all cases, seek professional veterinarian advice. Your veterinarian will be able to treat the problem and tell you how to manage a dog with an injured eye when you take him home.
Now that the official veterinary advice on how to treat a dog’s scratched eye is behind us, here’s the real story. You searched for “dog scratched eye” – or even scratched cornea – and you may find my experience helpful.
How to Treat Scratched Eyes in Dogs
The best way to treat a dog’s scratched eye is to take him to the veterinarian. I know it’s financially and in all other ways a pain, but it’s important to take care of your dog’s eye scratch the right way. Like I said, I waited for three days before taking Georgie to the vet. I regretted it – but thankfully, she didn’t lose her eye or eyesight. I don’t think…because how would I know?
Eye scratches are extremely painful for dogs
This is important to remember, because you dog can’t tell you that a cornea scratch really really hurts! I’ve never scratched my eye, but the veterinarian said that dog eye scratches are terribly painful. How do you treat a painful eye scratch? Take your dog to the veterinarian for painkillers. Don’t give your dog baby aspirin or other painkillers unless you are 100% sure it’s safe.
One of my most popular articles is Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Dog’s Death. I’m not trying to scare or worry you! I just want you to know that feeling guilty because of a dog’s injury or death is normal – and you have somewhere to go if need be.
Watch your dog for signs of pain
Our veterinarian gave us painkillers for Georgie, and said to “take as needed.” When I asked how I know my dog is in pain because of the eye scratch, the veterinarian said dogs paw at their eyes, duck their head down, go off and sleep, and may not eat. The only thing Georgie did was paw at her eye once in awhile, but I thought that was because her eye scratch was itchy. I didn’t even know veterinarians gave painkillers for cornea scratches – I guess that’s one of the most important ways to treat a dog’s scratched eye.
Take your dog to the veterinarian
We didn’t take Georgie to the vet for three days after we saw she had an eye problem, because we thought it was a simple eye infection. We put antibiotics in her eye so it didn’t get infected, but decided to wait it out. She’s had eye infections before, without a known cause, and all the veterinarian did was give us antibiotic eye drops.
Vetericyn Ophthalmic Gel is a very popular eye ointment for dogs. It’s safe, and may help keep a dog’s scratched eye free from infection. Infection is the scariest thing about eye scratches in dogs, because an infection could cause eye loss. And that would put my dog at a serious disadvantage at the dog park!
But from this experience, I’ve learned that a dog’s eye scratch needs to be taken care of as soon as possible by a veterinarian. Dogs feel things, but can’t tell us how it feels. It’s better to be cautious, not neglectful.
Be prepared for a green eye test
I didn’t catch the name of the eye test for scratched eyes in dogs, but it consists of squirting stuff into your dog’s eye to so the veterinarian can peer inside the eyeball with a light. The stuff turns the eye lesion green, making it easy for the vet to see a dog’s eye scratch.
The last time the veterinarian did this test on our dog, there was no lesion. It was an eye infection caused by a piece of sand. The first time I took Georgie to the vet for an eye problem was a waste of a trip because it worked itself out. But, the second vet trip was valuable and necessary.
Treat your dog’s eye scratch with fresh prescription medication
Don’t give your dog old medication or antibiotics without checking with the veterinarian first. When we first adopted Georgie, a friend told me she almost never takes her dogs to the vet. She gives her dogs leftover medications, and when they’re sick she always waits for four or five days before a trip to the veterinarian. I don’t know if this is good advice…we take our dogs to vet almost every time they get sick, and the vet usually says to wait it out. Time will heal.
Ask for antibiotic eye ointment, not drops
I don’t know why our vet gave us eye drops for Georgie’ first infection, because drops are SO hard to get into a dog’s eyes! Georgie practically climbs up the wall in her attempts to get away from us. When we went back for the checkup (this wasn’t for the eye scratch, it was for the infection), the veterinarian gave us ointment. Eye ointment is WAY easier to smear on a dog’s eye than drops.
Be aware of the dangers of eye infection
Our veterinarian asked us to bring Georgie back in four days, to re-check her eye. It was fine. It took three weeks for the cornea scratch to heal, but now she’s back to normal.
How My Dog Scratched Her Eye
Georgie woke up one morning and couldn’t open one eye, like a perpetual wink. There was some discharge – not infectious discharge, just some tearing – but mostly the only symptom of an eye problem was her inability to open her eye fully.
This was the second time we had to take Georgie to the vet for an eye problem, but it was the first I’d ever heard about cornea scratches in dogs. How did my dog get a scratched eye? The day before she woke up with her eye problem, she killed a squirrel in a park. The squirrel had a wood chip stuck between its big yellow teeth – I know because I had to pick up the squirrel and take it to the garbage can (after my other dog Tiffy dragged it over to me).
I think my dog scratched her eye when that squirrel fought for its life. The squirrel was frantically scrambling around, and Georgie’s eye must have been scratched by the wood chip, or the squirrel’s claws, or even the squirrel’s teeth.
In Coping With Guilt When Your Dog Kills Squirrels, I describe my dogs’ relationship with those rascally critters. I’m not proud of how my terrier treats squirrels, but I guess it really is a jungle out there.
What is your experience with eye scratches in dogs? Your comments are welcome below….I can’t give advice for diagnosing or treating your dog’s scratched eye, of course, but you may find it helpful to share the symptoms of your dog’s eyeball injury. It can help to write about your experience – and it’ll show other readers that they’re not alone.