Dog eye problems are a concern for all owners. As with humans, the eye is the most sensitive area of the body and is prone to a wide range of issues, all of which can affect vision. While dogs tend to rely more on their sense of smell as a rule, vision is still extremely important, particularly for working and active breeds like the Australian Shepherd. As such it is extremely important that you pay attention to your dog's eyes and ensure that they remain healthy throughout his life.
You can easily check to see if your dog is showing any signs of eye trouble. Simply take a good look at your dog in bright light and pay close attention to the condition of his eyes. Healthy eyes should be clear and bright with a distinct white area around the pupil. The pupils themselves should be equal in size and there shouldn't be any tearing or discharge in the corners of the eyes.
Some breeds are prone to have excess discharge and crusting around the eyes, which can be gently cleaned away with a damp cotton ball, moving away from the corner of the eye. Never swipe close to the eyeball itself as you could accidentally scratch the cornea. If your dog's eyes are running and crusting up regularly you should see your vet as that could be a sign of more serious dog eye problems.
While examining your dog's eyes you should also gently roll down the lower lid with your thumb and check the lining. Healthy lining should be pink and not red or white. Other warning signs to look out for include tear-stained fur, closed eyes, cloudiness or a change in eye color, a visible third eyelid, or unequal pupil sizes.
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Aside from wiping away discharge or crust, you should also carefully trim the fur around the eyes in order to avoid dog eye problems caused by long hairs poking or scratching at the eyeball. Soapy water, flea control products, bugs, and dirt can all be irritants and should be avoided. As much as he may like it, you also shouldn't let your dog ride in the car with his head out the window as the wind can dry his eyes.
Some breeds are prone to specific problems, so you should always research your dog's breed and be aware of which problems he is more likely to face. For Aussies the most common eye problem is cataracts, though they can also be susceptible to Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), iris coloboma, or persistent pupillary membrane (PPM). Since CEA, iris coloboma, and PPM are all present from birth it is important for Aussie's to have their eyes regularly checked from puppyhood.
Fortunately, most dog eye problems can be easily diagnosed and while they may not all be treatable, your vet can help you to deal with the effects and maintain your dog's quality of life. Dogs seem to easily adapt to vision loss but anything you can do to curb eye problems before they reach that level is certainly recommended. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the better your dog's chances of returning to full health.
As a responsible dog owner you need to stay on top of any potential health issues that could strike your pet. That is particularly true when it comes to maintaining your dog's vision. You wouldn't take any chances with your own eyes so why would you be careless with your four-legged friend? Take care of his eyes and help him to live a long, healthy life with good vision!
For more information about Aussie health issues see the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute (ASHGI).