Downeast Dog News

Does my pet need an eye doctor?

By Dr. Cory Mosunic, Portland Veterinary Specialists | Oct 01, 2018

One common question veterinarians hear from owners is: “How can I tell if my pet is having an eye problem?” Dr. Cory Mosunic, a veterinary ophthalmologist at Portland Veterinary Specialists, says she is often asked this question. Many of the people that ask this question are shocked to know that animals suffer from many of the same ocular ailments that people do, such as glaucoma, cataracts, corneal ulcers, and retinal disease. One concern of pet owners is that they may miss signs that their pet can’t see or their pet may have ocular discomfort that they cannot recognize. Typically, owners are very in tune to their pet and often the signs are noted because their pet’s behavior and activity changes. Here are some other signs that your pet may need to see a board certified ophthalmologist.


- Is your pet hesitant to walk up and down stairs or jump on furniture?

- Does your pet bump into objects or startle easily?

- Is your pet more hesitant to navigate in dimly lit conditions?

- Does your pet avoid bright light or squint?

- Is there drainage or discharge from the eyes?

- Does your pet rub or squint its eyes?

- Is there any swelling of the eyelids?

- Does your pet’s eye have a cloudy or bulging appearance?

- Is there redness on the surface or the white of the eye?


Change in appearance or color of the eye could be a sign that the eye needs to be evaluated and should not be overlooked. Typically, the sooner the eye is evaluated, the better chance to preserve vision and your pet’s overall health. Eye health can also be an indication of your pet’s overall systemic health. Some diseases that affect the whole body will first present with symptoms in the eye before showing symptoms in other areas of the body. The eye is very sensitive and can react far earlier than the rest of the body. Diseases such as infection, tick borne disease (Lyme disease), and cancers in the body can first present with inflammation inside the eye. This is called uveitis. The eye typically has increased discharge, squinting, redness, or a cloudy appearance. In cases of uveitis, not only does your pet require a complete ophthalmic examination and ocular treatment, but often requires other diagnostic tests, such as blood work, to identify an underlying disease.


If your pet seems to be having difficulty seeing, it could be due to a variety of reasons. Many ocular diseases that affect your pet’s vision are due to breed related genetic diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, or retina disease. Many of these diseases are able to be treated with either medications or surgery to restore vision. Even though your pet can’t read an eye chart, an ophthalmic examination can be performed to determine how well your pet can see. Sophisticated instrumentation has been developed to be used on animals in order to perform a complete ophthalmic examination just as you would receive at your ophthalmologist. Similar to human ophthalmologists, Dr. Mosunic is able to surgically remove cataracts and perform laser retinal reattachment surgery.


As your pet’s caregiver, you know your pet best. If you are noting a change to your pet’s eyes or changes in its behavior, have its eyes examined by an ophthalmologist. Your quick action could save your pet’s vision or even its life. As the old adage goes, “The eyes are truly the windows to the soul.”