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What You Need To Know About Corneal Ulcers In Dogs

The pug is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and if you asked anyone to describe the pug appearance, one of the key traits they would almost certainly mention in one form or another is their very prominent eyes.

However, eyes of this type, which can be found in several other dog breeds too (most of which are brachycephalic or flat-faced like the pug) do more than just producing a distinctive appearance, and also place the eyes at higher risk of certain health problems, like corneal ulcers.

If you have a dog with a flat face and prominent eyes like a pug, it is important to learn the basics of corneal ulcers in dogs and how to recognise them, and why they occur. Read on to learn more.

What is a corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is an ulcer that develops on the eye’s cornea, or the front of the eyeball. They tend to be painful and can be caused by a number of different things, but they generally appear quite suddenly and also, can worsen in their appearance and severity quite quickly too.

Corneal ulcers usually heal quite rapidly as well fortunately, but they are also at high risk for secondary problems, and most dogs will paw at their eye and often, greatly worsen things.

Without veterinary treatment, a corneal ulcer can actually result in permanent vision loss and even potentially the loss of the affected eye.

Corneal ulcers in dogs can vary in terms of their severity, from a very minor surface graze through to a much deeper scratch. Ulcers can even be deep enough to cause the eye to burst, which is just as painful and unpleasant as it sounds, and is another reason why eye ulcers in pugs and other dogs should never be ignored!

Why are pugs and other dog breeds with prominent eyes at higher risk of corneal ulcers?

The pug has a very distinctive conformation that starts with their faces; pugs are a brachycephalic dog breed, which means they have an abnormally shortened muzzle, which viewed side-on, looks flatter than the norm. This means that not only is the nose short but the eye sockets shallower and the eyes more prominent or protruding too – meaning they have a larger exposed surface area and more risk for contact with things than dogs whose nose points the way!

Damage to the eyes and foreign bodies entering the eyes are more of a risk for such dogs as a result, and these are two of the main causes of corneal ulcers in dogs, which places the pug and other dogs with prominent eyes at higher risk.


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What causes corneal ulcers in dogs?

Corneal ulcers in pugs and other dogs can be caused by a number of different things, most commonly an injury to the eye itself. This is why pugs and other breeds with prominent eyes and usually, flat faces are at higher risk for corneal ulcers; their eyes protrude more and so are at higher risk of injury.

Chronically dry eyes can also result in corneal ulcers, as can foreign bodies becoming trapped in the eyes, like a particle of grit or sand that irritates and scratches the eye’s surface.

Bacterial and viral eye infections like conjunctivitis can cause eye ulcers too, and eyelashes or eyelids that tilt inwards and rub the eye (something else that is more common in flat faced dogs with prominent eyes) also increase the risks.

How would I know if my dog had a corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer might be obvious as a score, hole or crater visible in the eye, but this is by no means always the case.

Other signs a dog has a corneal ulcer include redness, soreness and inflammation of the eye, giving it a bloodshot appearance.

They might also paw at their eye or keep trying to rub it on surfaces as it’s annoying them.

They might squint more than is normal with that eye, and avoid bright lights or appear to find them painful. The eye may even appear cloudy, and might well be running or weeping.

Can corneal ulcers in pugs be treated?

There are a few approaches to treating a corneal ulcer in the pug or other dogs with prominent eyes, which will depend on how severe the problem is and the right approach for the situation.

The first thing is that a buster collar will be used to stop the dog pawing their eye and worsening the issue, and then your vet will likely prescribe antibiotic eye drops or potentially atropine eye drops to help the eye to heal. 

Antibiotics and pain medications may be indicated in some cases too, and you’ll be advised to monitor your dog’s affected eye carefully to ensure the ulcer doesn’t worsen, or if the eye doesn’t heal within a normal timeframe.

Further injury or severe ulcers, including those that are very deep or do not respond to treatment, may require debridement or even surgery.


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