Eyes are extraordinarily delicate and tender organs. Any injury or mishap to them should be examined promptly by a veterinary surgeon. Until this can be done, several measures to increase the chances of full recovery without impairment of vision can be taken.
1. Scratches from cats or thorns
These are the commonest form of injury. The main danger with these scratches is that secondary infection will subsequently occur, resulting in an ulceration of the clear wall of the eye-ball, known as the cornea. Today, penicillin is often used to prevent this, and your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise whether this should or should not be used. The best course for the owner when the injury is found, is to bathe the eye gently with boiled water at about blood heat, using a little cotton wool. Do not try to wipe the actual surface of the eye with wool, but swamp or flush the eye-ball with the water. This eye bath may have added to it a little boracic powder, about 1 salt spoonful to 4 pint of water. Do not use any antiseptic or disinfectant for any eye dressing.
After bathing gently, wipe the surrounding hair and eyelids dry with a little clean cotton wool. Then a few drops of warmed castor oil should be dropped or poured into the eye. This oil will have a soothing action and will protect by a thin film the delicate surface of the eye. Pure castor oil should be used, not a substitute.
2. Foreign bodies in eyes
These are comparatively rare in dogs but when they do occur can cause acute irritation.
Sometimes a dog gets a fragment of straw or sawdust in his eye, and in the summer grass seeds and barley haws can cause very serious trouble. Their possible presence is indicated by the dog having one or both eyes tightly shut. There is a profuse watery discharge. Sometimes the lids are swollen, and the dog will rub and paw at its eye.
The eyelids must be separated and the surface carefully examined, the eyelids being turned back gently. Often the foreign body is quite obvious and is readily removable by forceps used with the very greatest care, but sometimes nothing can be seen. If it is impossible to detect the cause of the trouble veterinary advice must be sought at once. When the foreign body appears to be closely adherent to the corneal surface no attempt should be made to remove it with forceps, although a few drops of warm castor oil will sometimes loosen it effectively. Eye lotions should not be used as these may wash the foreign body further in. If castor oil is unsuccessful, veterinary assistance should be obtained as neglect can result in permanent damage to the eye.
3. Extrusion of the eye-ball
This condition is confined to the exophthalmic type of dog, i.e., those with prominent eyes, such as Pekinese, King Charles Spaniels, etc. In such breeds the condition is not at all rare. The more rapidly the case can be seen and treated by a veterinary surgeon, the better. Delay results in a swelling of the eye-ball itself and of the tissues of the orbital cavity, resulting in the eye-ball tending to protrude again if replaced. Delay can make replacement impossible. If this should become the case total surgical removal of the eye is the only course.
A few minutes spent protecting the eye from damage, however, is not time wasted; indeed, in some cases it is essential. Castor oil should be used liberally, moistening the whole of the eye with it. This helps to keep the eye-ball moist and supple. A pad of cottonwool or gauze soaked in the oil may be gently placed over the eye while the animal is being taken to the surgery. Remember that the eye-ball is very prone to bruising and injury; therefore always use great gentleness.
1. Always treat cases of eye injury with great care.
2. Avoid touching the eye-ball at all when bathing, i.e., flush rather than wipe.
3. Never use antiseptics in or near the eyes.
4. Boiled water cooled to blood heat is the safest eye-wash.
5. Pure castor oil is undoubtedly the most useful first-aid dressing.