Eye injuries can stem from mild irritation, caused by, for example, allergies; dust; and dirt; to acute trauma, like puncture wounds and ocular proptosis.
This article focuses on acute trauma to the eye. A trauma so devestating to the eye there is the possibility of permanent disability.
Ocular proptosis - the globe is trapped in front of the eye lids, bulging, or pops out;
Penetrating injury – foreign object penetrates or punctures the eye;
Impact trauma – car accident, physical violence, fall from heights.
The following are just a few examples of how your dog’s eye could experience acute trauma:
Physical abuse trauma;
Vehicle / farming plant trauma;
Fall from height;
Running through vegetation; and
Unfortunately, trauma such as the above can be as a consequence of incredible force or impact and can therefore pose a real life-threatening risk to your dog, and the management of these life-threatening injuries will be required in addition to the management of the eye.
There are breeds which are quite susceptible to ocular proptosis and so even an incident that you may feel was minor could in fact cause the eye to dislodge; they are:
None the less, the following first aid protocols would be used whether a dog has this condition or not, it is still regarded as an acute trauma to the eye.
Because trauma to the eye can cause serious complications including increased risk of shock, infection or blindness we would be best to follow a set of protocols e.g.:
Manage – Airway, Breathing, Circulation
Stabilise - Life-threatening conditions such as spinal injury, severe bleeding, shock and any other part of the body
Protect – eye using sterile medical consumables
Secure – using appropriate bandaging techniques such as donut bandages, rolled bandages
Monitor – dog’s vital signs and respond when breathing or circulation is compromised; and
Deliver to the Vet safely
signs & symptoms
You may see the following:
Embedded / penetrated object into the eye
Trauma with severe bleeding to the face / head which is impacting the eye
Eye may be out of the socket or there could be a complete loss of the eye
Squinting or blinking rapidly; something could be in the eye or it could be scratched or punctured
Eye may appear watery, with a green or yellow discharge
Severely swollen red eye
Comparing to alternate eye pupil looks distorted;
Pawing at the eye due to pain and discomfort.
Do not attempt to remove an embedded / penetrating object.
1. Undertake Primary Assessment DRSABC
a) Check for Dangers – a danger may be that the dog has become aggressive (warning: never put a muzzle on a dog who has breathing difficulties) or dog may be in flowing traffic
b) Is your dog responding to your voice or your touch? If not, your dog may be unconscious
c) Send for help; if there is someone else in the location get them to do things like help carry dog to car or into the house, grab the first aid kit or call the Vet. They may also be able to help you restrain your dog to continue with primary assessment or administer first aid
d) Check the airway is clear i.e. look for vomit in the mouth, or other foreign objects, remove if there is
e) Check breathing (respirations) feel / watch the rise and fall of the chest – start artificial respiration if not breathing
f) Check circulation (pulse) – start CPR if no pulse
2. Undertake secondary assessment to ensure there are no life-threatening injuries, if
there are, attend to them immediately following identification
3. Administering first aid to the eye:
a) Use hand sanitiser first and then put on gloves to reduce risk of infection to dog’s eye / socket
b) Cover the eye with a clean, saline-soaked cloth / gauze
c) Place a donut bandage around the eye (not on the eye) or around the object in eye to stabilise it. Essentially you want to protect and hold the eye or object in its current place, and then secure everything using a rolled bandage
Note: If you don’t have a donut bandage or have difficulty making one, use 2 rolled bandages, one either side of eye, or object in eye, and wrap in place with rolled bandage to ensure the eye is covered and protected and the object is secure
Never touch the eye with your hands, use the saline soaked gauze only
4. If you have a cone, put it on the dog; if time permits, bandage dew claws to prevent
further damage, especially if transport to vet is delayed or you don’t have a cone
5. Keep your dog calm and quiet, talking in a soothing way; restrict pet’s movement by
wrapping in a blanket; this will also help manage shock
6. Secure in the car so your dog cannot move about; you could after wrapping in blanket,
place them in their own bed if it fits in the car
7. If you have someone to drive monitor dog’s vital signs during trip to the Vet
8. Get to vet
Canine Emergency First Aid Guide