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Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

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The cornea is the front part of the eye. It is usually very smooth and clear but sometimes ulcers can form . An ulcer is a disintegration of the surface layer of cells which leads to an open sore that heals slowly. 

The cause of the disease is not always known, but the commonest are :

Breed Occurrence
There is increased likelihood of trauma-induced ulcers forming in dogs with eyes that protrude from the head - pekingese, pugs, and recurrent ulcers are seen in Boxers and Pembroke Corgis and develop in older dogs.

Corneal ulcers are painful and cause :


Severe ulcers can lead to exposure of underlying tissues and even rupture of the eyeball ---which is very serious. 

Also, chronic infection at the site can really delay healing and lead to infection and inflammation of other parts of the eye ..such as the iris.

Most ulcers can easily be seen by shining a light across the front surface of the eye . If not, a sterile dye (eg fluorescein - administered by touching an impregnated strip to the surface of the eye) can be put into the eye and it is taken up by the ulcer.

The surface of the eye is especially sensitive and great care is needed not to damage adjacent normal tissues. 

The underlying cause must be treated if it is known eg remove foreign objects caught behind the eyelids.

Sterile lubrications applied to the surface of the eye may help reduce frictional damage

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent infection. 

Collagenase inhibitors (eg acetylcysteine) and antiprotease drugs (eg polysulfated glycosaminoglycans) have been used .

Unfortunately, some ulcers do not heal well and further treatment may be needed to stimulate healing. Commonly used methods include :

  • surgical removal of dead cells by scraping 
  • cautery of the ulcer carefully using phenol or iodine solution 
  • protection of the surface of the eye by using a 3rd eyelid flap 
  • the use of tissue adhesives (corneal glue- butylanoacrylate)
  • conjunctival grafts or flaps
  • corneal grafts
  • corticosteroids are only used when excessive healing tissue (granulation tissue) forms

If the organism pseudomonas is present treatment is an emergency with antibiotic gentamicin and an anticollagenase drug  (eg acetylcystein)

Good for most ulcers,  but can be poor for the most severe ulcers, or when infection affects the whole eye, in which case removal is necessary.

Long term problems
Scarring of the cornea following healing (appears white).


Updated October 2013