Dog Eye Problems

Our Cocker Spaniels can sometimes develop dog eye problems which if left untreated could seriously affect their eyesight and subsequently their health. Learn more about canine eye problems and how to spot the symptoms.

Common Eye Problems In Cocker Spaniels

There are several conditions that can affect our pet's eyes during his lifetime. Some are hereditary and others may be caused by dust, pollens, poor hygiene, or bacteria.

Our cocker spaniel's eyesight is precious so it's important to understand what dog eye problems may affect him.

What follows is a list of common eye problems in dogs, and in particular, those specific to our Cocker Spaniels.


Glaucoma is a condition where there is an abnormal increase in pressure inside the eye.

A normal healthy eye produces a clear fluid (aqueous humor) which nourishes and maintains the shape of the eye.

Whilst the eye produces and drains this fluid (thus maintaining the correct pressure, keeping the eye healthy) if there is a problem with drainage, the pressure inside the eye is increased and can cause enlargement of the eyeball and eventual blindness.

Symptoms include: pain, red eyes, sensitivity to light, protruding eyeball.

Treatment can involve temporary medicines or surgery depending on the type of Glaucoma (primary or secondary), but your dog may still eventually lose his eyesight despite treatment.

Dog Eye Problems: Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the membrane connecting the eyelid to the eyeball (conjunctiva), which can become irritated if he has an allergy to pollens or grasses, or from infections caused by bacteria, fungi or a virus.

It's one of the most common dog eye problems and can cause a lot of pain for your pet.

Where the white part of the eye is also inflamed, it is sometimes known as 'pink eye'. Apart from redness and swelling of the eyelid, symptoms include weeping of the eye, or a yellowish-green discharge.

Your dog may rub his affected eye on carpets or with his paw for relief.

Conjunctivitis caused by an allergy isn't contagious, however, if it's caused by infection it may be contagious to other dogs so it's important to be really strict about hygiene to avoid passing this on to other dogs, especially if you have other pets in your household.

Your vet may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment depending on whether the problem is the result of an allergy or an infection.

The bacteria that causes conjunctivitis in dogs is not the same as the one that affects humans, so dogs can't pass conjunctivitis on to humans.

Dog Eye Problems: Entropion

Entropion is a condition where your dog's bottom eyelid rolls inward, resulting in eyelashes and hair rubbing against the eyeball which can cause considerable irritation.

This condition can be present in both eyes at the same time.

Entropion can be hereditary in which case it usually develops before the puppy reaches 6 months (and is usually treated with surgery) but it may also be congenital; ie., present at birth.

Eye Problems In Dogs: Distichiasis

Buff American cocker spaniel sitting, big brown eyes

Distichiasis is a condition where abnormal hair (Distichia) grows from the oil glands of the dog's eyelid and can cause irritation on the eyeball - ouch!

If the dog's hair is fine and soft there may be no visible symptoms; however where there is irritation, your dog's eyes may become red and/or inflamed and he may squint or try to rub his eyes with his paws to relieve the irritation.

There are several treatments available for Distichiasis and which one your vet chooses will depend on the severity of the dog eye problem.

The abnormal eyelashes may be removed manually, by surgery, or by using a form of electrolysis.

Surgery may be followed up with a course of antibiotics to prevent infection and to help clear up any ulcers or infection caused by the distichiasis.

Dog Eye Problems: Ectopic Cilia

Ectopic Cilia is similar to Distichiasis but, instead, the hair grows from the inner surface of the eyelid.

This also can be very painful for your dog and can cause corneal ulcers.

Dog eye problems can manifest as squinting, tearing or discharge, ulceration, clouding of the cornea and your Cocker may paw at his eyes in an attempt at relief from the irritation.

This condition may be treated in the same way as for Distichiasis.

Dog Eye Problems - Eyelid Tumours (Cancers)

Eyelid tumors are usually found in middle-aged to older dogs and can be treated successfully with surgery; however if the tumor isn't removed while it's small, it can grow large and destroy the eyelid.

Conjunctivitis and discharge are common in dogs with growing eyelid tumors.

Dog Eye Problems - Cataracts

A cataract causes the eye to become cloudy in appearance and can seriously affect your pet's eyesight. If left untreated it will lead to blindness; however cataracts can be removed quite successfully by surgery.

A cataract in one eye only may be caused by a physical trauma, but cataracts in both eyes is usually a hereditary problem and is often seen in Cocker Spaniels.

It's important therefore, when buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy, to check that there isn't any history of cataracts in either parents or their grandparents.

Learn more about dog cataracts.

Prolapsed Third Eyelid Gland - PTEG

PTEG is also often referred to as 'Cherry Eye'.

Your Cocker Spaniel has a third eyelid which protects his eyeball. This third eyelid also contains a tear gland and 'Cherry Eye' is where the tear gland bursts out of its normal position and appears in the inside corner of the eye as a red swelling.

Black n tan cocker spaniel puppy held in hand - isn't he wonderful?

If your Cocker Spaniel is unlucky enough to develop PTEG, your vet will probably recommend surgery to suture the gland in place. After surgery however, your dog may be at risk of developing a dry eye problem.

Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dry eye (also known as KCS) is a condition where your pet's eyes don't produce enough tears to lubricate the eyeball and his eyes become dry and irritated as a result.

Dry eyes can lead to infections, injured corneas and in serious cases, blindness.

Symptoms include, redness and obvious irritation, squinting, lack-luster eyes, dislike of light, and discharge.

KCS can usually be treated with antibiotics and corticosteroids.

Lenticular or Nuclear Sclerosis

Lenticular or Nuclear Sclerosis is an age-related condition in our dog's eyes.

As our Cockers grow older the lenses of their eyes can become hardened and turn a cloudy blue-grey which can look very similar to a cataract.

This condition requires no treatment and probably won't affect your pet's eyesight until the very late stages, by which time his eyesight would probably have deteriorated to that point due to old age anyway.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This is an inherited dog eye problem to which Cocker Spaniels may be prone and which can lead to eventual blindness.

Early symptoms include dilated pupils, night blindness and difficulty in low light.

Your dog may display a hesitancy to walking down steps or stairs, and his eyes may look like they're glowing or shining. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for progressive retinal atrophy.

Dog Eye Problems: Summary

As you can see from the above there are many potential eye problems in dogs, that's why it's important to check our Cocker Spaniel's eyes regularly so that we may spot the signs of any problems early on, before they have a chance to worsen.

Cute, buff colored, cocker spaniel puppy with big brown eyes

So many pet owners wait a few day (or more) to see if the symptoms clear or they feel they don't want to 'bother' the vet with something that appears fairly minor.

Unfortunately that's a big mistake.

It's really important that your pet sees his vet as soon as you notice any problems with his eyes; prompt diagnosis and treatment is vital where eye health care is concerned.

If we can spot the signs of any problems early, before they escalate, we'll be able to minimize any discomfort for your pet but also keep any damage to his eyes to an absolute minimum.

› Dog Eye Problems

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