Eye foreign body in dogs

Foreign bodies in the eye can cause serious injuries. If your dog’s eye is closed or they are squinting, it’s usually a sign that they need to see a vet.

It may be possible for you to detect and safely remove small particles at home, find out more below.


What to do

What should you do if your dog has something stuck in their eye?

It’s important to check their eye thoroughly to determine what type of foreign body you see.

  • Make sure to rule out anything that may look sharp or abrasive. This requires a vet visit immediately.
  • If you are unable to check their eyes properly, try flushing the eye with saline. If no improvement is seen, call a vet.
  • If the object is small and soft, try flushing the eye and monitor your dog. Call a vet if the symptoms do not improve.

For more details on how to flush your dog’s eye, see the section on home treatment below.



Most common eye foreign bodies in dogs

Any dog can get anything stuck in their eye when playing outdoors or on a usual daily walk.

The most common eye foreign bodies are:

  • Usually sharp and abrasive:
    • Small piece of wood
    • Sand
    • Grass seed
    • Plastic material
  • Usually small and harmless:
    • Fur
    • Dirt
    • Plant material


When to worry

When to worry about a foreign body in the eye

Take your dog to a physical vet practice if:

  • Your dog can’t open their eye
  • Your dog is squinting or pawing at their eye and it’s not resolving after flushing
  • Your dog seems to be in pain
  • You can see a big object in the eye
  • You can see a sharp or abrasive object in the eye
  • Your dog shows sensitivity to light
  • There is swelling of the eyelids or eyeball
  • The eyes are red
  • Your dog is lethargic

Joii can help if:

  • There is a small object in the eye, such as a plant material or fur
  • Your dog is squinting but is otherwise well
  • Your dog’s eye is weeping
  • You need help learning how to flush your dog’s eye



How to prevent foreign objects in your dog’s eyes

Foreign objects usually get stuck in a dog’s eyes when they are out and about.

Be vigilant of any signs of weepy eyes, squirting or pawing at the face if your dog has been:

  • At the beach, in the woods or in the garden
  • Walking on a spring day when there is more pollen in the air



How do you know if your dog has something in their eye?

If there is something in your dog’s eye, it is unlikely that they will cry or whimper to let you know they are in pain.

Instead, they will squint the eye more than usual, keep it closed or develop a weepy eye.

  • You may need an extra pair of hands to help hold your dog still, while someone else checks the eye.
  • Ideally, take your dog to a place in the house with natural light. Close to a window or outside.
  • If this is not possible, you can try using a light source or taking them to a room in the house with good lighting, such as the kitchen.

It is not always easy to find what is bothering their eye. So if your dog does not improve or settle, call a vet.


Home treatment

How to get something out of your dog’s eye

Not all foreign bodies are easy, small or safe to get out of your dog’s eye.

Gently hold your dog’s eye open and check it. Do not use your fingers to remove it. If you can see it and it’s small, flush the eye instead:

You can use:

  • Plain saline (using a soaked cotton ball)
  • Boiled water cooled down (using a soaked cotton ball)
  • Dog eye cleaners

How to do it:

  • Flush a few drops onto the eye without touching it.
  • Repeat the process around 3-4 times, with time in between, and monitor.
  • If, in the next few hours, no improvement is seen, you should call a vet.


Vet treatment

Vet treatment for eye foreign bodies in dogs

The vet will examine the eye and look for the object. Your dog might need to be sedated if they are struggling with this exam.

To remove the object, the vet may:

  • Thoroughly flush the eye
  • Remove the object with ophthalmic clamps under anaesthesia

If the object is easily removed, no further treatment may be necessary.

If there is a suspicion of infection due to the foreign object, the vet might prescribe:

  • Antibiotics: gels, ointments, drops for the eye, oral medication

If there is any damage to the thin layer of the eye called the cornea creating an ulcer, initial treatment may include:

  • Pain medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Buster collar: to prevent further injury to the eye
  • Blood serum: applied to the eye to promote healing

More serious injuries or large objects in the eye may require surgery and general anaesthesia.



The risks of eye foreign bodies

If foreign bodies are not identified or removed, they can cause eye injuries such as:

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