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Examination of the Eyes

Dr. Lila Miller, D.V.M., ASPCA Sr. Director Animal Sciences and Vet Advisor


The Basic Health Examination
Examination of the Eyes

First, Simply Look at the Eyes

They should be clear and bright, with no signs of cloudiness over the lens or discharges from the inner corner.

Some breeds naturally have a clear ocular discharge from the eyes, which is considered normal. Some of these breeds include Poodles, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Persian cats, for example. Dobermans frequently have a purulent or pussy discharge in the comer of their eyes, which is also considered normal. Learn the breed differences to avoid mistakes.


Purulent discharges- infectious, systemic disease, local infection
Cloudy eyes- cataracts, superficial eye injuries, nuclear sclerosis
Globe too small, sunken in head- dehydration, congenital defect
Enlarged globe- trauma, glaucoma
Eyelids turned in and rubbing on orbit is called entropion
Eyelids droopy and sagging is called ectropion

Look at and Examine the Third Eyelid

This is best described as a thin film located in the inner comer of each eye. Under normal conditions it is not visible. In order to examine it, press gently on the eyelid over the eyeball, and it will appear.


If is apparent on visual inspection, it may be an indication of non-specific illness in cats
Swelling- “cherry eye” or hypertrophy enlargement of the -land of the third eyelid

Examine Both Eyes

Examine the mucus membranes and whites of the eyes.

The lower eyelid can be pulled down gently to expose the mucus membranes, which should be pinkish white.

The upper lid should be raised to examine the membranes and the white of the actual eye itself.


White membranes- anemia from worms, diseases like feline leukemia or other blood loss problems
Yellow membranes-known as “jaundice”- indicative of liver disease, pancreatitis
Blood in whites of eyes- head trauma

Test the pupillary light reflexes In a room with normal light, shine a penlight in the eye to see if the pupils constrict, or get smaller.


Central nervous system problems

Test the menace reflex (only in friendly, confident animals)

Make a slight, sudden gesture with your hand towards the animal’s face from the side near its eyes to elicit a withdrawal of its head away from the gesture


Central nervous system problems, blindness

© 2000 ASPCA

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