Vet Minute: Neonatal Ophthalmia- Puppy and Kitten Eye InfectionsLast updated: July 22, 2020
Puppy swollen eyes or kitten puffy eyes, need immediate attention. In this Vet Minute, Revival's Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, talks about neonatal ophthalmia which are kitten and puppy eye infections that occur before the newborns eyes are open.
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Video TranscriptShelley: Time for a Vet Minute with Revival's Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer. Dr. Greer the question is about neonatal ophthalmia in puppies. What is it, what causes it and what should I do if a newborn puppy has this eye infection?
Dr. Greer: Sure. And it can happen in kittens too, so I don't want to feel like the little kitties are left out. It's just we see more of this in puppies than we do in kittens. So, neonatal ophthalmia is a genuine ophthalmic emergency, one of the few that we see in puppies and kittens. And what happens is bacteria gets behind the eyelid before the eyes are open at around 10-14 days of age and it causes an infectious process back there. The concern is that unless we get the eyelids open and the infection under control, that we can have permanent vision loss as a result. We've actually seen in some puppies where both eyes are affected and the puppy is officially blind for the rest of its life and there is nothing we can do because of the damage done under two weeks of age. So if the eyelids aren't open by 14 days you should talk to your veterinarian about getting them open or you should work on this yourself. We frequently see this in litter situations where the female has had mastitis or metritis which is an infection of the uterus or some other bacterial exposure in the whelping box. The literature says that this happens in unsanitary conditions, but I will tell you, every single time I've seen this in a litter it's someone that has a very clean house, a very clean whelping box and I don't think that we can say that it is uniformly unsanitary. I think it's uniformly some other bacterial exposure that has happened in the environment of the very young puppy. The noticing thing that you'll see is that the eyelid, one or both, will start to bulge on a puppy so it will look a little bit puffy and then it will look a lot bulgy. And this requires immediate opening of the eyelids. Now you can do this yourself with a warm compress across the puppies eyelid and then some gentle traction with a dry gauze or a dry terry to gently pry the eyelids open. If you can't do it yourself for whatever reason, either it's something you don't care to do or you'd prefer to have a veterinarian do it, of course that's important that you go in and have this done immediately. This is not something that should wait through the weekend. You want to get the eyelids open as quickly as you possibly can, then we use warm compresses to keep them open, and then a topical antibiotic eye drop or eye ointment in the eye as well as an oral antibiotic. So it's really important that this gets done, it's pretty noticeable and if I see this in even one puppy or one kitten in a litter, I'll go through and open all the eyelids because frequently we will find two or three other eyes that were early in the development and they just weren't noticeable enough to be swollen yet. So it's really important that as soon as you see any kind of puffiness or swelling behind those lids, you get those lids open. You will not cause damage to the puppies or kittens vision by opening the eyelids prematurely. There is no harm in that. There is a lot of harm in leaving them closed, either for longer than two weeks because that's when they normally should be open or as soon as you see any kind of swelling behind the eyelids. So don't wait, this is an emergency.
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 35+ years' experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She's served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services since 2019.
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