A wink, a blink and a nod are not good signs

Published 4:02 pm Monday, September 19, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

As humans, we can wink at friends or someone we would like to have as a friend. We can blink to try and clear debris from our eyes or convey a sense of confusion. Also, we can nod to say hello or to agree with someone.

These are all things we can do because we have knowledge of human behavior and non-verbal communication, whether we know it or not.

Our pets do not have that same knowledge. They respond only to the things they experience. For that reason, if you see them winking, blinking and/or nodding, there is probably something wrong.

Corneal ulcers are one of the more common reasons for pets to have to wink and blink uncontrollably. A corneal ulcer may also cause them to appear to nod as they try rubbing their eye on their legs, the floor or furniture. The cornea is the clear part of the eye that allows light to pass into the lens to create a visual image. It is like a clear lens cover on a camera. A corneal ulcer is a break in the outer layer of the cornea. An ulcer in the cornea is very painful.

There are many situations that can lead to a corneal ulcer. Debris stuck in the eye, hair growing the wrong way, abnormal eyelids that roll in toward the eye and running into objects are just a few of the common ways. The list can include anything that allows some form of abnormal contact with the eye.

Identification of a corneal ulcer is performed by use of corneal stain. The stain, when placed in the eye, causes the inner layers of the cornea to become colored. If the cornea is normal the stain just rinses out and no color remains on the eye.

Once an ulcer has been identified, topical medication can be used to help it heal. It is important to use the proper medication. Two main forms of eye medications exist. One type is an antibiotic only. The other also contains a form of steroid. In the case of corneal ulcers, only the antibiotic form should be used. Steroids cause corneal ulcers to heal much slower, if at all. If your pet is winking, blinking and nodding, have its eyes checked. The sooner a corneal ulcer is identified, the better the chances it will heal well.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.