What are Boxer Ulcers?
The clear outer layer of the eye, which is called the cornea, is important for protecting the eye from injury and disease, as well as for allowing light to pass through. If the cornea is damaged, usually by way of a nick or scratch, it can allow bacteria to multiply in the affected area. A damaged cornea will usually heal, but in some cases it does not. This causes the cornea to become swollen and painful, and the ulcerated area worsens. These slow healing ulcers are seen most often in older dogs, and in Boxers of any age.
How does my dog get Boxer Ulcers?
Initial irritations can be caused by trauma, eyelids that turn in or out abnormally, hairs or lashes that continuously rub on the cornea, or by an abnormally dry cornea (KCS-keratoconjunctivitis sicca).
How do I know if my dog has Boxer Ulcers?
Your dog may tear excessively, rub at his eye or squint. The white part of his eye may be reddened, and he may have a watery or mucous discharge from his eye. The normally clear cornea may have a bluish, whitish or brownish tinge, and you may see red blood vessels growing into it. You may be able to see a scratch or ulcerated area on the surface of the cornea. Your veterinarian will apply a special dye to the surface of your dog's cornea, which will help detect any defects. She will also check for underlying causes such as dry eye, in-turned lids or lashes that irritate the cornea.
What can I do about Boxer Ulcers?
The first step is to correct any underlying cause, such as irritation from lashes. Your veterinarian may remove any layers of the cornea that are not adhering properly, as removing them will promote healing. This is done with the aid of anesthetic eye drops, so your dog doesn't have to be anesthetized unless he is unmanageable. A contact lens may then be placed over the cornea. This acts as a bandage and makes the dog more comfortable. Another type of surgery done with topical anesthesia is a grid keratotomy, in which the tissue under the diseased surface has tiny scratches placed on it. If the condition still doesn't get better, surgery in which the outer layer of the cornea is removed may be required. This surgery requires general anesthesia but is almost always successful. This condition is refractory (not readily responsive to treatment) and may be very slow healing.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from getting Boxer Ulcers?
Watch for any signs that your dog's eyes are irritated. Keep hair from his eyes, and if he has in-turned lids or lashes, ask your veterinarian about correcting them. Make an eye examination part of your dog's regular physical.
Are there certain breeds that get Boxer Ulcers more often?
Boxers are the breed in which this condition is most often seen.