Contact Lenses for Your Dog?

Veterinarians foresee medical benefits in them.

By | Posted: Thu Nov 21 00:00:00 PST 2002

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Some veterinarians still use human contact lenses because the high-water-content lenses can mold to a dog's eye. As more veterinarians become familiar with the benefits of TSCLs, their use in treating corneal disease is increasing.

Dogs' corneas become injured most often by trauma, such as a cat scratch; a foreign body, such as the bristle on plant material; chemicals or infection. Genetic conditions, such as entropion, in which eyelids roll inward and rub on the eye, and abnormal eyelashes called distichia that dig into the cornea may result in secondary corneal damage.

Since the cornea has no blood supply, it doesn't bleed when injured, and special eye stains are often needed to detect damage on the transparent surface. A corneal wound may look like a linear cut or more commonly a circular defect, termed an ulcer. Corneal injuries are especially painful, and a dog usually damages the eye by rubbing it. If scarring occurs, vision may be affected.

Traditional treatment of corneal injuries consists of antibiotics administered frequently into the eye and a procedure called a "third eyelid flap," in which the membrana nictitans (third eyelid) is sutured over the eye to protect it while it heals. Drawbacks include temporarily blinding the dog in that eye and preventing inspection of the eye during treatment because the third eyelid flap covers the entire eye. The procedure also requires g eneral anesthesia, which can be costly or risky in an older patient.

TSCLs, in contrast, can often be applied using only a topical anesthetic, and the dog is able to see through the clear lens. "A primary advantage is that it allows the veterinarian to evaluate the eye and assess the healing process," Dr. Glaze said.

"The lenses also decrease pain for the animal, because the eyelids are not rubbing over the injured eye surface," added Paul Dice, DVM, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists in specialty practice in Seattle. The lenses also may allow the eye to heal faster and with less scarring.

The lenses can be soaked in medications, such as antibiotics, providing an initial sustained-release effect. A TSCL is typically worn for five to seven days, often with an Elizabethan collar to prevent the dog's rubbing it out. If needed, the lens may be removed, cleaned and sterilized, and reinserted. The cost of the lens averages $30 to $40, and the major disadvantage is the lens can be losta fact human contact lens wearers know too well.

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