Basic First Aid – Flushing Eyes

Below is some advice for dealing with minor complaints at home. You should contact us if you have an emergency with your pet such as difficulty breathing, moderate-severe bleeding, collapse, broken bones, seizures, eye injuries or head injuries.

Always assess the situation for any safety hazards before assisting your pet- do not put yourself in danger.

Flushing eyes

For most eye injuries, it is recommended that you seek veterinary care as even minor injuries can lead to loss of vision. However, there are steps you can carry out at home to provide first aid or treat simple problems (such as dirt in the eyes).

Reasons for flushing eyes:

Foreign body removal (foreign bodies are objects that shouldn’t be in the eye, such as grit and dirt), first aid treatment of chemical contact (e.g. cleaning chemicals), to remove excess discharge, or to soothe sore eyes caused by pollutants such as smoke.

Signs and symptoms of an ocular foreign body:

Your pet may squint, blink excessively, close one eye or avoid bright lights. Some pets may vocalise in pain. There may be redness present around the eye.

Method for removing small, non-penetrating ocular foreign bodies:

If you have any sterile saline eye solution at home, this is ideal. Alternatively, tepid tap water is fine to use.

An eye bath is handy to use if you have one, or a sports drinking bottle will provide a steady stream to flush your pet’s eye with. Be careful not to apply too much pressure.

You may need a second person to help restrain your pet. You should gently use a thumb to open the upper eyelid and then the lower eyelid to try to visualise the foreign body. If you visualise the foreign body and it is not penetrating the eye, it is safe to start flushing. Flush with the tepid water or saline solution for at least 10 minutes. Check your pet’s eye again for the presence of the foreign body. If it is still present, or your pet still appears to be in a lot of discomfort, you should seek veterinary advice.

In the event of chemical contact, the above should be followed and then veterinary treatment should be sought immediately. If possible, keep the bottle containing the chemical to show to your vet.

When to call the vet:

  • The eye has prolapsed (this is where the eye has slipped from the socket. This commonly presents as bulging or complete displacement, and is usually as a result of trauma. Breeds with shallow eye sockets such as pugs and peckingese dogs are more prone to this).
  • There is a penetrating foreign body in the eye (the object is embedded into the eye itself – this is often caused by items such as splinters and grass seeds).
  • There is a visible injury to the eye
  • There is swelling around the eye
  • The eye has had contact with a chemical
  • There is discharge present- such as pus
  • The pet appears to be in discomfort, despite flushing using the method above