Chemosis And Conjunctivitis in Dogs And Cats

Chemosis is a term that describes swelling of the conjunctiva. Conjunctiva is the clear tissue that surrounds and protects the globe (eyeball).

Conjunctivitis, then, is inflammation of the conjunctiva. While “conjunctivitis” is often misused to be synonymous with “pinkeye,” the terms are not interchangeable. “Pinkeye” is a nonspecific term used by laymen and physicians alike to specifically describe an infectious and highly contagious condition of people’s eyes. I say “nonspecific” because eyes are often “pink” without being infected with the organism that causes pinkeye.

Chemosis can occur on any eye that is inflamed. Indeed, the cardinal signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, pain and loss of function.

Eyes can become inflamed for a number of reasons including infection, allergic reaction, exposure to caustic or acidic materials, trauma and mechanical irritation such as foreign body.

Ollie has chemosis in both eyes but it is less evident in this, the left eye.

Ollie has chemosis in both eyes but it is less evident in this, the left eye.

It is not unusual for more than one of these conditions to exist at the same time. For example, Ollie, pictured at left, has chemosis, conjunctivitis and infection. His case probably started with pollen and dust instigating either mechanical irritation or allergic reaction or both. Irritation made the eyes more susceptible to infection, which then became even more inflamed.

It was probably at this point that chemosis began.

After a thorough examination of Ollie we instilled fluorescein stain to determine whether the cornea(s) were damaged. In cases of damaged cornea certain medications must be avoided because their use can lead to blindness.  This is yet another reason to avoid using medication prescribed for a different pet or different condition.

Chemosis is the extreme swelling Ollie has in the conjunctiva of the right eye

Chemosis is the extreme swelling Ollie has in the conjunctiva of the right eye

Fortunately, Ollie’s corneas are still intact and we were able to use medication for infection that also contains an antiinflammatory ingredient. Choosing this particular medication will give Ollie quick relief from the swelling, discomfort and itchiness associated with conjunctivitis.

As this is also a painful condition we used an oral antiinflammatory/pain medication that will aid in giving Ollie relief.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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