Foreign Bodies – Eye

Foreign Bodies – Eye

Foreign Bodies – Eye:  If a dog has runny/watery eyes, is pawing at the eye or rubbing his head on the ground, it might be that there is something in the eye – be that dust, debris, a grass seed or some other type of foreign body.  I have even seen a tick attached to the eyeball!  The first thing to do is have a good look and see if you can determine exactly what is going on and if there is anything in the eye that shouldn’t be there.


Facing a window or good light source, stand behind the dog with him seated between your feet (we use the exact same position when we want to check inside the mouth, perhaps if the dog is choking for example or has something stuck in his teeth).  Put one hand under his muzzle/chin and tilt his head backwards so you can see clearly into his eyes.

If your dog is of a small breed, then simply do this kneeling down, again with your legs apart from behind him.  Be it standing or kneeling, this position prevents him escaping backwards when you are examining him.


the position to be in when you are about to check inside your dog's mouth in the case of choking or if you suspect damage to the mouth, something wedged in the roof of the mouth or perhaps damage to a tooth. This position will help you to control the dog in a first aid situation when administering canine first aid. Remember to get the dog used to practicing this position so they dont freak out when you need it for real.
Position yourself to check the mouth

Remember, if your dog is frightened or in pain and you think there is any chance at all that he will snap at you, it may be safer all round to apply a muzzle before you start.  In this position it is relatively easy to hold open the eyelid and look for grit or grass seeds, although you may require “another pair of hands” if you have a particularly wriggly customer!

Try floating out loose debris with eye drops, mild saline solution (salt water) or even olive oil as none of these fluids will irritate the eye ball.

If you can see the seed or foreign body lying towards the corner of the eye, you may be able to lift it off using the corner of a moistened tissue.

Do not attempt to remove foreign objects that have penetrated the eyeball, but seek veterinary assistance without delay.  If for example there is a splinter sticking in the eye, or perhaps as mentioned above, a tick has managed to burrow its head into the eyeball itself or into the eyelid, please do not try to deal with this yourself.  You MUSST get professional help.  We only get one pair of eyes so any injury of this nature should be treated as an emergency.

Tick in the Eye Photo by Unicorn Vets Fairfield
Tick in the Eye
Photo by Unicorn Vets Fairfield

If the eye is damaged or you can see something in it, keep the dog’s head as still as possible, preferably with the dog lying down.  If he will let you, its best to keep the eyes covered or at the very least in the dark as this will minimise the amount of movement the eyes make.  Each time the eyeball moves, you run the risk of further damage from the foreign body so the more stable we can keep the head and the eye, the better it will be.

Remember, eyes work in pairs so if the undamaged eye moves, the poorly one will move also, so its always best to try to cover both eyes so long as doing so doesn’t cause the dog any further stress or discomfort.

N.B. ensure you DO NOT press on the eyes while covering them as we do not want to force any debris or foreign body further into the eye or make the situation worse.