Dog’s Eye Got Scratched by a Cat? Here’s What to Do..

Last Updated: April 12, 2023

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We've all seen those tropes about cats and dogs getting into vicious quarrels. Those depictions are pretty dated, and we now know that canines and felines can get along pretty well with proper exposure.

Many multi-species households are out there that prove these animals can coexist in perfect harmony.

All that said, fights do occur from time to time.

Your dog can agitate your cat, resulting in a swipe of the claws.

Cat scratching dogs eye

Even the most well-mannered animals will lash out if disturbed. Alternatively, your pup could come across a stray cat during a walk around the neighborhood and get into some trouble.

Either way, those brief encounters could cause severe injuries for your dog. Most are innocent enough, causing no more than a brief scare for your dog. But others can lead to scratches on the face and eye.

Dogs, being naturally curious, often lead with their nose. As a result, the face is usually the first to feel the pain of an angry cat!

So, what are you supposed to do if your dog's eye gets scratched by a cat?

Separate the Animals

What's the first thing you should do? Of course, it's separate the animals. But only do this if you can without getting caught in the middle.

An angry cat's swipe could start a more intense battle. Most cats will flee whenever a dog starts bothering them. However, felines with something to protect aren't so eager to let your dog slide.

For example, your dog could come across a mother cat with a litter of kittens to keep safe. In that case, don't be surprised if one swipe turns into an onslaught of scratches and bites!

That's not even considering how your dog will react. If you have a dog with an exceptionally high prey drive, you may have a nasty fight on your hands!

Never put yourself in the middle of a fight. 

Even if your dog is well-trained, you're putting yourself in danger. Angry animals don't have the best control, and you could end up experiencing an injury yourself.

We recommend making a loud sound or approaching them with a strong smell they dislike to distract the animals. Once you pull attention, separating them is much easier. 

Pull your dog away, and don't let the animals come near again. They both need time to cool off.

Pay Attention for Signs of Injury

If the initial shock of the scratch isn't enough to cause your dog to cry out in pain, you might not notice an injury at first. However, symptoms can begin to occur shortly after everyone has a chance to calm down.

The most obvious sign of pain your dog will exhibit is holding one eye closed. It's a natural response that even humans do when dealing with an eye injury.

Your dog might attempt to keep their eyes closed while also looking for help. It'll almost look like they're winking at you every few seconds.

That behavior usually comes with runny eyes and pawing. Some dogs will get down on the ground and start rubbing their eyes with their paw.

If you get the chance to look closer, you might notice some alarming physical changes. The membrane around the eye can become red and swollen. Meanwhile, the eye itself might begin to look blue or milky.

These symptoms are all serious, and you need to pay attention to them to determine if immediate care is necessary.

Take Your Dog to a Vet

If you have even an inkling of doubt about your dog's well-being, take them to the vet. It doesn't matter if your dog is only showing mild symptoms. It's better to be safe than sorry!

Eye issues can get progressively worse as time goes on. Getting help early can mitigate the short and long-term effects of the injury and promote quicker recovery.

Your vet is the only one who can provide safe care. There are other ocular conditions out there, and you might even see consumer-level products to improve eye health. But none of those issues are the same as a scratched eye.

Also known as a corneal ulcer or corneal laceration, scratches to the eye's surface are no joke. They can lead to all kinds of issues.

Related read: Signs your Dog is Going Blind

Luckily, standard practice vets and veterinary ophthalmologists have seen these injuries many times before. Believe it or not, eye scratches aren't as uncommon as some people think. Dogs are rowdy and rambunctious creatures.

They get into trouble pretty frequently. Everything from blades of grass to bramble thorns are capable of damaging the eye.

 Scratches from cat claws come with unique issues, but they're not the end of the world.

The key is to get your dog help as soon as possible.

Potential Problems

Let's talk a bit about what happens when a cat scratches a dog's eye.

The biggest concern here is, as mentioned before, corneal laceration. This type of injury occurs any time a sharp object scratches the outermost layer of the eye, called the cornea.

The extent of the injury can vary.

Surface-level scratches are relatively minor and can sometimes heal on their own. But in severe cases, your dog could be blinded. The cat's claw can also shed, staying in the eye well after the fight.

There are also other risks involved.

Cats can also carry diseases. A cat's claws may harbor bacteria that get into the eye. As you can imagine, infections are not pretty. They can be incredibly painful and even lead to vision loss.

Fortunately, those instances are rare. But, it's technically possible for dogs to get rabies or fall ill due to Bartonella bacteria.

Those types of injuries are rare and are most likely to occur after encountering strays.

How Vets Treat Eye Scratches

Your vet can do a lot to help your dog find relief. Typically, it all starts with an inspection.

Thorough Inspection

After bringing your dog in and talking about some of the symptoms you've noticed, the vet will perform a detailed examination of the injury.

Now, that's not always possible. Scratches to the eye are traumatic for dogs, and they often develop some anxiety during the care that follows.

If your dog isn't allowing the vet to come near, it could indicate a serious injury. As a result, your vet might recommend a local anesthetic to stop the pain and calm your dog down.

After that, vets typically use a solution called fluorescein. Fluorescein sticks to damaged corneal cells, making it easy to see the depth and severity of the injury.

Medicine and Time

After the inspection, your vet will recommend the right course of action.

The good news here is that most eye scratches won't cause any permanent damage. Your dog's body does a fine job of healing itself. All it needs is time.

Usually, vets will prescribe antibiotic drops and painkillers. Depending on your dog's behavior, they might also recommend using an Elizabethan collar to avoid additional irritation.

The antibiotics will help stop infection. Meanwhile, the painkiller makes the recovery process more manageable.

Some vets will also recommend plasma drops. The plasma comes from your dog's own blood and has natural healing properties. It can speed up the healing process and keep the injury safe.

Severe Cases

Severe scratched might call for surgery. Surgery is usually recommended if the injury doesn't heal correctly.

For example, the cornea might separate from the stroma below, turning into an indolent ulcer.

In those cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem.

Recovering from a Scratched Eye

If your dog is unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an angry cat's wrath, the recovery can be challenging.

However, most cases won't cause any vision problems in the long run. The worst thing you'll have to do is deal with your dog's newfound fear!

Keep an eye on your pup and learn to read the signs of trouble. Be proactive and avoid letting your dog get into situations where injuries like this can happen.


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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.