August 5, 2010
A number of different problems can plague the eyes of our animal companions as they begin to age. A holistic approach to eye health and the maintenance of good vision involves nutrition, homeopathics, herbal remedies and a little common sense.
The eyes have a remarkable ability to heal and repair themselves, and to generate fluids to expel foreign bodies but eye injuries can also escalate into serious infections that, if left untreated, can actually lead to blindness or severe permanent damage to the eyes, so any sign of redness, squinting, eye swelling or other indications of impaired vision such as pupil dilation in one eye only or apparent discomfort should be examined by a veterinarian. Bumping into objects and pawing at the face or running the eyes on furniture or carpets and bedding are also signs of discomfort.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, the eyes and liver are connected to one another, so most treatments for eye problems involve correcting or addressing imbalances within the liver. Herbs such as Milk Thistle and Dandelion which support liver health, can also benefit the eyes. Herbs that are beneficial for circulation, such as Ginko Biloba and Gotu Cola are also helpful for vision problems.
Celandine, a plant that grows wild in Europe and parts of the United States, has traditionally been used for a variety of eye problems including detached retinas, vision deterioration and cataracts. There have been warnings about the safety of celandine but many herbalists share the opinion that these warnings are thought by many, to be unfounded. The use of this plant should be discussed with an holistic veterinarian who’s knowledgeable about the use of medicinal and therapeutic herbs.
Eye injuries can occur as a result of scratches from plants, or debris like sand and grit entering the eye. Dogs who travel in cars with their heads right out through an open window are at an immense risk of eye injury, as well as many other perils such as the risk of death from falling. Occasionally, dog and cat fights can lead to trauma to the eye, as well.
Just as with people, excessive exposure to very strong sunlight for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to the eyes. While exposure to ample light is necessary for all round well being, shade should be provided to animals who spend prolonged periods of time outdoors, so they can have a little respite from the sun’s strong glare.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, or membrane that surrounds the eye. It can be triggered off by the presence of debris such as grit making its way into the eye, or from hairs on the face rubbing on the lens and causing irritation. Conjunctivitis can also result from a highly contagious infection of the eyes, passed from one animal to the next. It can be immensely uncomfortable, causing painful itching, irritation, as well as tearing, possible pus and tell-tale redness (hence its nickname, “Pink Eye") and inflammation of the eyes and eyelids.
Eyebright is an herb which is extremely useful for conjunctivitis, and the homeopathic remedy made form Eyebright, Euphrasia, is a wonderful option for red, inflamed and teary eyes. Argent Nit is another remedy to consider, for conjunctivitis with profuse discharge and redness. For the contagious type of conjunctivitis, immune system support is a vital component of healing. Vitamin C, rosehips and echinacea are all helpful. A saline wash can also help to soothe the eyes and reduce redness and irritation.
Cataracts are signaled by impaired vision which gets progressively worse over time and clouding by tissue that thickens the lens. Many older pets suffer with cataracts but they are not always completely problematic for the vision and can often be left without surgical intervention and instead managed with nutritional and herbal support. Cataracts can also result from eye injuries, excessive exposure to direct bright sunlight, nutritional deficiency or a genetic predisposition. Billbery extract is one of the best known herbs for eye health and is recommended by holistic vets to help improve capillary circulation to the eyes. Nat Mur is one homeopathic remedy to consider for cataracts.
Nutrition: Vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients for eye health. Vitamin C, and other antioxidants such as bioflavonoids, selenium and also zinc, are all necessary parts of the diet for maintaining the eyes in tip-top health.
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