Pet Corner: Pet Eye Problems

Herbs for pets’ eyes

| November/December 2002

  • Herbal remedies are very effective for mild eye infections in pets.
    Photo courtesy of K. Erickson

Fom the perspective of a holistic practitioner, the eyes are much more than a functional mechanism that creates images on the brain. An animal’s eyes function as indicators of their inner health—collectively, they are one of the primary indicator organs, and at the risk of waxing far too poetic here, they are the open windows to an animal’s spirit and soul.

Native Americans talk about the plants they believe are “sentinels,” and organic farmers speak of “indicator” plants. Sentinel plants are those some Native Americans believe were sent by the Great Spirit to scout out an area of the earth that has been previously disturbed by man, to see if it is safe for future plants to set root there. An example of an indicator plant is mullein (Verbascum spp.), a healing weed that grows in proliferation in areas recently bulldozed.

Eyes as signs of illness

As sentinels, runny or red eyes are often the first noticeable symptom of an oncoming illness, and the severity of the illness may be projected onto the eyes by the amount and character of the ocular symptoms.

Runny or red eyes are often the first noticeable symptom of an oncoming illness, and the severity of the illness may be projected onto the eyes by the amount and character of the ocular symptoms.

The eyes may reflect or indicate disease conditions in other parts of the body. For example, many generalized diseases (canine distemper is just one example) cause secondary ocular symptoms. Upper-respiratory problems may cause tearing of the eyes, and infections of the nose (rhinitis) may extend into eyes and sinuses surrounding them. Autoimmune conditions may be implicated in eye problems, and genetic flaws can also contribute (a genetic lack of tear ducts, for example). Tumors can locate in the eyes and surrounding tissues. And, cataracts—whether caused by metabolic problems (such as diabetes) or as a result of old-age changes—will cause gradual loss of sight and possibly tearing and/or redness.

Finally, the eyes have become my main way to assess the current status of an animal’s spirit. An animal in pain looks at you through eyes that don’t quite have the vitality or feel-good spirit seen in a healthy animal—I try to describe them as “foggy” or “not-quite-in-focus.” And, when an animal is in the process of its final journey, you know those final steps are imminent when you look into an animal’s eyes and nothing seems to be there.



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