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Causes of Hypopyon in Dogs

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If you have never heard about hypopyon in dogs, rest assured, you are not alone. This condition is not as common as other medical conditions in dogs; however, chances are, if you are looking for information about hypopyon, most likely your vet has diagnosed your dog with this condition, or you casually stumbled on this term when searching information about a recent eye problem affecting your dog. Hypopyon usually affects only one eye and it would be quite unusual to affect both eyes. As with other eye problems affecting dogs, it's always important seeking veterinary attention as soon as possible so to prevent complications.

hypoypon in dogs

Hypopyon in Dogs

So you casually gaze in the eyes of your dog one day when you notice something that doesn't appear quite right. Your dog's eye, just overnight, started to appear yellowish, cloudy or opaque.

More often, this change is noticeable in dogs with lighter colored eyes, such as huskies; versus dogs with darker brown eyes. When you see your vet for this problem, your vet tells you that you are likely dealing with a case of hypopyon, but what exactly is hypopyon in dogs?

Hypopyon is the accumulation of inflammatory cells in the anterior chamber of the dog's eye, explains DJ Haeussler, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

The anterior chamber is basically the space located just behind the cornea and in front of the lens. This condition rarely occurs as a result of infectious causes, but more commonly is caused by corneal ulcers, ocular abscesses, uveitis (inflammation of the iris and its attachments), eye tumors and systemic illnesses.

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What happens exactly is that, when inflammation affects the dog's iris and ciliary body, blood vessels leak white blood cells and protein into the anterior chamber of the dog's eye so to fight the inflammation. Because hyopyon can be indicative of serious underlying disorders and can progress to glaucoma, it's important to see the vet sooner than later.

hypopyon picture dog

Signs of Trouble

In hypopyon, the yellow of the eyes appears on the colored portion of the eye, often the lower edge of the iris due to gravity, and should not be confused with jaundice, the yellowing of the white portions of the eyes, skin or gums that can be indicative of a liver issue. Hypopyon, should also not be confused with the buildup of fatty deposits in the eye.

Other than a change in the appearance of the dog's eyes, affected dogs may exhibit signs such suggestive of ocular pain such as rubbing the eye with the paws, blinking and squinting, and also, reduced vision, a blood shot eye, constricted pupil, pus-like discharge from the eye and sometimes swollen eyelids.

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If you notice any of these signs, see your vet at once as several underlying causes of hypoypon in dogs can lead to vision loss if they are allowed to progress and are not treated in a timely manner.

At the Vet's Office

dog eye exam

Your vet will carefully examine your dog's eye with an opthalmoscope and may run several eye tests such as measuring the fluid pressure in the eye, a procedure known as tonometry and fluorescein staining, another test which helps evaluate whether there are ulcers on the surface of the cornea.

For challenging cases or if specialized testing equipment is needed, the vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Other testing that may be carried out to determine if there are any systemic conditions affecting the body that can spread to the eye may include blood tests such as complete blood count, chemistry profile and urinalysis.

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Treatment may vary based on the vet's findings. Generally, antibiotic eye drops and antibiotics to be taken by mouth internally are prescribed if there is the presence of an ulcer on the eye. If there is an inflammatory condition such as uveitis, the vet may prescribe steroid eye drops ( eg. topical ophthalmic prednisolone acetate 1 percent) and sometimes oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

While steroids given by mouth can help reduce inflammation in the eye, it's very important that they are not prescribed if there are ulcers on the cornea or systemic infections. Usually, use of oral steroids are only suitable in those rare cases when dogs do not respond to other medications.


  • Pet Place: Hypopyon in Dogs
  • Clinicians's Brief: Image Gallery: Hypopyon in Dogs
  • Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, edited by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith, Jr.

Photo Credits:

Hypopyon – leukocytic exudate in the anterior chamber of the eye. EyeMD (Rakesh Ahuja, M.D.). - Own work. CC BY-SA 2.5

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