Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Eye: examination

Synonym(s): Ophthalmic examination

Contributor(s): David Gould, Claudia Hartley


  • Remember that the eye is not an isolated organ. Many ophthalmic conditions are actually manifestations of systemic diseases. For this reason, prior to performing an ophthalmic examination it is important to take an accurate history and perform a general clinical examination, particularly if the history or clinical signs suggest the possibility of systemic disease.
  • Similarly, both eyes should undergo a thorough eye examination. Whilst this may sound obvious, failure to examine both eyes is a surprisingly common omission, especially in patients presenting with dramatic, apparently uniocular clinical signs.

Key points to remember

  • A step-by-step approach will ensure that the examination proceeds in a logical manner, and will minimize the risk of missing abnormalities. Work from outside to inside, anterior to posterior.
  • The eye is an unforgiving organ; if you are uncertain of the diagnosis or unconfident about how best to treat the condition, seek advice or arrange referral. For many ophthalmic conditions, early diagnosis and prompt, appropriate treatment is vital to reduce the risk of permanent blindness Blindness or irreparable pathology.

Holding the patient for ophthalmic examination

  • Restraint should be minimal. It is important not to distort the eyelids when assessing signs of ocular pain, the ability to blink and eyelid conformation. If a deep corneal ulcer Persistent corneal erosions is present it is vital not to stress the animal or to increase its intra-ocular pressure by compressing the jugular veins. Support the patient below the jaw. Do not scruff or put pressure on the neck.
    Print off the owner factsheet on Eye examination  Eye examination to give to your client.


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Protocol for ophthalmic examination

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Ollivier F J, Plummer C E, Barrie K P (2007) Ophthalmic examination and diagnostics. In: Veterinary Ophthalmology. 4th edn. Ed KN Gelatt. Blackwell Publishing, Iowa, USA pp 438-483.
  • Mould J R B (2003) Ophthalmic examination. In: BSAVA Manual of Ophthalmology. 2nd edn. Eds S Petersen-Jones, S Crispin. BSAVA Publications, Gloucs, UK, pp 1-12.