1. Flush the eye with a sterile eye wash or tap water using a syringe. This is often enough to dislodge a foreign body.
  2. If it cannot be dislodged, apply copious amounts of a sterile water based eye lubricant or gel, then repeat the flush.
  3. Inspect the eye with a light to ensure that the foreign body is removed.
  4. If the eye remains irritated, place an Elizabethan collar to prevent self-trauma to the eye. It is possible that a corneal ulcer has developed or that a foreign body remains.
  5. Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.


Foreign bodies are often found on the outer layer of the eye (the cornea) or in the tissues lining the eye socket and eyelids (conjunctiva). These can be highly irritating and may damage the cornea directly, leading to a corneal ulcer or indirectly as animals may injure the cornea pawing at or rubbing the eye to remove the foreign body.


  • Spasming of the eyelids (blepharospasm), winking or squinting
  • Protrusion or swelling of the third eyelids
  • Cloudiness over eye
  • There may be a visible corneal ulcer
  • Rubbing or pawing at eye
  • Ocular discharge (may be water, mucus or pus)


The most common foreign bodies that affect the eye include plant material, grass seeds and dirt and dust particles


Your veterinarian will examine the eye and may apply a topical local anaesthetic. This facilitates thorough inspection of the conjunctival pockets and under the third eyelid, where foreign bodies may be hiding.

Some foreign bodies become lodged in the cornea. If this occurs, anaesthesia and a minor incision into the eye may be required.

Where necessary affected eyes are treated as for corneal ulcers.


Mandell DC (2000) Ophthalmic emergencies. Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice 15(2):94-100.