Dog Eye Infection: Causes and Treatments

a dog eye could get infected and here's how to deal with it

The make-up of their retinas means dogs can see better in the dark than we can. They also have better motion visibility than us. Their eyes are precious commodities that pet owners need to be mindful of.

Dog eye infections are often not only painful but can also spread leading to impaired vision and even eye loss if not treated. Find out about conjunctivitis in dogs and other dog eye infections as we lift the lid on the signs to look for.

What Are Common Types of Dog Eye Infection?

There are so many potential causes of dog eye infections that it often makes sense to consult a vet for a diagnosis. You may have concerns if your pet displays discomfort, redness, and sensitivity to light. Typical eye infections include:

  • Conjunctivitis, also referred to as pink eye or red eye
  • Inflammation of the cornea
  • Uveitis, an inflammation in the interior portion of the eye
  • Abnormalities in the tear glands and the eyelids

You’ll usually be able to spot some discharge in your dogs’ eyes if there’s something amiss. More often than not, it won’t be anything to worry about. 

When the discharge is clear, the likelihood is that there’s an allergy or physical cause at play. Your dog may simply have some dust or an eyelash in their eye. Strong wind in their faces may also make their eyes water.  

Problems may arise if you see a yellowy-green or pus-like discharge from the eye. This is the moment when you may wish to consult a vet.

 What Are the Causes of Eye Infections in Dogs?

There’s a wide variety of factors that can lie behind an eye infection. Common causes of eye infections include:

  • Certain viruses like herpes, hepatitis, distemper, and canine flu
  • Types of bacteria and tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease
  • Fungi and parasites
  • Irritants such as soap products or smoke
  • A trauma or scratch on the cornea

Other conditions can cause symptoms that resemble an eye infection. These include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Tear duct problems, more likely in Cocker Spaniels and Poodles
  • Dry eye, poisoning, or vitamin deficiency
  • Eyelid abnormalities such as cherry eye when a dog’s 3rd eyelid protrudes

Conjunctivitis can be a secondary infection to some of these conditions.

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What Are the Likely Symptoms of Eye Infections in Dogs?

If your dog has an eye infection like conjunctivitis, you may notice a variety of symptoms. The longer you leave an infection untreated, the worse it is likely to get. Signs can include:

  • Keeping the eye closed or squinting and blinking
  • Redness in and around the eye along with swelling
  • A thick discharge with an unpleasant smell
  • Watery discharge, sensitivity to light and pawing of the eye

A dog with conjunctivitis will display most of these symptoms. The infection can affect both eyes or just one of them. A nasal discharge, sneezing, or coughing can be simultaneous symptoms depending on the cause of conjunctivitis.

Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to Eye Infections?

Flat-faced dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and Pekingese tend to get more eye discharge compared to other breeds. This is because their flatter faces can mean shallower eye sockets and eyes that protrude more.

Dogs with more prominent eyes can also acquire tear drainage problems. They can have eyelids that roll inward causing irritation from the lashes. Occasionally their lids may not shut fully over their eyes, a condition that might need surgery.

Breeds with loose facial skin such as Saint Bernards, Cocker Spaniels, Bloodhounds, and some terriers are more prone to eyelids that roll outward along with cherry eye. Although antibiotics and steroids may help, sometimes surgery is necessary to fix these conditions.

How Do Vets Diagnose Eye Infections?

When you take your dog to the vet, their eye examination may consist of these kinds of tests:

  • A Schirmer Tear Test to measure tear production if there’s redness or discharge
  • Visual examination with a focal light source on the eyelids and front half of the eye
  • Intraocular pressure (IOP) measurement for signs of glaucoma
  • Special eye drops for examining the back of the eye
  • Corneal staining to reveal ulcers or other breaks on the surface of the cornea
  • Bacterial culture and allergy tests

How Do You Treat a Dog Eye Infection?

The type of treatment for your dog’s eye infection will depend on its underlying cause. It might mean a course of both topical and oral medications including antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs. More serious cases might require surgery. Here are some common issues and treatments:

  • Bacterial infections: antibiotics and eye drops
  • Foreign bodies: removal by a vet sometimes with the dog under sedation
  • Blocked tear ducts: surgery, eye drops and antibiotics
  • Dry eye: a prescribed medication to stimulate tear production
  • Eyelid or eyelash abnormalities: surgery

Tips for Applying Your Dog’s Eye Medication

Treatment for eye problems can sometimes mean using eye drops or ointments. You should first clean away any discharge around your dog’s eyes with warm water and a cotton ball.

When applying eye drops or ointment, tilt your pet’s head back a little. Rest one hand on your dog’s head to avoid hitting their eye with the dropper or applicator should they move. Then, squeeze the drops or ointment into the upper part of your dog’s eye.

Always gently open and close the lids a few times to help spread the medication evenly.

How Do I Prevent Dog Eye Infections?

There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of your dog picking up an eye infection or getting foreign bodies in their eyes.

For example, keep windows at least partially closed when driving. Trim the hair around the eye to prevent it from irritating the eyeball and keep your dog’s face clean. In certain situations, you may want to use specialist goggles for dogs.

Always ensure you keep potential irritants such as shampoos, soaps, and flea medicine away from your dog’s eyes. Look out for signals that might mean there’s an eye problem, such as pawing, redness, rubbing and squinting.

When in Doubt, Contact a Vet!

If you have any concerns about your dog’s eye infection, you should always seek the help of a vet. We have a team of qualified vets on standby to talk you through any issues and offer you advice. Get in touch with us now and find out how we can help.

We have a range of other useful articles in our blog section. Find out more here about some of the more common eye problems dogs can experience.

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