My dog’s eyes are red – What should i do?

Our dog’s eyes can become red and irritated just like ours can. And, just like us, sometimes it goes away on its own, and sometimes it doesn’t.

You ignore it once but notice later that the redness isn’t going away. 

What could be the cause behind your dog’s red eyes? Here’s your answer:

There can be many reasons why your dog’s eyes appear red, irritation, allergy, injury, conjunctivitis, dry eyes, or even glaucoma. Some of these causes are serious and need treatment by a qualified veterinarian, and some are treatable at home. But which is which?

But what are these conditions? Are they dangerous? And can they be treated at home?

Read on to find out.

Reasons for red eyes in dogs

There can be many reasons why your dog’s eyes are red; some of them will heal independently, while others could require immediate treatment or even surgery. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of red eyes in dogs:

1. Irritation

Red eyes due to irritation are a common occurrence in dogs. Particles in the air can get stuck inside your dog’s eyes and irritate the mucous membrane. Aside from red eyes, irritation can also cause your dog’s eyes to tear. Some irritants that can cause this condition are:

  • Dirt
  • Smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Fleas

How to treat irritation?

In most cases, your dog’s tear ducts will clear the irritation by themselves. Excessive tearing is the body’s response to eliminate the irritant from the eye. If the redness persists after a whole day, you could clean your dog’s eye with a saline solution or eyewash but only do so under the supervision of your vet. If you aren’t comfortable doing the cleaning yourself, have your vet do it. 

Because irritants are so common in the atmosphere, the best way to prevent irritation is to keep them away from your dog. Try to dust your house regularly and abstain from smoking near your dog. If your dog has fleas, ticks, or dust mites, give them a bath using a flea shampoo with a good brushing afterward.

2. Allergies

Allergies exist in dogs too, and they’re more common than you think. Most dogs are allergic to the same elements that cause allergies in humans! Whenever your dog consumes or comes in contact with an allergen, one of the first symptoms they develop are red, swollen eyes, itchiness, and skin rashes. Here is a list of some common allergens:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Perfumes and fragrances
  • Certain ingredients
  • Dander

How to treat allergies?

The best treatment for allergies in dogs is prevention. For that, you need to know what causes your dog’s allergies. Take your dog to the vet for an allergy test to see whether the allergen is in the environment or your dog’s food. 

If your dog is experiencing serious symptoms due to the allergy, your veterinarian might prescribe anti-allergy medication to use in such scenarios.

If your dog is allergic to something in its diet, your vet will provide you with alternative dog food options. 

Since allergens are everywhere, you will have to take measures to clean your house. For pollen, dander, and dust allergies, you will need to vacuum your home regularly. Alternatively, you could install an air purification system to remove pollen and irritants from the atmosphere.

3. Eye injury

When dogs are playing, they often get poked by objects. Sometimes, these objects can scratch your dog’s cornea or sclera, causing redness and swelling in the eyeball and sometimes in the tissue surrounding the eyelid.

One way to distinguish eye injury from allergies and irritation is to notice whether the redness is in one eye or both, as injuries usually occur in a single eye. With injuries, your dog may paw at their eye, squint, or tear excessively. 

How to treat eye injuries?

Because it is difficult to recognize the severity of an eye injury, it’s best to take your dog to the vet. They will do a proper examination and check for any foreign objects that are stuck inside the eye. Some veterinarians will also conduct a dye test to identify any scratches or damage on the cornea or sclera. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, your vet will prescribe some eye drops and ointments so your dog’s eye can heal properly. Your vet will show you how to properly apply the ointment if you’ve never done it before. And no matter what happens, don’t try to remove an object from your dog’s eye on your own. 

4. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is fairly common in humans and dogs alike. It occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites, or environmental elements like pollen and dust enter the eye. 

These irritants cause the pink mucous membrane inside their eyelid, called the conjunctiva, to become inflamed or infected. As a result, the eyelid swells up, and their eyes become red. Most dogs will also have discharge from their eyes and will have trouble keeping them open.

How to treat eye conjunctivitis?

The only treatment for conjunctivitis is taking your dog to the vet. They will properly examine your dog’s eye and see whether it’s infected or not. You will likely have to rinse the infected eye with a saline solution for a couple of weeks. In case of an infection, your vet will prescribe some antibiotics or antifungal ointment as well. Fortunately, conjunctivitis isn’t usually a cause of concern and can fully heal in 2 to 3 weeks with proper care. 

5. Dry Eye

Although dogs can develop dry eyes from time to time, some canines suffer a more permanent form of this disorder called Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS. This condition restricts the ability of the tear glands to produce enough moisture to keep the eyes lubricated. As a result, your dog’s eyes become extremely dry, itchy, and red.

Some dogs may also develop cloudy and dull eyes over time due to the condition. Since the eyes have no moisture left to eliminate irritants, your dog will also develop infections more frequently. In some cases, corneal ulcers may also form due to dry eyes. 

KCS is particularly common in breeds such as the American Cocker Spaniel, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Schnauzers, White Terriers, and Bulldogs. The condition can be very painful and irritating to dogs and require treatment as early as possible to prevent permanent damage to the eyes.

How to treat eye dry eyes?

Unfortunately, most cases of dry eye are due to a permanent disability and require lifelong treatment. Take your dog to the vet so you can determine the cause of dry eyes and treat it accordingly. Sometimes, the dog’s immune system suppresses the ability of the tear glands to produce moisture. In other cases, the tear glands become inactive due to nerve damage or side effects from certain drugs.

Your veterinarian will examine how much of the tear glands are functioning properly and then decide the next course of action. Treatment usually involves eye drops to keep the eyeball lubricated and changes in medication or diet if necessary.

6. Glaucoma

Although most people have only heard humans having glaucoma, dogs too can suffer from this condition. Glaucoma is comparatively more alarming than other causes as it can lead to complete blindness if left untreated. 

The effects of this condition are the same as in humans as it causes an excessive buildup of fluid and pressure inside the eyeball. Because of that, the affected eyeball becomes larger and develops a red appearance, particularly in the white portion of the eye. Other signs of glaucoma include swollen eyelids, cloudy appearance, excessive tearing, and dilated or enlarged pupils. 

Although glaucoma can affect just about any breed, it is more common in Cocker Spaniels, Terriers, Shih Tzu, Greyhounds, and Basset Hounds. Some dogs may also suffer from inhibited vision and partial vision loss due to glaucoma. 

How to treat glaucoma?

While there are treatments for glaucoma, it’s crucial to catch it early on. The condition can develop in as little as a few hours to over several years. If you’re lucky, your dog will only require laser surgery and some medication to correct the excess fluid buildup and swelling. But if glaucoma has done permanent damage to your dog’s eye, your vet might even have to remove the eyeball surgically.

7. Corneal Ulcers

While trauma can occur anywhere on the eyeball, injury to the cornea is called a corneal ulcer. The cornea is the protective membrane covering the colored section of the eye called the iris. 

When some foreign object scratches or lacerates this membrane, it can allow bacteria to enter and infect the eye. Without proper treatment, the infection can permanently damage the cornea leading to vision loss. Dogs that develop corneal ulcers will also show symptoms like redness, discharge, and squinting. 

How to treat corneal ulcers?

A corneal ulcer needs to be looked at by a vet to prevent permanent damage to the eye. Depending on the severity of the trauma, your vet will prescribe some antibiotic eye drop to prevent infections. 

Your dog might also need to wear an Elizabeth collar, so they cannot scratch their eye as it heals. If the damage is too serious, your vet could also put a lens over the cornea to prevent it from further harm. 

8. Uveitis

Unlike other disorders, uveitis is a slightly rare but more dangerous condition that affects more than one part of the eye. It occurs due to inflammation in the middle layers of the eyeball, which causes the white of your dog’s eye to become very red. 

Apart from bloodshot eyes, the condition may also cause cloudiness and sensitivity to light, because of which most dogs will keep their eyes shut or squinted. The pupil also usually constricts, and some dogs experience bleeding inside the eye.

There is no direct cause of uveitis as it usually occurs due to internal infections caused by viruses, fungus, bacteria, or parasites. Other causes of uveitis include diabetes, high blood pressure, or even cancers and tumors inside the eye. Uveitis needs immediate veterinary attention as it can lead to partial or complete blindness without treatment.

How to treat uveitis?

Since there are so many origins of this condition, it’s best to get your dog checked by a veterinarian immediately. Your vet will perform a complete eye test and blood test to determine the root cause of the condition. 

If caught on time, your dog will only need a few oral medicines to treat the disease. But if the situation is worse, your dog might need an antibiotic drop or even surgery to correct the damage.

FAQ’s

How can you take care of your dog’s eyes?

Clean the corners of your dog’s eyes regularly with gentle wipes or a damp piece of tissue to remove any discharge. Perform a visual inspection of their eyes for signs of swelling or redness.

Can you treat red eyes in dogs at home?

Yes, red eyes in dogs can be treated at home but should only be tended after receiving a diagnosis from your vet. Using the wrong medication or testing random remedies can result in further damage or even blindness in the worst-case scenario.

Can you use human eye drops for dogs?

No. Human eye drops are not intended for use in dogs, and they can damage your dog’s eyes.

Should you flush your dog’s eyes with a saline solution?

Yes, flushing your dog’s eyes with a saline solution can help with treating eye allergies and irritations. However, we do not recommend it if you’ve never washed your dog’s eyes before or are unable to diagnose the issue causing redness. 

What are the signs of a dog going blind?

Some common signs that indicate your dog is going blind include cloudy eyes, white spots on the eye, difficulty navigating or using the stairs. Dogs that are slowly going blind also become more anxious and hesitant in new or dark places.

Can you put Visine in your dog’s eyes?

No, Visine is not approved for pet use and can increase swelling and redness. Never use any medication or eye drops to treat your dog’s eyes without a prescription or permission from your vet.

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