Just like people, dogs are prone to different types of eye infections. As a pet owner, it’s important to know not only the causes, but the signs of eye infection in dogs. If you notice your fur baby is exhibiting certain symptoms (such as redness, discomfort, discharge or even light sensitivity), it’s imperative to contact your veterinarian right away.
If left untreated, your pooch is at risk of different health conditions, including vision loss. This article will provide you with an overview of signs and symptoms to be aware of in your beloved pet, as well as causes, treatments, and follow-up protocols to adhere to once your dog has been seen by a veterinarian.
Types of Dog Eye Infection
One of the most common types of eye problems in dogs is known as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Not unlike the symptoms people experience, this condition refers to an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin mucous membrane covering the front of your dog’s eyes, as well as the lining of the inner surface of his eyelids. Bacterial infections are typically the main culprit for episodes of pink eye, although other preexisting health issues can also be at play.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye)
A condition that is exemplified by an inadequate production of tears, your dog will experience chronic dry eyes, which may result in corneal damage. Another health risk is developing ulcers (sores) on the eye. In certain cases, chronic infections may occur, requiring long-term treatment.
Corneal Infection or Ulcer (Keratitis)
There are many different reasons why your dog may experience inflammation in the cornea, the outer lining of the eye area. Keratitis refers to inflammation of the cornea, and there are two distinct types: noninfectious keratitis, which can be caused by a minor injury, and infectious keratitis, which may be caused by a variety of factors (including bacteria, viruses, parasites or even a fungal infection).
The infection occurs when the cornea is scratched or your dog is suffering from another form of disease such as dry eye or pannus. It is imperative to treat the infection immediately, as a resulting canine corneal ulcer may occur and consequently rupture the eye globe, which would require eye removal.
Abnormalities in the eyelids and tear glands/ducts
There are a variety of reasons for abnormalities in your dog’s eyes, some of which may be due to genetic factors, breed, or underlying health conditions/diseases and related issues.
An inflammation in the interior portion of your dog’s eye, which is composed of the iris, ciliary body (a round structure located behind the iris), and the choroid (tissues behind the iris). Symptoms may include redness of the eye, a cloudy appearance, or blood on the inside of the eyes. You may also note your dog shows a sensitivity to light.
Common causes include viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, protozoal and rickettsial causes, as well as infectious diseases such as leptospirosis or blastomycosis. If not treated right away, this condition can lead to blindness.
Causes of Dog Eye Problems: Identifying The Symptoms
There are a number of factors that may be responsible for causing your dog’s eye infection. Knowing how to recognize and identify the tell-tale signs is integral in providing treatment and care for your beloved pet, primarily if he’s suffering from a serious condition. If you suspect any of the following, be sure to contact your vet promptly to schedule an examination.
Possible causes of canine eye infection:
- Bacterial infections, such as canine brucellosis, leptospirosis, and tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease and canine ehrlichiosis
- Foreign objects/materials (such as dirt, grass seed, or pet hair)
- Injuries or trauma to the eye or surrounding areas
- Irritants (such as debris, smoke, chemicals or other substances) in the eye
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Scratches, abrasions or a cut on the cornea
- Ulcer/keratitis or corneal infection
- Underlying health conditions
- Viruses (such as the herpes, distemper, canine influenza and hepatitis)
There are also other health problems that can appear to be an eye infection, including the following conditions and health issues:
- Dry eye
- Eyelid abnormalities, such as cherry eye (a condition where the dog’s third eyelid protrudes) and entropion (i.e., when the eyelid rolls in and irritates the surface of the eyeball)
- Tear duct problems (most commonly found Poodles and Cocker Spaniels)
- Vitamin deficiencies
Symptoms of Dog Eye Infections: Knowing What to Look For
There are certain signs you should be aware of as a dog owner if you believe your dog is suffering from an eye infection. If you know your dog has preexisting health issues, such as allergies, genetic disposition, or is prone to infections, it’s especially crucial to keep track of his eye health to ensure his vision isn’t compromised by anything that exacerbates his condition.
A certain degree of moisture in your dog’s eyes is normal, and you will know what is considered ‘normal’ for your pet – for example, some breeds, such as Bloodhounds, tend to have red, watery eyes all the time. Checking your dog’s eyes on a regular basis can help to determine if your dog is simply rubbing sleep from his eyes or if he is actually dealing with an infection.
Canine Eye Infection Symptoms:
- Redness, swelling or inflammation in the eyes
- Blinking constantly or rapidly
- Holding one eye closed
- Sensitivity to light
- Pawing or rubbing at the eye
- Squinting or an apparent difficulty in seeing
- Watery, crusty, or thick, smelly discharge, or unusual drainage from eyes
How Your Vet Diagnoses Your Dog’s Eye Infection: What to Expect
When it’s time to bring your dog to the veterinarian, you can expect an examination not unlike the ones your pup’s human counterparts experience. His exam may include some of the following tests:
- Allergy tests: Your vet may run a series of bloodwork and other tests to determine if your pooch suffers from allergies.
- Bacterial culture: Your dog’s physician may take fluid samples or a swab to check for bacteria or the presence of other forms of infection.
- Blood/urine tests: One of the most common methods of checking for infection or illness is determined by a blood and urine analysis.
- Corneal staining: Using a specialized fluorescein dye, your vet may administer this specific method of testing to reveal if there are ulcers present or other breaks in the surface of your dog’s cornea.
- Eye dilation: Utilizing special eye drops will allow your vet to examine the back of your dog’s eyes, including the condition of the retina, optic nerve and the reflectivity of the tapetum, a thin layer of tissue in the canine eye that reflects light and enables night vision.
- Ophthalmoscope: If your vet suspects canine uveitis, he will use an instrument known as an ophthalmoscope to make a definitive diagnosis. Once an infection is identified, he may choose to run blood/urine tests to help rule out infectious organisms as potential catalysts.
- Measuring intraocular pressure (IOP): Using an instrument called a tonometer, your vet will measure your dog’s IOP to look for symptoms of glaucoma.
- Schirmer Tear Test: This specific test measures your dog’s tear production and will be conducted when signs of redness or discharge are apparent.
- Focal light source: Your vet may conduct a visual examination utilizing a focal light source to illuminate and explore the eyelids and front half of the eye.
Managing Eye Infections in Dogs: Developing A Treatment Plan
Canine eye infections may become chronic or result in permanent damage (including blindness or even eye loss) if not treated immediately. Below is a list of helpful guidelines to adhere to when managing your dog’s condition and recovery:
Following Your Vet’s Instructions
When it comes to caring for your dog after an eye infection has been diagnosed, it’s crucial to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully. He or she will help you develop a course of treatment that may involve administering prescription medications such as ointments, antibiotics, eye drops and other topical treatments.
Be sure to ask questions if you have any apprehension with regard to the course of treatment, and never skip dosages, stop a course of treatment unless indicated, or give your dog any prescription medication unless specifically prescribed by your vet. In addition, never use over-the-counter eye drops (such as Visine) designed for people, as you will be doing your dog more harm than good.
Based on the source of your pooch’s ailment, your vet will treat your dog accordingly. For example, if he suffers from allergies, he may suggest a change in his diet or encourage supplements to support his immune system and overall health. In the case of more serious underlying conditions, such as a tumor or autoimmune disease, your vet will advise you as to the next steps of treatment.
Dog Eye Infection Treatments for Specific Conditions Include:
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) Treatment: If your dog is diagnosed with pink eye, your vet will commonly prescribe medicated antibiotic eye drops to treat his condition. They are usually administered several times daily.
In addition, your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics to treat the underlying cause; if it is an allergy, he will be treated with allergy meds. Your vet may also suggest other ways to expedite the healing process, including compresses and other solutions that will help make your dog more comfortable.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca Treatment: If your dog suffers from this condition, your vet may prescribe artificial tears (specially-formulated eye drops designed to mimic natural tears), as well as anti-inflammatory eye drops and canine tear stimulants. He may also write a prescription for oral anti-inflammatory medications.
Uveitis Treatment: In the case of uveitis, your vet will typically prescribe glucocorticoid steroid eye drops along with a course of oral steroids (i.e., in pill form).
Dog Keratitis (Corneal Ulcer) Treatment: Dogs who are undergoing keratitis may be prescribed a variety of treatments, including topical antibiotics. If your dog displays signs of pain, your vet may also prescribe medication to ease his suffering.
Homeopathic Dog Eye Support: Considering The Natural Approach
For pet lovers who prefer to take a natural approach, there are many homeopathic remedies that may be worth considering for minor canine eye infections. While they may not be a ‘cure’ for serious illness or infection, they can make a great addition to your dog’s health regiment.
Once you’ve checked with your veterinarian, you may want to explore the following homeopathic treatments to support your dog’s overall eye health while acting as a dose of prevention.
Some commonly-found ingredients in homeopathic canine supplements include:
- Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary): Recognized for its antiseptic and disinfectant qualities, this pain-relieving herb also boasts inflammatory benefits.
- Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet): This powerful herb possesses a wealth of benefits, including astringent, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It is known for calming and healing infections of the eyes, particularly conjunctivitis.
- Chelidonium majus: Used primarily to boost the immune system, this analgesic herb acts as a pain killer while combating infection and sharpening sight.
- Arctium lappa (Burdock): This herb is known for its excellent detoxifying properties, cleansing and eliminating unwanted toxins from the body.
Looking Ahead: Preventing Canine Eye Infections
In addition to proper rest, diet, and a healthy active lifestyle, there are certain things you can do to protect your dog against future eye infections:
- Try to avoid any type of trauma to your dog’s eyes: protect him from foreign objects, substances, chemicals or other environmental elements that may cause irritation. An easy way to protect your pooch is to keep the windows closed when you’re driving, as dust, pollution, seeds and other debris can easily fly into his eye when the breeze blows into your vehicle.
- Make an effort to keep your dog’s face clean and free from dust, dirt, and debris.
- If your dog is undergoing treatment that requires topical ointments, your vet may suggest a cone to prevent him from licking or scratching at his eyes. In any circumstance where eye infections are present, cones (also known as Elizabethan collars or E-collars) are beneficial in the healing process. There are also protective goggles specially designed for dogs that may be an option worth considering.
- Good grooming habits are also essential in maintaining your dog’s eye health: be sure to trim hair overgrown or bushy hair around the eyes so that it won’t irritate the eyeball. If you’re not comfortable doing so, be sure to have your dog regularly groomed by a professional.
- “Discharge From a Dog’s Eyes.” WebMD, Accessed 18 Feb. 2017. www.pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-discharge-from-eye#1.
“All about Canine Eye Care.” Cesar’s Way, 29 Mar. 2017, Accessed 18 Feb. 2017. www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/eye-care/all-about-canine-eye-care.
- “5 Types of Dog Eye Discharge (and What They Mean).” PetMD, Accessed 18 Feb. 2017. www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/5-types-dog-eye-discharge-and-what-they-mean.
- Grill, Jeff. “Dog Eye Infection Symptoms, Pictures, and Treatment Advice.” Dog Health Guide, Accessed 18 Feb. 2017. www.dog-health-guide.org/dogeyeinfection.html.
- “Dog Eye Infections: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment – American Kennel Club.” American Kennel Club, 14 Apr. 2015, Accessed 18 Feb. 2017. www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-eye-infections/.