Dog Eye Infection: Types & Treatment

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 to find the root cause of your dog’s eye discharge and potential infection.

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.

Always talk to a veterinarian to determine the root issue causing your dog’s eye discharge. Some issues can result in loss of vision or the eye if untreated, such as conjunctivitis which can produce symptoms such as mucus, puss or a watery eye.

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:

  • Allergies
  • Bacterial infections, such as canine brucellosis, leptospirosis, and tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease and canine ehrlichiosis
  • Breed/Genetics
  • Foreign objects/materials (such as dirt, grass seed, or pet hair)
  • Fungus
  • Glaucoma
  • Injuries or trauma to the eye or surrounding areas
  • Irritants (such as debris, smoke, chemicals or other substances) in the eye
  • Parasites
  • 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)
  • Glaucoma
  • Poisoning
  • Tear duct problems (most commonly found Poodles and Cocker Spaniels)
  • Tumors
  • 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, inc