Types of Puppy Eye Infections

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Eye infections in dogs are very common, especially puppies who haven’t built a strong immune system. But don’t worry, if you treat the infection promptly and effectively, your furry friend should make a full recovery. The source of discomfort and symptoms usually manifests in the conjunctiva, which is the tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the front of the eyeball. This article will cover some of the causes, types of infections, common treatments, and more.

Types of Puppy Eye Infections

Uveitis – This type of infection occurs inside your dog’s eye. It’s typically characterized by redness, cloudiness, sensitivity to light, or blood spots in the eye. It can be brought on by fungus, parasites, bacteria, or rickettsial infections. If not treated promptly, it can lead to permanent blindness.

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Keratitis – Keratitis refers to inflammation of the cornea. There are two types. One is a non-infectious, which is usually prompted by a scratching of the cornea due to a recent trauma to the eye. On the contrary, infectious Keratitis is brought on by a virus, fungus, bacteria, or parasite. It can also be caused by pannus or dry eye. In all cases, if left untreated, your dog may suffer a corneal ulcer, and if the eye globe ruptures, the only option is having it removed.

Scleritis – This an immune-mediated disorder in dogs that manifests through a thickening of the fibers that line the eye globe. It can be caused by a number of secondary diseases, trauma, or genetics (common in Collies and German Shepherds).

Cherry Eye – Sometimes referred to as a third eyelid. Cherry eye in puppies is most common in puppies under two years of age. It’s characterized by a prolapsed eye gland that occurs when there are weak fibers surrounding the gland, allowing it to protrude out. If your vet determines that there is an underlying cause, it will need to be treated. It’s not considered a serious medical emergency, but it can cause your pup some discomfort so having it surgically treated is a common course of action.

Causes of Eye Infections in Puppies

Bacteria is usually the culprit, but there are many causes which may lead to eye infections and conjunctivitis in dogs, including some more serious underlying disorders. So it’s important that you identify what’s leading to the infection, and the best way to do that is through professional guidance — see your vet right away. Here are some common causes:

  • Bacterial – The most common cause. This type of infection is typically the primary cause and it’s not related to an underlying condition.
  • Viral – The most common viral infection related to eye infections is canine distemper. The most susceptible dogs are unvaccinated puppies and older dogs who haven’t been immunized.  
  • Immune system related –  When the immune system kicks into overdrive, the response may lead to an eye infection. This response is often a result of allergies, follicular conjunctivitis, plasma-cell conjunctivitis, and immune diseases where the body attacks its own cells.
  • Cancer – In rare cases it can be caused by tumors in dogs. But the more common cancer-related eye infection isn’t actually cancerous at all, it just appears the same way cancer does — small pink nodules between the sclera and the cornea. It’s most common in Collies.
  • Secondary/Underlying Causes – A lot of the time, environmental causes may be the culprit, (i.e., coming in contact with an irritating chemical substance, insect, or foliage). Additionally, an infected eye may be the result of an underlying condition such as Lyme disease, eyelid disease, lash disease, glaucoma, ulcerative keratitis, anterior uveitis, vitamin deficiency, and tear duct conditions common in Poodles and Cocker Spaniels.

Secondary causes can be serious conditions or lead to serious conditions, and that’s why it’s important to rule these out by having your pup immediately analyzed for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of Puppy Eye Infections

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The treatments vary from case to case, especially because there is such a wide array of causes. But there are some things you should expect when visiting your doctor. They will start by ruling out ocular diseases by conducting a full eye exam.

They may stain the eye with a special dye that allows them to see any scratches or lesions under a light. Biopsies of the skin and eye cells are also necessary to rule out secondary conditions.

Preventing Eye Infections in Puppies

Certain eye infections like Cherry Eye cannot be prevented, but there are steps you can take to prevent your pup from suffering the discomfort brought on by a bacterial or environmental infection.  

Trauma – Dogs can play rough, and are especially clumsy as puppies. So conducting play time in a controlled environment, free of potentially harmful objects is a recommended practice.

Environment – Make sure that if you have to leave your dog unsupervised, that there are no harmful substances he can come in contact with. As tempting as it is to let your little buddy stick his head out the window in a moving car, it poses a big risk of dust and debris-related infections. Another easy way to prevent bacterial infections is by keeping him clean. Monitor his face for dirt and debris, wipe off his paws when he comes home, and give him frequent baths. If you have a dog with hair that grows over the eye, be sure to keep it trimmed.

If you follow these practices you’ll greatly reduce your pups chance of eye infection, keeping him happy and healthy, and saving you an otherwise expensive trip to the vet.

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