Eye Drops for Dogs: Types & When to Give Them

Updated: 3/19/20242-4 minutes
Close up of a small dog’s face being held by a person’s hand. Another hand administers eye drops to the dog.

Like humans, our canine companions sometimes need eye care. Healthy eyes can have a major impact on your dog’s overall well-being.

So, whether you’re wondering, “Why are my dog’s eyes red?” or are seeking relief for a different problem, your veterinarian may recommend eye drops as a solution. Depending on your dog’s condition, drops can improve their eyes’ appearance and reduce painful symptoms.

Read on to find out why your dog might need eye drops, learn about different types, and discover how to apply eye drops for your dog.

Why Does My Dog Need Eye Drops?

Remember, always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog eye drops (or any other type of medication). Here are some common conditions in which eye drops may be an appropriate treatment.


Unfortunately, dogs can develop allergies to substances in the environment, such as pollen mold or dust, as well as fleas and certain foods. The treatment your veterinarian recommends will vary depending on the cause of your pet’s allergies. But eye drops for dogs could be recommended if these eye symptoms persist: 

  • Redness 
  • Squinting 
  • Clear, watery discharge 
  • Swelling 
  • Pawing at eyes 
  • Light sensitivity

Various Dog Eye Infections

Dog eye infections may necessitate the use of eye drops. These are often the result of an injury or dysfunction of the tear duct glands. Bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections can also be causes.

These signs can indicate that your pet has an eye infection:   

  • Squinting 
  • Redness 
  • Itching or pawing at eye 
  • Eyelid swelling 
  • Blinking a lot 
  • Discharge


Canine glaucoma is a condition characterized by high pressure inside the eye. It is a painful condition that often causes blindness, especially if it’s left untreated. When glaucoma develops, urgent veterinary treatment is essential. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but the condition can be managed with eye drops for dogs that preserve their eyesight for a period of time.

Signs of glaucoma include: 

  • Severe eye pain 
  • Cloudy/blue eyes 
  • Weepy eyes 
  • Blindness 
  • Redness 
  • Bulging eyes 
  • Uneven pupils


Conjunctivitis in dogs can be caused by infection, irritants, dust mites, trauma or an underlying health condition. Signs of conjunctivitis may include: 

  • Redness or inflammation 
  • Puffiness 
  • Green or clear discharge from eye 
  • Squinting

Other Eye Infections or Issues

There are a few more issues where eye drops can be beneficial, including: 

  • Keratitis 
  • Dry eyes 
  • Trauma 
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) 
  • Corneal ulcers

Remember to always consult your veterinarian if you think your dog is suffering from any of these issues. They can prescribe the right eye drops for the most effective treatment.

What Are the Different Types of Eye Drops for Dogs & What Do They Contain?

Eye drops contain different ingredients and have different effects. Here are some common examples.

Saline Eyewashes

Saline washes are used to clean dirt from your dog’s eyes, as well as the “gunk” that gathers in the corner of the eye. Because they only clear out debris, however, saline washes are likely not beneficial for more complex eye issues.

Steroid Eye Drops

For severe allergies and other eye infections, steroid eye drops might be prescribed by your veterinarian. Steroid eye drops cannot be used if the cornea is damaged. In this case, your veterinarian may apply a special stain to your dog’s cornea to strengthen the eye’s health.

Glaucoma Eye Drops for Dogs

Dogs diagnosed with glaucoma are often prescribed eye drops. For mild to moderate cases, eye drops may contain active ingredients, such as timolol brinzolamide or dorzolamide, to reduce eye pressure.

Antibiotic Eye Drops

For issues like conjunctivitis or keratitis, which may be caused by an infection, antibiotic eye drops for dogs may be prescribed.

Other Medications

Other medicated eye drops may be necessary to treat dry eyes in dogs. They can include ingredients, such as cyclosporine or tacrolimus, which are designed to increase tear production and replace the tear film.

How to Apply Eye Drops for Dogs

Once your veterinarian recommends eye drops for your pet’s specific condition, it’s important to carefully apply them. Otherwise, they may not effectively treat the problem. (Of course, make sure to follow the instructions given by your veterinarian, as well as those on the bottle.) 

Here are five steps for applying eye drops to dogs: 

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin (and after you finish). 
  2. Use a wet and warm washcloth to gently clean the area around your dog’s eye. 
  3. Cradle your dog’s head (or have a trusted assistant to help with this). 
  4. Using your dominant hand, hold the medicine bottle with your thumb and index finger. Pull down your dog’s lower lid with your other thumb. If you’re doing this alone, the rest of your fingers on that hand can support your dog’s jaw. 
  5. Without touching the eye, place the bottle close to the eye and squeeze the prescribed amount into the center. Naturally, your dog will blink a few times, which helps to spread the medicine around the eye.

A process like this might require a treat after you’re done. And remember to give lots of praise.

Which Breeds Are More Likely to Need Eye Drops?

Some breeds are predisposed to eye conditions, which makes them more likely to need eye drops. Here are some examples.

Corneal Ulcers: Brachycephalic Breeds

Due to the shape of their face, brachycephalic dogs, like Pugs, face increased risk of corneal damage and ulceration.

Dry Eye: Terriers, Spaniels & Pugs

In dogs, most cases of dry eye are inherited (passed from parent to puppy). Dry eye is common in certain breeds like: 

If you think your dog is suffering from any kind of eye condition, remember to consult a veterinarian before administering eye drops.

Get more expert tips about your canine companion’s health on our dog symptoms page.

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