Dog Eye Infection: Symptoms & Treatment

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/20/20242-4 minutes
A sleepy, brown dog lying next to a person’s knee

A dog’s eyes can become affected by infections just like ours. Vision is such a precious sense, so it is always best to err on the side of caution if you suspect your dog has a problem with his eyes. Sometimes dog eye infections seem to appear out of nowhere and can become quickly uncomfortable for your dog.

You might notice your dog pawing at his eye trying to find relief from the discomfort. Or you might discover redness accompanied by an unusual discharge in that area. Either way, it is time to call the vet and ask for their advice. Here is what you should know when it comes to your dog’s eye health. 

What Are the Most Common Types of Eye Infections in Dogs?

There are different ways for an eye infection to affect your pup. Sometimes it will manifest as an inflammation of the membrane that lines the outer portion of the eyeball, in which case it is called canine conjunctivitis. If structures within the eye itself, such as the iris, are affected, it is termed canine uveitis. The cornea can become inflamed and infected too – this is termed canine keratitis.

So, what signs should owners look for? Keep reading to discover the main symptoms of dog eye infections.

Dog Eye Infection Symptoms

The most common signs that your pet is struggling with an eye infection include: 

  • Swelling around the eye 
  • Eye redness 
  • Eye discharge: this can be watery, white, reddish-brown, yellow, or green 
  • Excessive blinking or squinting 
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Pawing at the affected eye

It is important to contact your vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Although eye infections in dogs are not life-threatening, they are very uncomfortable and could point to underlying health conditions that need to be solved. Just as importantly, many eye problems that seem trivial can permanently affect your dog’s eyesight if left untreated. So, don’t hesitate to ask for your vet’s help and advice as soon as you notice any unusual signs.

What Are the Causes of Eye Infections in Dogs?

Although a virus or bacteria on its own can cause eye infections in dogs, often there will be another factor that has predisposed the eye to infection. Here is a list of the most common causes of eye infections in dogs: 

  • Bacterial infections 
  • Viral infections 
  • Allergies 
  • Trauma to the eye 
  • Foreign bodies, like grass seeds 
  • Tumors 
  • Fungus 
  • Irritants such as dust or smoke 
  • Other eye diseases such as dry eye or glaucoma in dogs 
  • Eye abnormalities such as cherry eye

Many eye problems in dogs are not contagious. However, it is always best to assume you are dealing with a contagious eye issue and limit the contact between the pets in the household until your dog has been checked by a vet.

Dog Eye Infection Treatment

It is often worrying to notice your dog’s eyes being affected by redness or unusual discharge. But luckily there are many available treatments for dog eye infections, so chances are your pup will be back to normal relatively soon, if you take them to the vet when the first signs of trouble show up.

The treatment your vet will recommend depends on the type of eye infection or eye problem they discover. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections, while antihistamines or other anti-inflammatories may be better suited to help a pup dealing with eye problems caused by allergies.

In other cases, surgery might be necessary to resolve eyelash abnormalities or blocked tear ducts, for example.

Can Dog Eye Infections Be Prevented?

Dogs love exploring their surroundings, so keeping them and their eyes safe from dangers can be a difficult task for even the most dedicated owners. Fortunately, your dog’s eyelids and eyelashes do a pretty good job of protecting the delicate eye underneath. However, if your dog frequently suffers with eye injuries, you could consider dog eye protection.

Dog goggles might be a good solution for adventurous dogs, especially if they love hiking or can’t resist investigating the unbeaten path when out and about. It might take a little while for your dog to get used to wearing these though, and your vet will be able to advise if you need help!

Another useful tip is to keep the hair around their eyes short to avoid irritation, though it’s best to seek professional help with this and avoid using scissors close to your pet’s eyes.

For more expert tips on your dog’s health, explore our other dog health symptoms and issues articles.

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