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Health & Wellness

Can dogs get pink eye?

Yes, and treatment for canine pink eye is very similar to the human variety.

If you've ever had pink eye in your life, you know just how uncomfortable the ailment is. The irritation and pain are only compounded by the crusty discharge that can cause your eye to seal shut. Inevitably, when pink eye occurs, a doctor's visit is quick to follow … and when your dog gets pink eye, the result should be no different. So if you've noticed your dog's eyes taking on a tell-tale rosy hue, here's what you should do. 

What is canine pink eye? 

"Pink eye is the term used for conjunctivitis. This is an infection in your dog's eye," Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, TX, explains. This infection and the commonly-seen inflammation (the "pink eye" part of the infection) that takes place can originate from a number of factors ranging from allergens to foreign bodies to trauma to the eye (like if your dog gets in a fight with another animal). While the underlying cause is important (and may need to be diagnosed and treated specifically), the inflammation itself is what earns the term "pink eye." 

Symptoms of pink eye in dogs

The primary symptom of pink eye is right there in the name — the white part of the eye takes on a pink or red hue and looks irritated and inflamed. But that's not the only symptom. "Some of the most common signs and symptoms of pink eye are redness, swelling and discharge from the eyes. Some dogs may also paw at their eyes or rub their face on the floor," Dr. Ochoa notes. So if you see these symptoms, or if your dog's eyes appear to be uncomfortable, it's important to take steps to relieve the discomfort.

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Basic home treatment for canine conjunctivitis

Of course, any time your dog's eyes seem to be infected, it's important to call your vet. "At home, you can use warm compresses and vet-approved contact saline to flush the eye. If the eye is not improving, it is best to see your vet. Eye issues can get very bad, very quickly," Dr. Ochoa warns. 

That said, if you can't get an immediate appointment to see your vet, Dr. Ochoa suggests home-based treatments (ones approved by your vet!) can help clear any foreign body that might be irritating while potentially preventing the infection from spreading to both eyes. 

How vets treat pink eye in dogs

Once you're able to get in to see your vet (Dr. Ochoa notes that you should see your vet as soon as possible), the first thing your vet will do is to seek the underlying cause. Remember, the inflammation of the eye is really just a symptom, so it's important to figure out why your dog is experiencing the inflammation at all. 

"Your vet will fully examine and stain your dog's eye to check for any scratch or ulcer on the eye. They'll then prescribe antibiotic or steroid drops to help treat the infection and discomfort," Dr. Ochoa says. And if the cause is chronic (from sources like dry eye or allergens), they may also prescribe additional ongoing treatment measures to help prevent future infections. 

When it comes to pink eye in dogs, the good news is that the ailment is typically easy to treat and can be cleared up in a matter of days. But just because pink eye isn't generally considered an emergency, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be dealt with quickly. Take your dog's eye discomfort seriously and make sure you call your vet when she has pink eye symptoms. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we're there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by serjan midili on Unsplash

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