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Health & Wellness

Dog eye infections: symptoms and treatments

They’re very common and easy to contract

An eye infection can be an uncomfortable experience for your dog — but when treated promptly and thoroughly, you can likely expect your pup to make a full recovery without complications. 

With the help of Dr. Rebecca Beisner, DVM, a veterinarian at Wheaton Animal Hospital in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, we're going to explore the many ways dogs can contract eye infections. Plus, she's uncovering eye infection symptoms to look out for and the most widely used medications available to provide your dog quick and easy relief.

What are the causes of eye infections in dogs?  

Bacteria from foreign objects or debris — like shampoo to the eye during bath time — can cause dogs to get eye infections. 

Injury or trauma, like a sharp poke to the eye while sniffing out a bush in the yard, can kickstart an eye infection, too. 

Under normal circumstances, tears lubricate, nourish, protect and help remove debris from the eyes. But, if your pet has dry eye, aka keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) — which causes a reduction in tear production — their eyes can be more vulnerable to inflammation, pain and infection by bacteria and viruses. Dry eye can be caused by medications, viruses, inflammation and chronic diseases like diabetes, thyroid disease and Cushing's syndrome.

Viruses such as distemper or canine influenza can trigger an eye infection in your dog, as well as inflammation from any allergies they may be suffering from. 

Keep in mind that some breeds, like pugs, boxers and bulldogs, run a higher risk of getting eye infections because their eyes tend to bulge outward, causing them to be more exposed. If, for any reason, you are concerned about your dog's health, contact your vet right away.

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Can a dog's eye allergies cause an eye infection

If your dog experiences chronic allergies, the inflammation and dryness associated with those allergies can trigger an eye infection. 

One way to determine whether your dog's eye infection is from allergies is to look at the color of the discharge coming from the eyes. If it's green or yellow, it may be from bacteria or a virus. A milky white or clear discharge can indicate an allergy or debris in the eye.

Symptoms of eye infections in dogs

If you're wondering if your dog has an eye infection, look for the following symptoms:

  • Red or swollen eyes
  • Excessive tearing 
  • Eye discharge of any kind (it may be smelly, thick and green)
  • Squinting or holding one, or both, eyes closed
  • Pawing or scratching at the eye 

Treatments options for dogs with an eye infection

Your dog's eye infection won't go away on its own, nor can you treat it from home. Untreated eye infections can spread into both eyes and even cause blindness.

In very rare cases, a dog may require surgery for an eye infection. More commonly, vets will most likely treat dogs with an eye drop or ointment — they may choose from the following medications:

  • Antibiotics 
  • Anti-inflammatories 
  • Antihistamine (if allergies are suspected)

A vet can also evaluate to see if an injury — like scratches to the cornea — is causing the eye infection. They can also dilate the eye to look into the back of the eyeball to check the optic nerve and look for other more serious eye diseases, like glaucoma or keratosis, which can present symptoms like an eye infection. More severe eye diseases may require lifelong medications to keep your dog comfortable and pain-free. 

Photo by Reba Spike on Unsplash

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