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Health & Wellness

Why are my dog’s eyes swollen?

Swollen eyes can be a sign of an infection, allergies or an injury.

Are you guilty of spending too much time gazing into your dog’s eyes? This show of affection has more benefits than just admiring their adorableness. Regularly checking your pup’s eyes can alert you to changes, like if they’re red or puffy. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your dog is pawing at them, rubbing their face on the carpet or squinting. Basically, if your pup has swollen eyes, you’re right to get to the bottom of it. 

Why is my dog’s eye swollen and red? 

There are several triggers that could cause your dog’s eyes to become red and swollen. Although multiple factors could cause the change, it’s important to go over them all to narrow down the root cause. Here are some of the main reasons for red and swollen eyes in dogs: 

  • Dry eyes from lack of tear production
  • Scratches or injuries to the eye surface 
  • Ocular conditions such as glaucoma
  • Foreign bodies (like a grass bristle trapped under the eyelid)
  • Irritation from abnormal eyelashes that are growing in the wrong place and rubbing against the eye
  • Tear duct inflammation, which blocks normal tear drainage
  • Skunk spray
  • Trauma

It’s also important to note that brachycephalic (flat-nosed) dogs, like pugs and French Bulldogs, are more prone to eye issues because their eyes bulge outward, putting them more at risk.

What are common dog eye infections?

Dogs can get eye infections or injuries, just like humans. If you notice yellow or green discharge or redness, your dog may have an eye infection.

Bacteria, viruses or environmental irritants can cause eye infections in dogs. Eye infections can also be secondary to another illness, Dr. Elizabeth Devitt, DVM, a veterinary consultant for Fetch, says.

Eye infections require veterinary intervention and can quickly become serious if left untreated. If your vet diagnoses your pup with an eye infection, they’ll likely be sent home with prescription eye drops or ointment. 

What is conjunctivitis in dogs?

Conjunctivitis, which is also called pink eye, affects dogs’ eyes, too. This type of eye irritation means that a dog’s eye tissue is swollen, and typically, a dog with pink eye will have noticeably red, itchy eyes with some discharge.

The most common cause of conjunctivitis in dogs is irritants from their surroundings, especially if your dog likes to dig in the dirt. Sometimes there are other underlying causes, such as low tear production, which make the eyes dry and red. If an infectious bacteria causes conjunctivitis, it can spread from one to both eyes and, in some cases, to other dogs, so you’ll want to ask your vet if you should quarantine your sick pup. 

RELATED: Dog tear stains: causes and how to get rid of them

Does my dog have eye allergies?

Like humans, dogs react to allergens in their environment. If your dog has allergies, you may notice common symptoms such as itching, respiratory issues and excessive licking — they may also have swollen, red or watery eyes.

Thankfully, there are several ways to manage environmental allergies. After ruling out other causes, your veterinarian can prescribe allergy medication or injection for your pup.

Should I purchase eye drops for dogs?

Dogs can benefit from eye drops — your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops for your dog to soothe pain, treat infections or expedite healing.

Make sure you’re sticking to vet-approved eye drops, as some human eye medications have ingredients that can be dangerous for or irritate your dog’s eyes, Dr. Devitt says. 

Are there any home treatments for a dog's swollen eyes? 

We know you want what is best for your dog — in this case, it's taking them in for a veterinary evaluation.

“Please don’t wait if you think your dog has eye issues,” Dr. Devitt warns. “Eyes are sensitive organs, and simple health problems can quickly become serious.”

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance'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.

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