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Eye Infections in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment
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Eye Infections in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Amelia, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 24, 2020

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Infectious eye diseases are among the common health issues you are likely to deal with as a dog owner. Your dog could lose their vision if an eye infection is not properly managed, so it is important to identify and treat the condition so quickly as possible. Prompt treatment will not only help to keep your dog healthy but also enhance the quality and length of their life.

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Common eye problems in dogs

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There are several types of eye infections in dogs. Conjunctivitis, also known as red eye, is the inflammation of a thin membrane that lines the inner eyelid and covers the eyeball. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or dry eye, is an infection that can lead to cornea damage. An eye infection can also cause uveitis, another form of eye inflammation. Contact your vet if you notice any of these problems.

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Why eye infections can be dangerous

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Eye infections not only lead to loss of vision but also, in some instances, limit your dog's physical activity because of limited vision. Limited physical activity can lead to obesity in your dog, which leads to other health challenges such as hypertension and subsequently, death. Also, dog eye infections such as conjunctivitis can be contagious to other dogs. As such, it is vital to take your dog's eye problems to prevent any further escalation.

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Symptoms of dog eye infections

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Common signs to look out for are redness of the eyes, increased squinting when exposed to light, pawing at the eye due to pain or itchiness, swelling of the eyelids and watery or thick eye discharge depending on the type of disease. Other symptoms include a dull eye surface, cloudiness within the eyeball, and tear-stained fur around the eyeballs. Your dog may exhibit multiple signs at once, making it necessary to visit a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Types of dog eye discharge and what they mean

Close-up of a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog's eye. Kent Sampson / Getty Images

Eye discharge is one of the common signs of an eye infection in dogs. Tear stains and moisture at the inner corners of your dog’s eyes is normal, but excessive discharge may warrant a trip to the vet. White-gray mucus is usually a sign of keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a condition that affects the glands that produce tears. Lastly, yellow or green discharge accompanied by discomfort and eye redness could be as a result of an infection.

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Causes of dog eye infections

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The cause of an infection can be viral or bacterial. Bacterial infections can affect a wound on the cornea, effectively preventing it from healing. Foreign objects such as hair, dust, debris and plant material may also cause an infection when they enter the dog’s eye. Viruses such as canine influenza, hepatitis, herpes and distemper can also lead to eye infections. Other causes of discomfort are trauma, fungus, parasites and irritants like shampoo and smoke.

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Testing your dog’s vision at home

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Dog eye infections can lead to visual impairment or blindness if not treated properly and in good time. As such, you should consider doing dog eyesight tests when you notice signs of visual impairment. Setting up a dog obstacle course or observing how your dog goes up and down a flight of stairs can help you test his vision. You can also test the dog’s blinking reflex by quickly passing an object close to his eyes.

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Home remedies for eye infections

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Depending on the nature and severity of the infection, pet owners can try to manage these conditions at home. However, you will need to check with your vet before administering any form of treatment. Some of the options you can consider are antibacterial treatment, steroids for serious eye inflammation, and eye drops formulated for dogs. You may also want to try warm compresses when looking to relieve the symptoms of eye infection and adjust your pet’s diet to help with treating the condition.

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Professional diagnosis of eye problems in dogs

Vet diagnoses a dog's eyes

As much as you can do certain tests at home, dog vision problems will need to be diagnosed by a vet. Generally, when there is no significant improvement in the condition even after trying the different home remedies, it may be time to visit a veterinarian. The expert will examine the animal’s eye to look for foreign bodies, tumors and abnormalities. They will also assess the general health of the eye, focusing on issues like swelling, redness, discharge and any other unusual eye activity.

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Steps for applying eye medication

Dogs' eye drops as part of the Vet's recommended solution

Treatment for dog eye problems will typically involve the use of eye drops and ointments. As much as your veterinarian will give you instructions on how to apply eye medication, there are a few tips to make your work easier. Before administering treatment, you should use warm water and a cotton ball to clean away any discharge around your pet’s eyes. When applying eye drops, tilt the dog’s head a bit and rest your hand on his head so that you do not hit his eye with the dropper in case he moves.

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How to prevent eye infections in dogs

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Most eye infections in dogs can be treated quickly and leave no lasting problem. However, it is important for pet owners to learn ways of preventing these conditions. Dogs are energetic and playful animals, a factor that exposes them to opportunistic organisms that can lead to eye infections. One of the best ways of preventing the condition is to trim any long hairs around the eyes to prevent irritation in the eyes.

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