Dog eye allergies will make your pet's eyes sore, swollen and watery. There's a number of causes that will trigger such an allergic reaction. Usually, once the underlying cause is removed, the problem will resolve itself without complications, but sometimes, a trip to the vet is needed for your dog's allergy screen test and a treatment plan.
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Eye allergies in dogs cause itchiness and discomfort. You'll notice them because the dog will also have watery eyes, excessive tear production, swollen and red, irritated eyes. Discharge from a dog's eyes should be clear and watery, but if instead you see milky or colored discharge coming from the eye(s), this could be a more serious eye problem.
Dog eye allergies are often linked to direct contact with allergens in your home that the animal is sensitive to: inhalation of mold, dander or pollen. They can also be caused by dog food or certain ingredients. Because there are many possible causes, an allergy screening test is often recommended to diagnose the exact allergen.
Veterinarians will do both skin and blood tests. The results will help you find the best ways to reduce allergen contact in your house. Some medications (prescription and/or over-the-counter) as well as home remedies can also help your dog feel better. Below is everything you should know about dog eye allergies and what to do about them.
How to Treat Dog Eye Allergies
Causes and Triggers of Eye Allergies in Dogs
Like humans, dogs can suddenly develop allergies at any time during their lifetime, even when they previously didn’t have any issues. Any dog of any age can be susceptible to eye allergies, but they are more common in some breeds: Terriers, Retrievers, Setters and Brachycephalic breeds.
Some of the most common allergens causing eye allergies in dogs include:
- Tree and grass pollen
- Mold and mildew
- Dust and dust mites
- Dander, hair and feathers
- Cigarette smoke
- Dog foods or specific ingredients (including meats, grains, soy, etc.)
- Medications like flea treatments or insecticidal shampoos
- Household cleaning products
- Colognes and perfumes
- Certain fabrics and materials
The amount of allergens that can cause an allergic reaction in a dog are so wide-ranging and individual to every dog that it's usually difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem by yourself without proper testing.
You can try to narrow it down by keeping a notebook and noting if your dog’s eye allergies get worse after being outdoors, for example. Then you'll know that the cause is something the dog only has contact with outside, like pollen.
However, allergic reactions also are not always immediate, so the best thing you can do for a dog with eye allergies is to get an allergy screening at your local veterinary clinic.
There will be two types of tests done: a skin test and a blood test. Both tests can cost anywhere from $175 to $300 and there may be additional fees for the consultation and sedation. Some vets tack on office fees, too. Call the vet's office and ask about these and any other additional charges before making the appointment.
Skin Allergy Testing
Results from a skin allergy test for dogs are more reliable than a blood test, according to studies. There is a large range of allergens tested on a dog's skin, and you'll get the results within the same day.
The downside of skin allergy test is that it requires sedation, shaving of the dog's coat, and a longer stay at the veterinary clinic. There is also a small risk of bad reactions and this testing is not suitable for puppies.
Skin tests for dog eye allergies usually work best when performed during a flare-up. For best results, dogs with allergies should not have been treated with antihistamines or steroids for a few months before the test. Tell your vet if that's not the case.
Some vets offer the intradermal skin test or you may be referred to a veterinary dermatologist. Your dog will be put under mild sedation and a small patch of hair on their side will be shaved. Then tiny amounts of common allergens are injected under the skin’s surface in a grid pattern to keep track of which allergen is which.
After a few hours, the vet will check the patch to see if any injection sites are raised or red. Often, there will be a range of reactions from negative to borderline, to mild and strong positives.
This will tell you which allergens that cause a strong reaction should be avoided. For milder or borderline reactions, the veterinarian will discuss with you what changes in your household or daily routines you can make to prevent future eye allergies in the dog.
Blood Allergy Testing
A blood test will be performed by drawing a small sample of your dog’s blood and sending it to a lab for allergen testing. Blood tests are a good option in cases where a skin test is not available, if the dog cannot go under sedation, or has skin issues already.
While it's less reliable, blood testing does not require sedation and the visit to the vet’s office will be over much faster and be less stressful for the dog. Unlike a skin test, because the testing is done in a laboratory, the results can take a few weeks to come back. Blood tests results are also not as accurate as skin test results.
Basic Remedies for Dog Eye Allergies
Remedies for dog eye allergies fall into two categories: lifestyle and medical.
Different preventative measures, if you already know the exact cause, will also help stop the allergen from affecting your dog's eyes. Most of the treatment for dog eye allergies will be simply avoidance of the allergen and some minor changes at home.
If you have a good idea of what is causing your dog’s eye allergies, take these steps:
- Remove anything in the house that contains the problematic (cause) material.
- If you suspect inhaled allergens such as dust, dander, feathers or mold, try and remove as many sources as possible. Clean your house more often if needed.
- If it’s possible, pull up carpets and take away any soft furnishings that hold onto all these microscopic allergens.
- If it's not possible, then try deep-cleaning all soft furnishings and begin regularly washing your dog's blankets, crates and beds on high heat.
- Mild allergens can often be worked around. Using pollen allergy as an example, you can look online for pollen counts each day, and take your dog for walks when the counts are lower, or take her to a more urban area.
- In severe cases, it may be necessary to keep your dog in a separate, designated area until you can find a manageable treatment plan.
- An air purifier can also help reduce airborne allergens.
- Gently wipe your dog’s eyes with lukewarm water. Boil the water first and let it cool. This will be soothing for the dog's sore eyes and will help remove any allergens or debris from the eyes. Use cotton balls and be slow and gentle.
Medication for Dog Eye Allergies
Even after you've made lifestyle changes in your home, you may still need medication for eye allergies in dogs. The most commonly used medications are antihistamines. They halt the production of histamines a dog's body, which are the cause of allergy symptoms like itchy and watery eyes. Consult your vet before giving any medication to the dog.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is the most popular antihistamine for people, and it's also very effective for dogs with eye allergies. However, it may take anywhere from two days to two weeks to work. Make sure the brand and type you’re using doesn’t contain any other ingredients like menthol or painkillers like acetaminophen. Standard Benadryl like this one will be fine to give to your dog.
Benadryl dose for dogs is 1mg per pound of bodyweight, 3x times daily.
Note that Benadryl is a sedative and may cause drowsiness in the dog. It can also cause gastric problems and dehydration, so always keep an eye on your dog when giving them Benadryl or other medication.
Benadryl should not be used if your dog has certain conditions such as glaucoma, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. It should also not be given to pregnant or nursing dogs.
If not antihistamines, and depending on your dog's eye allergy condition, your vet may also prescribe steroidal eye drops which will relieve your dog’s eye irritation. In the case of severe allergies, other eye drops or topical ointments may be prescribed as well.
Some eye allergy supplements can also be given to dogs, such as these noted below:
|PetHonesty Allergy Relief Immunity Supplement for...||2,482 Reviews||$25.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Allergy Immune Supplement for Dogs Lamb- with...||3,426 Reviews||$25.97||Buy on Amazon|
|Pawfectchow Allergy Relief for Dogs - Immunity...||970 Reviews||$26.69||Buy on Amazon|
Eye allergies in dogs are fairly common, and they are often caused by similar environmental allergens that also affect people: dander, pollen, dust, mold and other. Other causes of eye allergies could be your dog's food or some specific ingredient in the dog food brand you're using.
Dog eye allergies are not life-threatening, but they will cause itchy and watery eyes, and will be uncomfortable for the dog. A visit to the vet to perform a skin and/or blood allergy test is recommended.
Once the test is done and cause(s) has been determined, you can make changes at home to reduce a dog's contact with allergens. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl will also help relieve discomfort.
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