Allergies can leave your best friend feeling restless, irritable and really down in the mouth. Dog eye allergies will make her eyes sore and watery, and there can be many causes that will trigger an allergic reaction. Sometimes once the cause is removed, the reaction will resolve itself, but sometimes a trip to the vets is needed for an allergy screen and treatment.
Allergies cause itchy, watery eyes and can be linked to direct contact with allergens your dog is sensitive to, by inhalation of mold, dander or pollen, or can be triggered by certain foods and common ingredients. Because there are so many possible causes, an allergy screen can be a helpful tool to diagnose your pet’s allergies.
Many veterinarians will offer both skin and blood tests depending on which suits your dog best. The results from these tests will help you find the best ways to reduce allergen contact in the home and outside. Some medications and soothing home remedies can help your dog feel much better or he may a prescription treatment.
Dog Eye Allergies: Symptoms, Reasons and Basic Remedies
Some symptoms of dog eye allergies are watery eyes and excessive tearing up, as well as swelling and red irritated eyes. Allergies should result in clear watery liquid coming from the eye.
If the discharge from your dog’s eye is milky or colored, there is another source, and you should have your dog seen by a vet because eye problems can have serious causes and consequences.
Causes and triggers of dog eye allergies
Like humans, dogs can suddenly develop allergies at any time in their lives, even when they previously didn’t have any problems. Any dog can be susceptible to allergies, but it is slightly more common in Terrier, Retriever and Setter breeds.
Also, brachycephalic breeds (flatter-faced breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs) are more susceptible to allergies too.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Dog for Camping
Some of the most common dog allergens are:
- Tree and grass pollen
- Mold and mildew
- Dust and dust mites
- Dander, hair and feathers
- Cigarette smoke
- Certain foods or ingredients including meats, grains and soy
- Medications, including flea treatment and insecticidal shampoo
- Household cleaning products
- Colognes and perfumes
- Certain fabrics and materials
The amount of allergens that can cause a reaction is so wide-ranging and individual to every dog that it can seem difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem. You may be able to narrow it down by keeping a notebook handy and noting if, for example, your dog’s allergies seem worse after being outdoors.
You would then know that the cause is something she only has contact with outside, like pollen. However, allergic reactions aren’t always immediate so the best thing you can do for a dog with eye allergies is to get an allergy screening.
Skin allergy test
An allergy screen for dogs can be done with a skin or blood test. Speak with your veterinarian about the best option for your dog.
The benefits of the skin allergy test for dogs is that the results are more reliable than a blood test, there is a large range of allergens tested, and you can get results within the same day. Some downsides to consider are that it requires sedation, shaving, and a longer stay at the vet. It also runs a very small risk of bad reactions and is not suitable for puppies.
Skin tests usually work best when performed during a flare-up. For the best result, dogs with allergies should not have been treated with antihistamines or steroids for a few months before the test, but sometimes these things can’t be helped if your dog was suffering. Just be sure to tell your vet and see what they suggest in this 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 her side will be shaved. Then tiny amounts of common allergens are injected just 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. Allergens that cause a strong reaction should be avoided as much as possible, but for milder or borderline reactions, the vet or veterinary dermatologist will discuss with you what changes can be made.
You may decide that if the reaction is weak and your dog doesn’t seem too unhappy, that avoiding that allergen would be more detrimental to their quality of life than the allergy itself. For example, if your dog showed a mild reaction to pollen, their happiness and health could be more affected by never going outside than by contact with pollen.
Blood allergy test
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, has skin issues already, and for show dogs and puppies.
The other benefits of a blood test are that it shouldn’t require sedation and the visit to the vet’s office will be over and done with much faster and be less stressful for your pup. Because the testing is done in a laboratory, the results can take a few weeks to come back. However, blood tests are not as accurate as skin tests.
Both types of test can cost anywhere from $175 to $300 and there may be additional fees for the consultation and sedation to consider as well. Some veterinarians tack on office fees too. You can call your vet's office and inquire about charges before making the appointment.
Basic remedies for dog eye allergies
Therefore, much of the treatment for a dog’s eye allergies will be avoidance of the allergen and some changes at home.
If you have a good idea of what is causing your dog’s eye allergies, some good first steps you can take are:
- Remove anything in the house that contains the problem material.
- If you suspect inhaled allergens such as dust, dander, feathers or mold, try and remove as many sources as possible.
- If it’s an option, pull up carpets and take away any soft furnishings that hold onto all these microscopic allergens. Of course, it usually isn’t possible to get rid of everything!
- If it's not possible, try deep-cleaning all soft furnishings and regularly washing dog's blankets and beds at high heats.
- 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, if your dog is really unhappy, it may be necessary to keep your buddy in a separate, designated area until you can find a manageable treatment plan.
- An air purifier can also help reduce airborne allergens.
- You can gently wipe your dog’s eyes with lukewarm water. Boil the water first and let it cool. This will be soothing for your buddy’s sore eyes and also will help remove any allergens or debris. Use cotton balls and be gentle.
Medication for dog eye allergies
The most commonly used medications for dog eye allergies are antihistamines. Antihistamines halt the production of histamines, which are the cause of allergy symptoms like itchy and watery eyes.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is effective for dogs with eye allergies, but may take a week or two to work. Make sure the brand and type you’re using doesn’t contain any other ingredients like menthol or painkillers like acetaminophen. Double check with the pharmacist when purchasing that it is safe for use on dogs.
The standard doggy dose is 1mg per pound of bodyweight three times daily.
Benadryl is a sedative and may cause drowsiness. It can also cause gastric problems and dehydration, so always keep an eye on your dog when giving her 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. Always check with your vet before administering any drug to your pet – especially an over-the-counter medication that isn't made specifically for canines.
Your vet may also prescribe steroidal eye drops which will relieve your dog’s eye irritation. In the case of severe allergies, topical ointments may be prescribed as well.
Though dog eye allergies can be itchy and uncomfortable for your Fido, a visit to the vet for a simple allergy test, some changes at home to reduce contact with allergens, and some over-the-counter antihistamines will make a difference in his comfort level. Allergies are not typically a serious condition, and you’ll find your doggy is back in tail-wagging form in no time.