Most days you look into your dog’s soulful eyes, and wonder what your friend is thinking. There is no question that much of your pup’s expressiveness lies there. But one day, you look into them, and the eyes don’t seem right – they’re reddish.
A dog’s eyes are much like human ones: when they’re healthy, they look bright and clear. When something is wrong, your pet’s eyes may look pink or ruddy, which are usually signs of irritation. This isn’t comfortable for your pooch. So now you're asking yourself, my dog has red eyes, what's going on? Here's what it could be.
Causes of Red Eyes in Dogs
There are several culprits that could result in red eyes in dogs.
Your dog may experience seasonal allergies which results in red eyes caused by the environment or, in some cases, brought on by diet.
The best way to tackle this is by tracking when a dog has a red-eye outbreak. If it's only during a specific part of the year, then simple dog eye drops like Nutri-Vet will help to relieve eye redness in your dog. If it’s year-long or a food related allergic reaction, it will take longer to figure out the culprit, and you will need to discuss this with a vet.
2. Cherry Eye
If you see a bulge of pink, usually near the corner of the eye closest to the dog’s nose, this is likely a condition called Cherry Eye.
Dogs have a third eyelid that you can’t normally see. This pops out in animals who have weak ligaments holding that lid in place.
Certain breeds have a propensity toward Cherry Eye, such as:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Lhasa Apsos
- Shih Tzus
The usual treatment for Cherry Eye in dogs is surgery on the third eyelid because the gland there produces about half of your dog's tear film. Without this, your dog can move into dry eye, which impairs a dog’s vision over time.
Most dogs recover from Cherry Eye surgery within a few weeks.
3. Corneal Damage
Anything that damages a dog's cornea can cause red eyes due to irritation. For example, if a dog’s eye gets poked with some weed or gets scratched by a persnickety cat.
Corneal damage in dogs typically heals in about three days. You may have to administer antibiotic eye drops (prescribed by a veterinarian) for pain and to prevent potential eye infection.
4. Dry Eyes
Dry eyes are fairly common in canines. When your dog’s eyes don’t produce enough tears to keep them moist, it also increases the chance of unwanted agents entering them.
If it's dry eyes that's causing redness, your veterinarian will typically prescribe a special eye drop that not only soothes the eye and improves tear production in your pooch, but also washes out any bits of debris or treat an infection.
Glaucoma is a fluid build up in your dog’s eye, which, over time, can lead to blindness. If this is the case, the dog’s eyes may also look swollen. This is a very serious condition that requires vet attention as soon as you notice symptoms.
6. In-Grown Eyelids (Entropion)
In the case of Entropion in dogs, your pet's eyelids roll inward and cause them discomfort. It also can result in damage. Breeds commonly susceptible to this include:
- American Strafford Terrier
- Basset Hound
- Great Dane
- Great Pyrenees
- Irish Setter
- Old English Sheepdog
This condition requires surgical correction.
7. Pink Eye
Also known as conjunctivitis, Pink Eye in dogs occurs when the inner eyelid becomes inflamed. You see this as pinkness. Conjunctivitis may be contagious to other pets, particularly if it is bacterial based. Treatments include artificial tears, steroid eye drops, and cool eye compresses when your dog is resting.
Many times your dog’s red eyes is a temporary reaction to some type of irritation. However, red eyes can indicate underlying medical problems like diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms that imply something more is going on include:
- Constant eye-watering
- Discharge (yellow or green)
- Mucus discharge
- Rubbing of their eyes on furniture
- Squinting or frequent blinking
Take note of these and tell your veterinarian.
Diagnosis of Red Eyes in Dogs
When you take your pet to the vet for red eye symptoms, what can you expect? The exact diagnosis of red eye in dogs depends on what your vet expects but here are a few things that happen:
Blood Tests: A blood screening can detect underlying illnesses that result in eye redness and irritation.
Detailed Eye Exam: This way the vet knows exactly what part of your pup’s eyes are red. Your vet may track your dog’s vision and examine the structure of your dog’s eye.
Fluorescent Eye Drops: These reveal corneal scars or scratching.
Internal Pressure: A Tonometer reads the pressure of your dog’s eye in order to rule out Glaucoma.
Schirmer Tear Test: This measures tear production. The test consists of small strips of paper held in the dog’s lower eyelid. Your dog may fuss a bit, but it’s not painful. During this test, your vet may collect some resulting fluid and check it for bacteria.
Treatment Instructions: Make sure your vet tech shows you how to administer any medications recommended, such as how to apply eye ointment or drops.
If it turns out that there is a serious cause for your dog's red eyes, you may have to go to a specialist for further examination and treatment.
How to Keep a Dog’s Eyes Healthy
Start by paying close attention to your dog’s eyes regularly. Look for any signs of discharge or crusting. The area around the eyeball should be white and bright. Any change in color, cloudiness, or uneven pupils means a vet visit is in order.
Even the tidiest of dogs will sometimes have eye gunk or eye boogers in the corner of their eye. Clean this out gently using a damp cotton ball. While you are there, take a look at the lining of your canine’s eyelid. It should be pink, not red or white.
If you have a long-haired dog, keep the fur away from their eyes, and make sure that area remains well-groomed. Those long hairs can scratch your dog’s eyes.
For dogs who love to travel with their head out the car window, get dog goggles. The wind can bring all types of debris with it, injuring your dog’s eyes.
Last but not least, keep your eyes on your dog’s behavior and appearance, and have your vet conduct annual eye exams.