red eyes

Why Does My Dog Have Red Eyes?

When our eyes get red and irritated, it is important to find out why so that we can treat the issue or rectify whatever is causing harm. The same is true for our dogs. Should your dog’s eyes get red, it can cause discomfort and make your dog’s vision poor. It is just as important to find out what is causing the irritation for your dog’s red eyes and determine what the best course of treatment should be for our pet as it is for ourselves.

Cause of Red Eyes in Dogs

Several things can cause your dog’s eyes to be red, ranging from a simple allergy to a serious ailment.

Pink Eye

Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is essentially inflammation of the eye. The eyelid and the front of the eyes can become a pink or red color when people or dogs have conjunctivitis. Most of the time, dust and pollen cause pink eye in dogs. When people get it, conjunctivitis is very contagious. This is because when humans have pink eye, it is often caused by bacteria. When we rub our eyes, our hands can become contaminated with germs and they are transmitted to whatever or whoever we touch. Should someone else touch something after you did, the bacteria are then transferred from the object to the next person’s eye. They will then most likely acquire pink eye. Since dogs rarely get pink eye in this way, bacteria are not always the source.

Dry Eyes

Like humans, a dog’s eyes can become very dry when they don’t produce enough tears. If your dog is dehydrated, this can easily occur. Red, dry eyes can be a warning sign of two conditions. First, when your dog isn’t getting enough water, to the point that they are not producing tears, a life-threatening situation can occur. The second, and less severe, cause is that the eyes can quickly become painful as the cornea is unable to rinse away any dust or airborne allergens away naturally, and inflammation rapidly occurs. Eye drops are often used to rinse any debris off your dog’s eye, and extra water should be given as well.

Corneal Damage

Many things can cause the cornea of a dog’s eye to become damaged and subsequently red in color. A scratch from a foreign object in the eye is the most likely culprit. Things such as tall grass or a toy can easily scratch your dog’s eye, causing extreme redness and irritation.

Cherry Eye
Did you know that dogs have a hidden third eyelid? When the ligaments of the eye begin to weaken, and the eyelids are not able to be held in place, the eyelid will protrude and be a cherry color. You will notice this in the inner corner of the eye. If your dog is found to have what you think is cherry eye, a trip to the vet is in order.

Additional Eye Symptoms That May Occur

When your dog’s eyes become irritated or red, other symptoms may occur. These include:

  • Mucus discharge (sometimes this will be yellow, green, etc.)
  • Eye rubbing (with the paw)
  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • Swelling of any part of the eye

When to Call the Vet

Sometimes you will want to watch your dog to see if they develop any new symptoms first. Other times, a trip to the veterinarian is needed right away.

If your dog’s eyes are suddenly red, and nothing in their routine has changed, you will want to make an appointment for your pet to be seen by the doctor. They will examine your dog and see if an obvious cause of the eye irritation is notable.

Sometimes medication is provided, like an antibiotic ointment. Other times, a medication such as Benadryl will be given to your dog. If improvement is not seen in a day or two, you will want to go over your dog’s history with the vet. Sometimes a stronger medication may be necessary.

If  your dog starts to walk into walls or cannot find their water bowl, a trip should be made right away to the vet, as they may have suddenly gone blind or have a temporary loss of vision due to extreme inflammation. Steroids may be prescribed or some other medication to quickly reduce swelling of the eye or eyes.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Your Dog’s Red Eyes

Your vet will thoroughly examine your dog to try to determine why their eyes are red. The doctor may closely look at the eye and see if the cornea is scratched or scarred. Additionally, your dog’s tears, if they can produce them, may be tested for a bacterial infection. If the test comes back positive, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed for your pet.

Regardless of the type of medication that may be prescribed for your dog, be sure to understand how it should be administered and how often. Just like with people, a dog can be given too much of a medication, or not enough, causing potential harm. If your dog is found to have an allergy, you will want to try and limit the amount of exposure to the allergen your dog is getting. If it’s an outdoor allergy, a long-term allergy medication may be necessary to prevent redness and irritation from continuing.

Together, with your vet, you can figure out what is causing your dog’s red eyes and how to manage it. 

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