No matter how you slice it, dealing with a dog’s eye infection is never fun. This relatively common ailment is often the result of some kind of irritant or foreign object getting into your dog’s eye, but it can also be brought on by way of injuries, bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
Only a short while ago, I had the unfortunate privilege of dealing with this issue first-hand when my dog Juno came down with an eye infection. Thankfully, her condition was far from severe, but it was definitely enough to prompt me to do more research into this bothersome malady. I learned a heck of a lot about dog eye infections along the way, so I thought it would be useful to put together a “Frequently Asked Questions” list for other dog owners who are seeking more information about what these eye infections are all about.
So without any further fanfare, I now present to you this FAQ for dog eye infections, as a service to the canine-loving community across the globe.
Q: What Is A Dog Eye Infection?
A: Although there are several different factors that can bring on a dog’s eye infection, the end result is generally the same: Your pup’s eye becomes inflamed or irritated to some degree. Once this happens, the infected eye can display a number of unsavoury symptoms, which I will get to in my next question.
Q: What Are The Symptoms Of A Dog Eye Infection?
A: The symptoms can be quite varied based on what might be causing the infection, but here are some of the most common signs to look for:
- Redness and swelling
- Itching (as evidenced by frequent scratching or pawing at the eye)
- Discharge coming from the eye (often yellow, white or green)
- Your dog might keep its eye squinted or hold its eye closed
- Frequent blinking
- Your dog may rub its head on the carpet to try to relieve irritation or itching
- Sensitivity to light
- Enlarged or bulging eye
- Excess tearing
- Dilated pupils
- Cloudiness in the eye
Q: What Are Some Of The Factors That Can Cause A Dog Eye Infection?
A: I hope you packed a lunch. No, but seriously, there are a large number of potential factors that can contribute to a dog eye infection, and in that regard it’s not much different than an eye infection in a human. Some of the most common culprits are:
- Bacteria (e.g., leptospirosis, canine brucellosis, etc.)
- Ticks and/or tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease or canine ehrlichiosis
- Viruses such as herpes, distemper, hepatitis, or canine influenza
- Foreign debris such as dander, hair, grass, dirt, etc.
- Irritants such as smoke, shampoo, etc.
- Allergens (e.g., pollen, ragweed, grass, mold, etc.)
- Tear duct problems (these are quite common in Poodles and Cocker Spaniels)
- Genetic or hereditary problems
- Trauma or injury to the eye
- Scratches or cuts on the cornea
- Parasites, such as Fleas
- Dry eye
- Various nutritional or vitamin deficiencies
Q: What Are Some Common Types Of Dog Eye Infections?
A: I’m glad you asked! Here is a list of some of the most commonly reported types of dog eye infections:
This particular type of infection comprises 90% of all dog eye infections. Conjunctivitis is basically an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a very thin membrane that lines the interior of your dog’s eyelids. When a dog gets conjunctivitis, it can produce redness, swelling, itching, and irritation of the eye, which is where the name “pinkeye” comes from. Believe it or not, conjunctivitis is actually a detoxification process of a sort, as it is the method by which your dog’s eye purges itself from irritants or impurities.
This is an inflammation of one or all of the interior parts of the eye, which are the iris, the ciliary body (right behind the iris), and the choroid (a cluster of tissue positioned behind the iris).
Commonly referred to as “dry eye”, KCS stands for Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, and it is basically a condition where your dog’s eye is receiving inadequate moisture or lubrication due to an unhealthy or malfunctioning eye gland. When a dog’s eye gland is working properly, it will produce a thin layer of fluid known as “aqueous tear film” over the surface of your dog’s eyeball. This important layer of fluid acts as a protective barrier against all kinds of little irritants.
When this layer is broken or provides inadequate coverage, your dog’s eye can quite literally dry out, which produces irritation, itching, dryness, and swelling. Your dog’s eye may also secrete a thick, yellow discharge (sorry for how gross that sounds). KCS is nothing to play around with; in fact, if you allow this condition to go unchecked or untreated, it could very well lead to serious visual impairment or even loss of vision for your pup.
This one hurts just thinking about it. A corneal ulceration is essentially a scratch, break or injury of some kind to the cornea of your dog’s eye. This can come from any number of factors, including a cat scratch, thorn, small pebble, insect, etc. It’s easier than you might think for your dog to sustain an injury to their cornea, especially if you have an adventurous pup like I do.
Juno might go barreling headlong into some thick bushes, and there’s no telling what kinds of small branches or other prickly items might be waiting for her upon impact. Dog breeds with eyes that protrude (e.g., Boston Terrier, Pug, Pekingense, Shih Tzu, etc.) are often more susceptible to sustaining corneal ulcerations, for obvious reasons. As far as symptoms go, look for redness, cloudiness, discharge, light sensitivity, or frequent squinting.
This condition is basically caused by a buildup of fluid inside your dog’s eye, which can cause uncomfortable pressure (known as “intraocular pressure”) on optic nerves and the retina. Glaucoma can be brought on by an excessive production of fluid, or by a malfunction in the drainage system of your dog’s eye. If your dog has glaucoma, it will be painful, and the redness that often accompanies this condition will be diffused on a deeper level in your pup’s eye. Glaucoma can be a beast to deal with if it gets out of hand, so if you suspect that your dog might be suffering from this type of infection, take him/her to the vet for a professional examination, which will include taking a measurement of your dog’s intraocular blood pressure.
This is typically a genetic issue, and similar to how it is in humans, canine cataracts can cause the clear lens that is positioned behind the pupil to become hazy, cloudy or white. It normally requires surgery to correct, and if left untreated, it can worsen your dog’s vision over time, and eventually cause blindness.
Prolapsed Third Eyelid
Mind-boggler number one for me was finding out that my dog had a third eyelid to begin with! All dogs do, and it’s there to provide extra protection for your dog’s cornea. Many times, a prolapsed third eyelid happens as a result of a tear gland that has become irritated, which will cause the eyelid to protrude and give off a thick, mucus-like discharge.
Like an ingrown hair or fingernail, an ingrown eyelid is basically when your pup’s eyelid folds over and grows in the wrong direction, which causes the eyelashes to press into the eyeball. This can produce irritation, as well as an ulcer that sometimes appears white in color. You can find out whether or not your dog’s eyelids are ingrown by gently pulling them out away from the eyelid and then letting them naturally fall back into place. If you see the lids folding back in upon themselves, you will know that your pup is dealing with an ingrown eyelid.
Q: How Serious Is A Dog Eye Infection?
A: Well, the good news is that it is not life-threatening, but if an eye infection is left unchecked, it can lead to further complications, including impaired vision or loss of vision entirely. In some more extreme cases, dogs have had eyes surgically removed due to a severe infection. Poor pups! This is why it’s important to address any eye infection promptly, so that you can reduce the risk of things getting out of hand.
Q: How Does A Vet Diagnose A Dog Eye Infection?
A: There are a number of methods a vet can use to diagnose your dog’s eye infection, and most of them are centered on some type of physical eye exam. Since hardly any dog I’ve ever known can read an eye chart, other methods must be used (okay, bad joke). Here are some of the ways in which veterinarians can diagnose an eye infection in a dog:
Schirmer Tear Test: This test measures the amount of tears your dog’s eye produces, and it will normally be conducted whenever there is any kind of discharge or redness in the eye.
Intraocular Pressure (IOP) Test: As the name implies, this test measures the pressure within your dog’s eye using an instrument known as a tonometer. This purpose of this test is to look for and identify any early signs of canine glaucoma.
- Visual exam of the eyelids, as well as the front half of the eye, using a focal light source.
- Corneal Staining: A procedure in which a fluorescein dye is used to reveal any breaks, scratches or other ulcerations of the cornea.
- Dilation: The vet will use special eye drops in order to dilate the pupils enough to examine the back of your pup’s eye, including the condition of the retina and optic nerve, as well as a component known as the tapetum, which is a layer of tissue in your dog’s eye that helps them see at night.
- Allergy tests of various kinds to determine if allergens are the cause of the infection.
- Bacterial Culture: This will give the vet a chance to see if there are any types of bacteria responsible for causing infection in your dog’s eye.
Q: How Can You Prevent A Dog Eye Infection?
A: There are a number of preventative measures you can take to lower your pup’s risk of getting an eye infection. Here are some of the best ones I could find:
Feed your dog high-quality, natural food instead of processed foods that contain all kinds of preservatives and artificial ingredients. A dog that has a diet that is high in processed foods will typically have a larger number of toxins in their system, and these toxins find their way out of your pup’s body by way of the eyes, ears, lungs, saliva, urine, and feces. If these toxins build up faster than your dog’s system can purge them out, your pooch may run the risk of getting an eye infection as a type of reaction to the toxins in the food.
To the best of your ability, feed your dog healthy meals and snacks that include Omega-3 fatty acids, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, parsley etc.), carrots, and various berries. I know what you’re thinking: “Hey look, my dog is not a vegetarian. He/she won’t eat that stuff.” Well, if you can cleverly chop or shred those items and mix them in with some high-quality meat, more than likely your pup will scarf it down without a second thought. Just remember that the key to controlling and reducing your pup’s eye discharge is in the health of their digestive tract, immune system and liver, and no factor controls the health of those items more than your pup’s diet.
- Believe it or not, your dog’s collar can play a part in his/her susceptibility to eye infections. If your pooch’s collar is too tight, it can constrict your dog’s cervical veins that are responsible for draining blood from your pup’s head. Without adequate drainage of this blood, your dog’s conjunctiva will also experience inadequate drainage, causing a buildup of fluid that can lead to inflammation.
- Regularly clean your dog’s eyes using a damp cloth or cotton ball. You wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would!) how much crust, dirt, debris, gunk, crud, and other unidentified stuff can build up in your dog’s eyes, especially around the corners. By wiping these areas clean on a regular basis, you’re helping to ensure that nothing gets clogged up, irritated or infected.
- If your dog has long hair around its eyes, try to keep it trimmed using round-tipped scissors. If this hair is allowed to grow unchecked, it can easily prick, poke or scratch your dog’s eye, which can lead to an infection.
- Okay, I don’t even like mentioning this one, but since I’m trying to be thorough, I guess I have to. One of the things you might want to consider giving up is allowing your dog to hang its head out the window while you’re driving. Yes, I realize that this is the highlight of most dogs’ lives, but at the same time, it can make your pup an easy target for random debris, insects, and other unidentified flying objects that can do harm to your dog’s eyes. In addition, as much as your dog loves the wind blowing in his/her face, it can dry out their eyes, which can lead to irritation, redness or flat-out infection.
Q: How Can I Clean Or Treat My Dog’s Eye Infection?
A: There are several treatment methods that you can use to stave off an eye infection, including both medicinal and natural or homeopathic remedies. I’ll cover the medicinal treatments first, and then move into the home remedies.
Medicinal Methods for Cleaning and Treating Dog Eye Infections
1. Antibacterial Ointment
One of the most popular medicinal treatments for a dog eye infection is an antibacterial ointment. This is, of course, based on the assumption that the infection your dog is experiencing is indeed a bacterial infection; if not, the ointment won’t do too much good. Antibacterial ointments such as BNP Triple Antibiotic Ophthalmic Ointment will do the trick, knocking out that nasty bacteria so that your dog’s eye can return back to normal.
2. Artificial Tears Solution
For KCS (a.k.a. dry eye), try a medicine like Artificial Tears Solution or Paralube Vet Ointment. Both of these medicines provide much-needed lubrication and protection for your dog’s vulnerable eyes, and they will also help to encourage tear production.
3. Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution
Eye drop medications such as Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution are also a great choice for staving off bacterial eye infections in your pooch. Another popular choice is Neo Poly Dex Ophthalmic, which actually comes in both eye drop and ointment form, so the choice is up to you.
4. Medicine for Glaucoma
If your pooch is dealing with glaucoma, there are a number of popular medicines vets use to address that cumbersome condition. Some of the top picks are Timolol Ophthalmic Solution, Dorzolamide HCL Ophthalmic Solution, and Pilocarpine Ophthalmic Solution (2%), all of which apply some type of astringent or constricting action in order to relieve pressure inside of your pup’s eyes.
Since many of the above medicines require a prescription, it only makes sense to thoroughly discuss the proper usage and potential side effects of each one before you decide to administer it to your dog. Keep in mind that your dog’s health is your number-one priority, so make sure that you have fully disclosed your dog’s medical history to your vet, and be sure that you ask plenty of questions to ensure that the medicine your vet prescribes is appropriate in light of your dog’s age, size and overall health condition.
Too many times we can rush through this part of things because we just want to bring our pup some much-needed relief, but be careful about being too hasty, otherwise you could shoot yourself in the foot by using the wrong medicine for the job!
Home Remedies for Cleaning and Treating Dog Eye Infections
1. Saline Solution
Regularly use a saline solution to clean your dog’s eyes. You can make a simple saline solution at home by dissolving about one-half teaspoon of table salt in an 8-ounce cup of water. Pour this saline solution over the affected eye, and wipe away any excess runoff using a cotton ball or soft cloth. This will help to clean your pup’s eye of any debris or other gunk that could worsen the infection. Do this several times a day to ensure that your pup’s eye stays free from irritants and obstructions.
2. Aloe Vera Gel
If you haven’t yet heard about the soothing and bacteria-killing benefits of aloe vera gel, you should definitely give it a try. Aloe vera gel is a powerful antibacterial agent, and it has a cool, soothing effect that can calm down any irritations or inflammations. You can either use store-bought aloe vera gel, or extract the gel straight from a live aloe plant (which, in my mind, is the best way to go). If you use a live plant, just break open the thick, supple leaves of the plant and then squeeze the gel out. Put two to three drops of this gel into your dog’s infected eye about three or four times per day for best results.
3. Chamomile Tea
Who knew that chamomile tea would be a great infection-fighting agent? I sure would have never guessed it, but there are many homeopathic enthusiasts who swear by it. Simply boil a bag of chamomile tea in a cup of water (like you would if you were going to make a cup for yourself), and allow the tea bag to steep for about 5 minutes. Now make sure that the tea bag is lukewarm first, and then place it directly on your dog’s infected eye. Repeat for several days, or until the infection fades away.
4. St. John’s Wort Mixture
In a small cup, combine 10 drops of St. John’s Wort (the liquid extract, obviously) with one cup of distilled water and a teaspoon of salt. Now mix this solution thoroughly and put it into an eye dropper. Rinse out your dog’s eye with this solution two to three times a day in order to reduce the irritation and inflammation associated with your dog’s eye infection.
5. Colloidal Silver
One of the most startling discoveries I happened upon had to do with the powerful antibacterial properties of colloidal silver. For those who don’t know, colloidal silver is basically silver in a liquid form, and it has absolutely incredible bactericidal properties. In fact, scientists have discovered that silver has the ability to literally dismantle the cell walls of bacteria, so that they essentially fall apart when they come into contact with this ancient element. You can administer colloidal silver to your dog’s infected eye by way of an eye dropper, and those powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial agents will go right to work to fight off the infection!
Okay, we’re done! I hope you have enjoyed this journey into the world of dog eye infections (okay, that sounds kind of strange), and I hope that this information will prove useful to you. Now take what you’ve learned and change your dog’s life for the better!