It is not unusual for dogs to have eye problems; in fact, they’re quite common. Typical symptoms of eye infections in dogs include swelling, redness, discharge (most of the time yellow, green or white in color), cloudiness, changes in color or pupil size, crust, sensitivity to light, and in more severe cases, the eyelids may be stuck together so that your dog can’t open its eye.
As the proud parent of a “furry child”, any type of infection is obviously going to be a point of concern, but thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help treat your dog’s eye infection. Not too long ago, I had to employ some treatment techniques of my own in order to relieve my dog Juno of her eye infection. While Juno’s experience was far from extreme, I still learned a heck of a lot about dog eye infections throughout the entire ordeal, and I figured it would be useful for me to put the little nuggets of knowledge I collected into some type of resource to help other dog owners who may be facing similar situations.
So without further delay, below are some key points and insights regarding how to treat a dog’s eye infection, so that you can get rid of that nagging malady for good.
First Things First: What Is A Dog Eye Infection?
What exactly is a dog eye infection? What are some of the symptoms you should look for? I thought it would be a good idea to answer these questions before I get into the details of treating this ailment, because after all, it’s hard to know how to fix a problem when you’re not even sure exactly what the problem is.
First up, it is important to note that there are several different types of eye infections that can affect your dog, and each one has its own characteristics. That being said, you can reduce the majority of these conditions down to one factor, and that is inflammation. If your dog is dealing with an eye infection, more often than not it is because their eye has become inflamed in response to an irritant or foreign object of some kind. This could be a small insect, some dirt, dander, or other debris, but it can also be due to coming into contact with some type of fungus, virus or bacteria.
If your dog is anything like mine, he/she has a tendency to get into all kinds of predicaments that could set up an opportunity for their eye to get injured or infected; it’s just the nature of the beast, so to speak. Even something as simple as a quick dash through some thick brush can leave a scratch on your pup’s eye, which can develop into an eye infection. To be fair, I do want to mention that although inflammation is one of the major culprits of eye infections in dogs, there are other issues that can bring on an infection as well (e.g., genetics, immune disorders, etc.). Here are some of the major types of eye infections, as well as their causes, so that you can get a better picture of what I’m talking about.
1. Conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pinkeye)
This is basically an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a very thin membrane that covers the outer layer of your pup’s eye, and that also lines the interior surface of your pup’s eyelids. Whenever the conjunctiva gets inflamed, it will produce swelling, itching and redness, which makes the eye look a little pink (hence the name).
2. KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)
Also referred to as “dry eye”, KCS is the result of a malfunctioning eye gland. A healthy eye gland will produce a protective liquid film (known as “aqueous tear film”) over your dog’s eye. Without this delicate layer of liquid, your dog’s eyes can become excessively dry, which can lead to serious irritation, redness and inflammation. If not properly treated, KCS can lead to serious visual impairment and even blindness.
3. Prolapsed Third Eyelid
Did you know that each of your dog’s eyes has a third eyelid? I flipped out when I first found that out, but it is indeed true. This third eyelid provides additional protection for your dog’s cornea, and the gland of this eyelid produces tears that help to lubricate the cornea. If this gland becomes irritated, it can begin to bulge out and produce a thick, yellowish mucus.
4. Corneal Ulceration
This is basically a scratch or some other type of break in your dog’s cornea. Corneal ulceration often happens as a result of some type of injury to your dog’s eye (e.g., a scratch, debris, etc.). Symptoms of this type of infection include cloudiness, redness, discharge, and sensitivity to light, and your dog may also try to hold his/her eye closed in response to the infection. Dog breeds that feature protruding eyes (e.g., Pekinese, Shih Tzu, etc.) often experience corneal ulceration; simply put, there’s more exposed eyeball available to potentially get injured!
This condition is due to an excess buildup of fluid inside of your dog’s eye, often as a result of some type of blockage in the eye’s natural drainage system, or perhaps due to an overproduction of fluid. This condition can put significant pressure on the retina and optic nerves, which can lead to more serious problems, including partial blindness. Glaucoma in dogs comes in two different “flavors”, so to speak: Acute and chronic. With acute glaucoma, your dog may experience painful swelling and excessive tearing of the eye, as well as noticeably dilated pupils. With chronic glaucoma, your pup’s eye could protrude or become enlarged.
This is more of a genetic problem than anything caused from the outside, but there have been cases where certain eye injuries or immune problems have brought on cataracts. This condition causes the area behind the pupil to become white or cloudy. Dogs that suffer from cataracts may experience vision loss as well, usually happening gradually over time.
7. Ingrown Eyelids
Much like ingrown fingernails in humans, an ingrown eyelid causes your dog’s eyelid to turn back in upon itself, which can press the eyelashes (which can be quite long depending upon the breed) against the eye. This can produce a rather large ulcer, which may require surgery to be corrected.
Okay, now that you have a better idea of how many different types of potential eye infections are out there, we can turn our attention to how to treat this bothersome condition. There are several schools of thought regarding what the best way to treat eye infections might be, and if you boil it all down, the real debate seems to be between natural and medicinal methods. I’ll go ahead and tell you up front, my philosophy is that whatever it takes to get the job done with minimal harm to my pup, I’m game!
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’m more inclined towards natural remedies, but this doesn’t mean that I shun medicine; in fact, there are some cases where the infection is so extreme, only a strong medication can stop the progress of the ailment in time before things really get out of hand. So with fairness and objectivity in mind, I want to start by talking about the different types of medicines that are often used for dog eye infections, as well as the potential side effects that you may have to consider when giving any medicine to your pooch.
Dog Eye Infection Medication And Their Side Effects
1. Artificial Tears Solution
This is often used to moisturize your dog’s eyes and provide relief from conditions such as KCS (dry eye). It contains an active ingredient known as polyvinyl alcohol, which acts as an ocular lubricant to help stimulate tear production. The good news is that this particular product does not have any reported side effects!
2. Puralube Vet Ointment
This is a sterile ophthalmic ointment that soothes irritation and helps to prevent dry eyes. It also forms a nice protective film over your dog’s eye, providing much-needed lubrication which keeps the eye from drying out. You should put a small amount of this ointment on the inside of your dog’s eyelid for best results. Thankfully, there are no reported side effects to this medication either.
This is more of a heavy-duty medication, and as such it requires a prescription from your dog’s vet. Optimmune is also a sterile eye ointment, and it is used to treat KCS as well. The active ingredient in Optimmune is a substance known as cyclosporine, which has wide-ranging anti-inflammatory properties. Potential side effects include blurred vision, itching, stinging, burning, discharge, or tenderness of the eye.
4. BNP Triple Antibiotic Ophthalmic Ointment
As its name implies, this is an antibiotic ointment, which means that it contains powerful antibiotic agents (Bacitracin, Neomycin and Polymyxin B) that can treat various bacterial infections in the eye. It is applied topically, typically as a thin film over the eye, and should be administered about 3 or 4 times a day. Potential side effects for this one include swelling of the face, itching, difficulty breathing, or other reactions that indicate a sensitivity to the ingredients. It should also be noted that prolonged use of BNP could lead to an overgrowth of organisms that are not susceptible to the medication, such as various fungi.
5. Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution
The name of this medicine is a definite snoozer, but it does do the trick in terms of knocking out the bacteria responsible for dog eye infections. It works on an expansive variety of bacteria, and it’s a good choice when the infection seems to be a little more advanced. This medicine is highly convenient to use because it basically comes in the form of eye drops. Just make sure not to touch the nozzle of the eye dropper when administering the medication, as this could contaminate the dropper opening and put your pup at risk of further infection.
As far as side effects go, it’s the same as you read above for BNP; just be sure to keep an eagle eye out for any swelling, itching or difficulty breathing, as this may indicate some type of sensitivity or allergic reaction. In addition, don’t use Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution for fungal or viral infections. Oh, and before I forget, you will need to get a prescription from your vet before you can use this medicine.
6. Timolol Ophthalmic Solution
This medicine is primarily used to treat various versions of glaucoma, and it requires a prescription from your vet as well. It’s a pretty clever medicine, because it acts as a beta-blocker to the receptors in the blood vessels of your dog’s eyes. This causes the vessels to constrict, which limits the amount of fluid that is allowed to pass out of the blood vessels and into your dog’s eyeball. All of this scientific wizardry is designed to reduce the pressure inside your pup’s eye, bringing much-needed relief.
This medicine has quite a list of potential side effects, including swelling of the face, tongue, throat, or lips, as well as hives, itching, and difficulty breathing. Other side effects include droopy eyelids, blurred vision, drowsiness, weakness, headache, dry mouth, upset stomach, diarrhea, skin rashes, and loss of appetite. If your dog has a history of certain medical conditions such as breathing problems, thyroid disorder, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease, you should definitely not use Timolol. I don’t want to turn this resource into a boring medical brochure, so I’ll stop right there with this one. If you want to find out more of the fine details, you can always Google “Timolol side effects” or something similar to get your questions answered.
7. Dorzolamide HCL Ophthalmic Solution
Yet another medicine that is used to treat glaucoma, and it does require a prescription from your vet as well. Dorzolamide performs a dual role of relieving the pressure associated with glaucoma, while also limiting the production of fluid that could continue giving your pup problems.
This medicine is also delivered in eyedropper form, and possible side effects include allergic reactions such as swelling, hives, closing of the throat, and difficulty breathing. Your dog may also experience fatigue, sensitivity to light, nausea, or skin rashes. As with any other medication, talk to your veterinarian about the potential side effects of Dorzolamide HCL, and give the vet a full picture of your pup’s medical history so that he/she can determine whether this particular medicine is the right one for your dog.
8. Pilocarpine Ophthalmic Solution (2%)
This is another medicine designed to treat canine glaucoma, but it goes about it a different way: Pilocarpine actually constricts the pupil of the eye, and it also increases the amount of fluid that drains from the eye. Both of these factors work in tandem to relieve pressure inside your pup’s eye. The medicine comes in a dropper bottle, making it easy to administer to your pooch.
One of the most notable side effects of Pilocarpine–although rare – is that it may cause retinal detachment, which can lead to blind spots or a limited field of vision. Before prescribing this medicine, your veterinarian will more than likely examine your pup’s retina to determine whether or not there may be a risk for retinal detachment. As with many of the other medicines listed here, there are quite a few potential side effects to consider when using Pilocarpine, including shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue or face, hives, irregular heartbeat, watering mouth, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, or muscle weakness.
I know that I’ve already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: Before you decide to use any medicine on your dog, be sure to get some input from your veterinarian. Your pup’s health is too important to risk being haphazard with medicines that could produce significant side effects. Not only that, but you also want to make sure that the medicine you’re using is the right one for the job!
As I mentioned earlier, there are some dog eye infection medicines that do great for knocking out bacteria, but they can’t touch fungi or viruses. You want to make sure that you get the full skinny on whatever medicine you’re using on your pooch, so that you can knock that infection out and move on with your life.
9. How To Use Antibiotics for Dog Eye Infection
Some of the most powerful anti-infection agents out there are antibiotics, so I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about how to use antibiotics to treat your dog’s eye infection. While some of the more robust antibiotics have to be prescribed by a veterinarian, you can use an over-the-counter ointment such as BNP Triple Antibiotic Ophthalmic Ointment and apply it topically to your dog’s eye. Other popular antibiotic products include Neo Poly Dex Ophthalmic (as eye drops or eye ointment) and Terramycin Ophthalmic ointment. These products can also be purchased over-the-counter, and all you have to do is follow the instructions on the package to properly administer the medicine to your dog.
10. Dog Eye Infection Drops
I’m a big fan of eye drops in particular, because they’re just easier to administer, especially if you have a fidgety pooch. My dog Juno never did respond well when I tried to apply ointments to her eye using my finger, but when I switched to dog eye infection drops, things got a lot easier and quicker. I could just quickly hold her by the head open her eye a little bit with my fingers, and plop the drops right in with very little fuss from my pup. I’ve already mentioned a couple of my personal favorites – Neo Poly Dex Ophthalmic and Gentamicin Sulfate Ophthalmic Solution – but there are some natural remedies that I’m going to get to in a second that are worth considering as well.
Best 4 Home Remedies For Eye Infections In Dogs
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a fan of home remedies, not only because they’re generally safer (no side effects), but also because they’re a lot less expensive for the most part. Here are some of the most popular home remedies you can use to help relieve your dog’s eye infection.
1. Colloidal silver
Colloidal silver is a big winner in my book. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, the word “colloidal” refers to a thick liquid, similar to the mercury you would find in older glass thermometers. Silver is an extremely powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial agent; in fact, recent scientific research has proven that bacteria literally “falls apart” when it comes into contact with silver. This fact has not been lost on the medical industry, either; it has been proven that bandages containing silver ions speed the growth of healthy cells and stop bacterial growth in its tracks. You can use colloidal silver as an eye drop to zap the bacterial infection in your dog’s eye. Administer one drop every 3 to 4 hours until the infection clears.
2. Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera gel is another powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent. Apply a couple of drops of aloe vera gel to your dog’s infected eye about 3 or 4 times a day, and it will bring soothing relief, staving off the inflammation and infection as well.
3. Trim Hair Around Dog’s Eyes
Don’t forget to trim the hair around your dog’s eyes! This hair can be more of a nuisance than you might think, and it could begin to poke, scratch or irritate your dog’s delicate eyes, potentially setting the stage for an infection. Just be sure to use round-tipped scissors when you do your clipping duties.
4. Saline Solution For Dog Eye Infection
This is one of my favorites, for no other reason than the fact that it’s so doggone simple. All you have to do is dissolve about a half-teaspoon of regular table salt in 8 ounces of lukewarm water, and gently pour this solution into your dog’s infected eye, wiping away the excess with a soft cloth or cotton ball.
This will help keep your dog’s eye clean, removing debris, dust, crust, and other particles that could play a part in irritating your poor pooch’s eye. You can also apply a folded-up warm washcloth to your dog’s eye for a few minutes, leaving it on there to provide soothing relief similar to a warm compress.
Well, there you have it – my collection of medicinal and home remedies to help treat your dog’s eye infection. Now that you have this knowledge, go forth and use it to conquer your pup’s ailment, so that both of you can get on with having fun!