Whether you’re talking about eye discharge, “eye boogers”, corneal ulcers, or any other type of eye-related malady, dealing with your dog’s eye problem is never fun, and if your pup has really been going through significant pain or discomfort due to an eye issue, it can pull on your heart strings like little else.
I know this first hand, because not too long ago, my dog Juno (an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix) battled an eye infection, and unfortunately it got to the point where it really began to bother her. She kept pawing and scratching at her eye to try and get some relief, and eventually I had to take her to the vet to get it checked out.
Fortunately, I was able to take the necessary steps to get everything cleared up, and I got a little wiser along the way. I learned a lot about dog eye infections through that experience, and this is actually what prompted me to put together this information for other dog owners who may be dealing with the same problem. So pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee (and possibly a muffin or some other Starbucks-inspired snack), and consider taking notes as well, as this information is designed to help you learn how to identify, prevent and clean a dog eye infection.
Understanding Dog Eye Problems
Before I even get into how to prevent dog eye infections or anything else pertaining to treating your dog’s eye infection, it would be helpful for me to start by explaining a little bit more about what exactly a dog eye infection is. After all, accurate diagnosis is half the cure, so if you’re well-versed in what dog eye infections are all about, you can be better prepared to deal with them. So let’s go over some basics.
First of all, it is not uncommon for dogs to get eye problems, and the type of eye issues that dogs can deal with are as numerous as the dogs themselves. Symptoms for dog eye infections will vary, but some common indicators to look for include:
- Eyes that seem larger or bulging
- Cloudiness in the eye
- Discharge coming from the eye (white, yellow or green in color)
- Crust on eyelid, and in extreme cases, the eyelids might be stuck together
- Your dog may avoid light
- Your dog’s eye might stay shut or be “squinted”
- Redness in the eye
- Excessive tearing
- Your dog may frequently rub or scratch its eye
- Your dog may rub its face on the ground to try and relieve eye irritation
- Dilated pupils
Even though dogs rely much more on their senses of smell and hearing than their eyes, being able to see is still very important to your pup! If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, you would do well to take your dog to the vet so that he/she can perform an ophthalmologic exam on your pooch. It’s very important that you treat this situation with a sense of urgency, because if this type of issue goes neglected, it could lead to longer-term problems, including permanent visual impairment.
Four Common Eye Problems In Dogs
While there are several different kinds of eye problems that dogs can have, there are basically four types of issues that tend to be the most prevalent. Here they are:
1. Dry Eye (a.k.a. KCS)
Dry eye is the simple term for the impossibly-named condition Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), which is when the cornea of your dog’s eye gets inflamed due to dryness. This basically comes from a deficiency of what is known as “aqueous tear film”, which is the thin layer of liquid over the surface of your dog’s eyeball.
Many dogs get KCS when their eye glands simply don’t produce enough aqueous tear film to keep their eyes lubricated, and this in turn produces redness, inflammation and itchiness in your pup’s eyes. If your dog seems to be blinking or squinting excessively, or if they have swollen eyelids, sensitivity to light or a thick yellow/green discharge coming from their eye, more than likely your pup is dealing with a case of KCS.
2. Corneal Ulceration
This means a scratch or break in the cornea of your dog’s eye. This can come from trauma or injury to the eye, and it can also be the result of an inner eye disease (in rarer cases). This condition is more commonly seen in dog breeds that tend to have bulging eyes, such as Shih Tzu or Pekinese dogs. This only makes sense, because their protruding eyes are simply easier targets for injury!
If you see your dog holding its eye closed, squinting a whole lot, or displaying sensitivity to light, your pooch could be dealing with corneal ulceration. Other signs to look for include clouding of the cornea, eye discharge and redness. While a vet can diagnose this condition by way of a physical exam, the most precise way to find out if your dog has a corneal ulceration is to have the vet apply a fluorescein dye to the area.
Your dog can get glaucoma when their eyes produce more fluid than is needed at the time, and a block to the eye’s drainage system may be present as well. This creates pressure within your dog’s eye that can damage the retina or the optic nerves, eventually causing some degree of vision loss. Not a good scenario at all. Glaucoma comes in two basic forms: Acute and chronic.
Acute glaucoma produces symptoms such as excessive tearing or squinting, and dilated pupils may also be seen. Acute glaucoma can be painful for your dog as well due to the uncomfortable amount of eye pressure produced by the excess fluid. If you see that your dog has a red eye, and if your pup appears to be in significant pain due to its eye issue, try to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible for testing and treatment. With chronic glaucoma, your dog’s eyeball may become enlarged, or it may protrude out farther than normal. The best way to tell if your dog has chronic glaucoma is to take it to the vet to get an ophthalmologic exam.
4. Pinkeye (a.k.a. Conjunctivitis)
The inflammation of the thin membrane that covers the outer layer of your dog’s eye (and lines the interior surface of your dog’s eyelids) is known as pinkeye (a.k.a. conjunctivitis). Without a doubt, conjunctivitis is the most prevalent eye problem in the world of doggy eye issues, and if it is properly treated, it will typically heal up with little to no further issues. However, if you leave this condition untreated, it can spread into the deeper parts of the eye, which is a whole other ball game in terms of the complications it can cause.
Your dog can get pinkeye from a variety of sources, with allergens such as ragweed, pollen, mold, grass, and dander being some of the main culprits. Conjunctivitis can also come from various bacterial, fungal or viral infections. As far as symptoms go, look for your dog’s eyelids to be red or inflamed, and they may even be stuck together. In addition, your dog’s eye might give off a thick yellow discharge (gross, I know).
How To Prevent A Dog Eye Infection
Proper eye care can yield fantastic results in terms of bolstering your dog’s natural defenses against potential eye infections. While the best prevention method would probably be to have your dog wear safety goggles all the time, this is obviously not very practical (although it would be cute). So, the next best choice would be to pay close attention to the type of foods you’re feeding your dog, as diet plays a huge role in terms of maintaining proper eye health for your pup.
Keep in mind that if you feed your dog any snacks or meals made from processed foods, more than likely those foods will contain a certain degree of toxins due to all of the additives and preservatives. These toxins are often purged from your dog’s body through various discharges of the eyes, ears, digestive tract, and skin. Many pet owners have found that once they stopped feeding their dog processed foods and started getting serious about switching to a homemade diet that is plenteous in natural foods and raw meats, their dog’s chronic eye conditions would repair themselves. Here are some key foods to include in your doggie’s diet, so that you can help foster the right type of eye environment for your pooch:
- Omega-3 fatty acids such as are found in raw fish (e.g., sardines, salmon, etc.) are a great choice for your pup.
- Add leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale or parsley into your dog’s food. If you try to feed this to your pup on its own, you’re not going to get very far, but if you mix it in with their regular servings of flavorful meat (possibly chopped up or shredded), they won’t think twice about scarfing it down.
- Also consider adding blackberries and blueberries, as well as carrots, sesame seeds and/or sunflower seeds. These nutrient-rich natural foods will give your dog’s system a much-needed antioxidant and protein-rich boost.
- Try finding a dog food supplement that includes bioflavonoids, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and pycnogenols.
- You could also switch to a natural dog food from a popular brand such as Wysong, Pet Guard, Nature’s Variety, or Halo. These foods are specially formulated to provide your dog with a well-balanced and highly nutritious meal, which will help keep their immune system strong enough to stave off potential infections.
Other Preventative Measures
There are other preventative measures you can take to help reduce your pup’s risk of getting an eye infection as well. For one, if your dog has long hair or bangs right around his/her eyes, it can be a source of irritation, often poking or even scratching your dog’s eyes. Clip those hairs with some round-tipped scissors, so that you can keep your pup’s vision free from obstruction, and lower the likelihood of some hair-related irritation taking hold in their eye.
My next tip is a tough one, but it can really help. If your dog is like mine, they love to hang their head out the window when they’re riding in the car. This seems to be a universal trait of all dogs. The only problem is that this leaves your pooch vulnerable to insects, debris and other objects that can possibly injure their eye when they’re enjoying the wind blowing on their face. Not only that, but the wind can also play a part in drying out your pup’s eyes, which can lead to irritation and possibly infection. As much as your pup might enjoy feeling the breeze during a typical joyride, it’s actually better for you to keep their head inside the car, and the windows only partially rolled down.
Incorporating eye care into your dog’s regular grooming regimen is also an effective way to prevent eye infections. Doing something as simple as wiping their eyes on a regular basis with a damp cotton ball (make sure the water is warm) will keep the dirt, muck, gunk, and other questionable substances from taking hold in or near your dog’s eyes. Try using a different cotton ball for each of your pup’s eyes, so that just in case there is an infection, you won’t accidentally spread bacteria or other germs from one eye to the other.
How To Clean A Dog’s Eye Infection
As far as cleaning your dog’s eye infection goes, keep in mind that it is often a lack of good hygiene that causes infections in the first place. Just by following the simple regular cleaning regimen illustrated in the previous paragraph, you can alleviate a lot of the potential causes of eye infections in your dog. But, if your dog has already developed an eye infection, there are several medical and natural options you can use to address the problem. I’m going to cover some of the medical options first, and then I’ll wrap things up by giving you some home remedies you can use for your dog’s eye infection.
Medical Methods For Preventing And/Or Cleaning A Dog’s Eye Infection
The type of medical treatment your dog might need will be largely determined by what specific type of infection your pup is dealing with.
- For example, KCS normally requires a prescription medication such as Optimmune, which is basically a sterile eye ointment that contains an anti-inflammatory agent known as cyclosporine. This substance stimulates tear production (a big help for your pup’s dry eyes), and it also helps to reduce damage to your dog’s tear ducts.
- For pinkeye, very often a topical antibiotic will do the trick.
- If your dog has a case of acute glaucoma, other medicines such as Mannitol, Timolol, Methazolamide, and Dorzolamide HCI will often be prescribed by your dog’s vet.
- For corneal ulceration, topical antibiotics are also typically prescribed, but if your dog’s eye becomes non-responsive to the medication (which indicates a more serious case), surgery may even be required.
If the medicine is topical (e.g., an ointment), a good place to start would be to clean up any discharge from your pup’s eye before applying the medicine. You can do this the way I mentioned earlier by thoroughly wiping your dog’s eye with a damp cotton ball, but you can also use a damp, soft washcloth to get the job done. This washcloth can double as a warm compress, which will bring some soothing relief to your poor pup’s embattled eye when you leave it on there for several minutes.
Home Remedies To Prevent And/Or Clean A Dog’s Eye Infection
Now here’s the part that I’ve been waiting for. I probably failed to mention this earlier, but I’m a fan of natural or homeopathic remedies for your pet’s medical conditions, and I believe that taking the natural route is typically better for your pup in the long run. This is not to disparage medicine, because there are quite a few scenarios where using medicine is a perfectly acceptable and highly effective way to go.
However, as much as it is possible, I think it’s always better to try some home remedies first. Not only will it save you some time and money (most of the time anyway), but it will typically be healthier for your dog, with less side effects or potential for adverse reactions. So here are some of the most popular home remedies out there for preventing and/or cleaning your dog’s eye infection:
1. Saline Solution
You can dissolve a teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce cup of warm water to make a homemade saline solution that can work wonders for easing your pup’s eye infection. You can apply this solution by dipping a ball of cotton into the solution and then squeezing some drops into your dog’s eye, or by filling an eye dropper with the solution to do the same thing. When applying the solution, keep adding drops until they begin to run out of your dog’s eye, and then wipe away the excess with a soft cloth. Clean your dog’s eye with this saline solution several times a day, and it will keep dust and other foreign particles at bay.
2. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel is another favorite home remedy for minimizing the inflammation and irritation that normally accompanies a dog’s eye infection. Another benefit of using aloe vera gel is the fact that it has strong antibacterial properties, which helps to attack the infection at its root. Apply several drops of aloe vera gel to your pup’s infected eye several times a day for best results.
3. Chamomile Tea
Believe it or not, chamomile tea is a formidable infection-fighting weapon as well. Simply prepare a cup of chamomile tea, allowing the teabag to steep in the water for several minutes before removing it from the cup. While the teabag is still warm (but not hot), place it on your dog’s ailing eye, and it will begin working to reduce the effects of the infection. Try doing this a few times a day until the infection begins to clear up.
4. Colloidal Silver
Another often-overlooked home remedy for dog eye infections is colloidal silver. What many people don’t realize is that silver is one of the most powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial elements on the planet. In fact, hospitals are beginning to install silver-plated door handles and stair rails due to the germ-fighting capabilities of silver. In addition, colloidal silver is often vaporized and used as a breathing treatment to heal patients who have respiratory infections. The word “colloidal” means that the silver is in somewhat of a semi-liquid form, not unlike the mercury in those old-school glass thermometers. Simply squeeze a drop of colloidal silver in your dog’s eye every few hours, and monitor any changes in the discharge from your dog’s eye. Keep doing this until the infection clears up.
A Note About Home Remedies
As I said earlier, I am one of the biggest proponents of home remedies that you’ll find, but to be fair, no home remedy is “guaranteed” to work every single time for every single dog. While the ingredients used in the home remedies listed above are wholly natural and essentially harmless to your dog, there may be cases where an allergy or some other type of sensitivity may cause problems for your pooch. Your safest bet is always to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before deciding to go ahead with a home remedy treatment.
There may be cases where your dog’s eye infection may be more severe, requiring immediate medical attention instead of just a home remedy. For example, if you see blood or a yellowish pus oozing out from your dog’s eye, you will definitely need to visit the vet as soon as you can.
In addition, if your poor dog’s eye is swollen shut, or so loaded with gunk and crusty discharge that it seems like it’s been “sealed” shut, definitely plan to take your pooch to the vet. One more thing as well: If your dog has not displayed any severe eye infection symptoms but it seems like the home remedies are producing no effect at all, definitely seek the advice of your vet so that you can determine what next steps you can take.
Okay, I have given you plenty of information to digest regarding preventing and cleaning your dog’s eye infection. Use this to your advantage, and get your dog’s eyes back into tip-top shape!