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September 01, 2020
When your dog looks at you with his big, soulful puppy dog eyes, it makes you want to melt. But, when those eyes are red and bloodshot, it can worry you. Dogs’ eyes are fairly similar to humans’ eyes; the biggest differences are dogs have a third eyelid to help protect the eye, and dogs have more rods in their cornea. More rods enable dogs to track light and movement well, but they don’t see as many colors as humans.
Dogs can get red eyes for several reasons, and many are fixed easily and not cause for too much concern. However, if you notice your dog has red eyes, you should definitely look into the situation as soon as possible.
Your pup can get red eyes for various reasons, including an injury, a foreign object in the eye, allergies, and a host of eye conditions like glaucoma, conjunctivitis, and dry eye. If your dog has red eyes, you can take care of some issues at home, while others need to be addressed at a veterinary clinic.
Your vet will conduct a full ophthalmologic exam and run a series of different tests to narrow down the cause for your dog’s eye issues. Once you know why your dog has red eyes, you can get him the proper treatment.
Allergies are one of the most common reasons for red eyes in dogs. Just like with humans, allergens can cause your canine companion's eyes to get itchy and uncomfortable. If your dog has an allergic reaction to particular irritants in the environment or in his dog food, his eyes can become inflamed and red in appearance.
The best way to treat red eyes from allergies is to bring your pup to a vet for allergy testing. Together, you and your vet can pinpoint what your dog is allergic to. You can then remove the offending items from your home, change your pup’s food if necessary, and your vet might prescribe medication for your dog.
Some of the most common causes of dog allergies are fleas, pollen, dust mites, certain foods, some household cleaners, perfumes, dander, feathers, and smoke. Wipe your pup down after he’s been outside, make sure to use cleaners and products that are safe for your dog, keep his food bowls clean, and avoid spraying intense fragrances around your pooch. If your pup’s allergies are really intense, you can get an air purifier to help remove airborne irritants.
If your pup gets injured in the eye area, or you notice his eyes are suddenly red, there could be a foreign object in his eye. Anything that gets into your pup’s eye can irritate it and cause redness. The item can be small, like a piece of sand, or your dog can suffer an eye injury such as a stick poking him in the eye.
Examine your pup’s eye to see if you can spy the offending item. Use a dog eyewash or saline solution to flush out your dog’s eye. You may need to put an Elizabethan collar on your pup to keep him from scratching and pawing at his eye. It is best to have your pup’s eye checked by a vet to make sure everything is clear.
If something is embedded in your pup’s eye, do NOT attempt to remove it. Bring your dog to the vet ASAP.
Conjunctivitis is relatively common in dogs and usually occurs in one eye. The tissue coating the eye becomes inflamed and the eye becomes red.
If your pup has pink eye, bring him to the vet. The vet can determine the actual cause of the problem and prescribe the right treatment. Your dog might need certain medications for inflammation, or he may need an antibiotic ointment if a bacterial infection is present.
In rare cases, your pup might need surgery. If a blocked tear duct causes his issue, your vet will need to remove the blockage.
If your pup suffers from dry eyes, he doesn’t produce enough tears to keep his eyes lubricated. His eyes can become very dry and red.
You can use different eyewashes to help keep your pup’s eyes moist and clear. Talk with your vet about your dog's best options and consider if a prescription might be necessary.
Glaucoma is a serious issue caused by fluid and pressure build-up in the eye. If glaucoma is not treated quickly, it can lead to blindness.
Your vet will prescribe medications to treat your pup’s glaucoma. In some cases, your dog may need surgery or his eye may need to be removed.
These ulcers are usually caused by an injury, such as a scratch to the eye. The thin membrane in front of the eye wears away and causes trauma to the eye.
If the ulcers are not severe your vet will prescribe antibiotic eye drops and advise that your dog wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from pawing at his eye. For more serious cases, your pup might need surgery or a corneal transplant. In some cases, your pup might wear a soft contact lens over his cornea until it heals.
Uveitis is when the tissue in front of your dog’s eye becomes inflamed and causes redness and pain. If not addressed quickly, this condition can cause blindness.
Your vet will prescribe a combination of antibiotic ointments and drops for the eyes and oral medications. In very rare cases, eye removal might be necessary.
If none of these issues cause your dog’s red eyes, there might be underlying health issues at play like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or cancer. Your pup’s red eyes can be a signal to you and your vet that something is going on, which is why it is vital to investigate immediately. When in doubt, always see your vet!
While any dog can suffer from red eyes, there are certain breeds more prone to eye issues than others. Breeds with long hair on their faces, older dogs, and flat-faced breeds are all more susceptible to specific eye issues.
While sometimes there might be nothing you can do to prevent your pup’s red eyes, there are several things you can do to keep your dog’s eyes as healthy as possible:
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