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Does Your Dog Have Red Eyes?: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Does Your Dog Have Red Eyes?: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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.

 

What Causes a Dog's Red Eyes?

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. 

brown dog close up on eye

Here is a look at several of the causes for your dog’s red eyes and symptoms and treatments for each:

Allergies

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.

 

Symptoms 

  • Itchiness
  • Discomfort
  • Watery discharge
  • Excessive tearing
  • Swollen, red eyes

Treatment

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.

 

Foreign Object or Injury 

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.

 

Symptoms

  • Your dog has redness, swelling, and discomfort (especially if it is just in one eye)
  • Your dog is pawing at his eye and having trouble keeping it open
  • Excessive tearing

Treatment

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. 

 close up on dog eyes

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis is relatively common in dogs and usually occurs in one eye. The tissue coating the eye becomes inflamed and the eye becomes red. 

Symptoms

  • Squinting or blinking
  • Swelling and redness
  • Watery discharge, either clear or with some mucus

Treatment

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.

 

Dry Eye

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. 

Symptoms

  • Thick, white or yellow mucus around the eyes
  • Cloudy, dull eyes
  • Frequent eye infections
  • Excessive blinking

Treatment

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.

close up on brown dogs eye

Glaucoma

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. 

Symptoms

  • Rubbing at the eye with paws or rubbing eyes on the floor
  • Different-sized pupils
  • Tearing
  • Excessive squinting
  • Redness and swelling
  • Vision loss
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Sensitivity to light

Treatment

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. 

 

Corneal Ulcers

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. 

Symptoms

  • Squinting
  • Redness
  • Pawing at the eye or rubbing eyes on the floor
  • Drainage from eye
  • Sensitivity to light

Treatment

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.

brown dog close up on eyes

Uveitis

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.

Symptoms

  • Redness and swelling
  • Excessive tearing
  • Small, uneven pupil
  • Discharge
  • Cloudy or dull eye
  • Eye color changes or becomes uneven

Treatment

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!

 

Are Certain Dogs More Prone To Eye Issues?

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. 

How To Keep Your Dog’s Eyes Healthy

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:

  • Keep the hair around your dog’s eyes trimmed.
  • Clean your dog’s eyes as needed with a soft, damp cloth.
  •  If your pup is a breed prone to eye problems, use eyewash to clean his eyes regularly.
  • Don’t let your pup hang his head out of the car window when driving; this makes him an easy target for foreign objects that can fly into his eyes.
  • Have your pup’s eyes checked regularly by your vet.
Above all, if you ever notice anything a little off with your pup’s eyes, whether it’s redness, swelling, or your dog is just pawing at his face often, get him checked out by the vet asap. Your dog’s red eyes might be due to a common problem that is fixed easily. For more helpful pet tips, check out the rest of our blog! You’ll find all sorts of useful information and great resources to help you keep your pup happy and healthy!

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  • Fernando Becattini