Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Learn all about conjunctivitis, a disease of the eye, in our article below. How do you identify and treat conjunctivitis in dogs?

Conjunctivitis happens to mammals and refers to the inflammation of a special mucous membrane lining the corner of the eyes. This mucous membrane is called conjunctiva and is made up of tissue that can be sensitive to infection. It causes irritation and redness, and if treated too late, it can cause a host of other issues. 

Conjunctivitis looks red, irritated and painful. It is commonly known as “pink eye”. It is the inflammation and irritation of the mucous membrane on the white part of the eyeball. This is why eyes look red when infected by conjunctivitis. The mucous membrane is also known as conjunctiva. There is no age barrier for conjunctivitis, and it can affect dogs at any time in their lives. 

What is conjunctivitis?

It is a contagious disease, specifically being able to spread from one eye to the other. 

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis has many visible symptoms. You would have probably noticed it in human beings. It is easily identifiable, but requires you to avoid contact with it entirely. It is also good to treat conjunctivitis as early as possible, before it leads to blindness. 

Redness of the eyes – The first and most obvious symptom is when the eyes become red. 

Swelling of the eyes – Another common symptom of conjunctivitis or pink eye is swelling in the area around the eyes, specifically the eyelids. 

Discharge – The discharge from the infected conjunctiva is gooey and can range from green to yellow colour. 

Pawing at the eyes – If your dog is trying to scratch the irritation a lot, it will be noticeable and is very likely a sign that there is some kind of issue in the eyes. 

Eyelids that stick together – This is another noteworthy sign of gunk or discharge causing eyelids to start sticking together. 

Squinting and watery eyes – You will find your dog’s eyes getting more watery, which can lead to discharge as well. 

Causes of conjunctivitis

There are many different causes of conjunctivitis. They can include:

  1. Irritants and pollutants: Smoke, dust, dirt, and other pollutants in the air around can irritate and inflame the conjunctiva of a dog’s eyes. 
  2. Health problems: Tumours in the eye region, although not too common, are capable of causing conjunctivitis though the problem is often more serious than most due in large part to the cancerous growth. 
  3. Blockage of tear ducts or nasolacrimal ducts: Tissues (specifically conjunctiva tissue) can become infected when there is a blockage in the tear ducts of the eye.
  4. Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a painful disorder where there is a lot of pressure on the eyes of the dog. Conjunctivitis is likely to be a side-effect of the same. 
  5. Allergies: One of the biggest exacerbators of conjunctivitis are allergies. Allergic conjunctivitis is quite common in dogs as well. 
  6. Canine distemper: Distemper is a viral infection that affects dogs and comes from infected mammals. 
  7. Respiratory infections like a common cold: These can result in viral conjunctivitis. 

The different types of conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis can take many forms, as it is very easy to be infected by it. 

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis occurs when there is a bacteria or parasite that comes and sits in the conjunctiva tissue. A good way to keep your dog safe from bacterial conjunctivitis/pink eye is to keep surroundings clean and dust-free (as far as possible). Some causes of bacterial conjunctivitis include streptococcus bacteria and staph infection

Viral conjunctivitis 

As mentioned earlier, viral conjunctivitis is usually caused by a respiratory infection or cold. It takes a while to recover from this type of pink eye. This also includes canine distemper. 

Allergic conjunctivitis 

This is a common type of pink eye that can be created by an unusual amount of dust, pollen, smoke, and so on in the environment around the dog. Perfumes and some medication can also cause an allergic reaction in the form of conjunctivitis. Seasonal allergies are common as well, and can evolve into conjunctivitis. 

Diagnosis of conjunctivitis in dogs

It is important to find out what type of conjunctivitis your dog has. Is it allergy-related? Or is it bacterial? Could it be viral? This is for your dog’s veterinarian to usually study and diagnose. The vet will check the eyes carefully and determine how serious the infection is as well. Dogs have a third eyelid, so the veterinarian will do his or her best to inspect that along with the lining of the eyes, the eyelids, the eyelashes, and so on. 

Conjunctivitis can also be a secondary effect of another disorder (like canine distemper, for example). It is important for the veterinarian to be able to determine this, so that they can provide the appropriate treatment. 

Treatment of conjunctivitis in dogs

Once your dog’s vet has diagnosed the type of conjunctivitis and the level of extremity of the infection, treatment will begin. The vet will usually provide a mix of oral and topical medication that can help. Anti-inflammatory medication is useful to bring down the swelling around the eyes. These usually come in the form of steroids. 

What can you do?

Try and check all the products you keep in your kitchen and in your household. If you were perfume or deodorant, try and get mild ones that are not likely to irritate the dog. Use natural cosmetics as much as possible. 

Keep your dog’s eye region clean. Use a warm, moist cloth to gently wipe away accumulated gunk from the corners of the eyes. 

Always keep a cold compress on hand to administer to your dog in case of inflammation. 

Learn how to apply eye drops to your dog’s eyes from the veterinarian. This is also always useful to know so that you can administer drops in case of a particularly bad allergic conjunctivitis episode. 

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? For more medical advice, visit the VOSD website.