Eye infections are a relatively common condition among dogs, particularly a bacterial infection known as conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, isn’t exclusive to humans and can cause the same discharge, redness, and irritation for your dog. Learn how to recognize the signs of pink eye in dogs and what to expect from the vet and treatment.
What is conjunctivitis (pink eye)?
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the tissue surrounding the inner eyelids and white part of the eyes. Bacterial conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection that can appear as a result of a variety of different triggers. It often accompanies a respiratory infection or if your dog has suffered an eye injury. Pink eye can also be caused by airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke, dust, and perfumes, dry eye, or if your pet has come into contact with bacteria or another affected dog.
Dogs with conjunctivitis will experience symptoms such as eye discharge, squinting, redness, or cloudiness in the eyes. Their tear and mucus production in the eye will increase, and the discharge can either be watery or thick like pus. Your dog’s eyes may also become swollen. Oftentimes, dogs with conjunctivitis rub their eyes with their paws, furniture, or the floor.
Going to the vet for conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is relatively common among dogs but is typically easy to treat. Though not usually a serious medical problem, if left untreated, pink eye can cause permanent eye damage or blindness. Though this is only seen in rare, severe cases, it is still important to seek proper treatment for your dog.
If you suspect your dog may have pink eye, contact your vet. Your vet will be able to determine the proper cause of the eye infection as well as if there is any underlying illness or injury. This diagnosis will help decide the best course of action for treatment.
During the physical examination, vets apply a liquid topical anesthetic directly to your dog’s eye to prevent pain and discomfort as they determine the cause of infection. Once the anesthetic kicks in, the veterinarian will look for wounds, foreign materials, or other causes of conjunctivitis. As it sometimes accompanies respiratory infections, your vet might also check to rule out any respiratory problems or fever that should also be addressed.
Another test your vet may perform involves an eye drop stain to show any corneal damage. A fluorescein stain is a green-tinted dye that glows under blue light. The dye sticks to scratches, ulcers, and wounds on the cornea. If your dog’s eye is free of defects, the dye will not stick to the eye. These eye drops are painless for your dog and help vets see if there are any injuries that they should be aware of.
A veterinarian may also perform other tests, including bacteria cultures, allergy tests, or a tear production test in the case of dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is suspected. More often than not, pink eye cases are not serious and don’t require extensive tests or treatment.
The most common treatment for pink eye in dogs is with drops or an ointment applied directly to the eyes. A prescribed antibiotic will address the bacterial infection of conjunctivitis. If your dog’s conjunctivitis is accompanied by a respiratory infection, oral antibiotics may also be prescribed. Additional treatment may vary if your dog has a foreign object in their eye, blocked tear duct, or corneal injury. A sterile saline eyewash can help flush out eye irritants and is available for purchase over the counter.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before giving any medications to your dog. If your veterinarian has prescribed antibiotic eye drops, ensure that you can keep your dog’s head still and open up their eyes. Apply the droplets to your dog’s eye without touching the applicator to the affected area to avoid contamination.
Try to get as much of the recommended dose of the medication in the eye before allowing your dog to blink or shake their head. The majority of dogs don’t enjoy getting eye drops. Reward them for staying still with a tasty treat or distract them with a chew.
For antibiotic ointments, stabilize your dog’s head and squeeze the recommended amount of lotion into the eye, avoiding touching the tube to the eye. The warmth of the eye will melt the ointment, so your dog’s blinking will help spread it around.
After applying any type of medication, wash your hands to avoid the spread of bacteria or contamination. Though you aren’t likely to catch conjunctivitis from your dog, washing your hands before and after application will help the unnecessary spread of germs and bacteria.
Most cases of pink eye clear up quickly with antibiotics, but if your dog’s eye infection persists talk to your vet for further treatment.