Dog Eye Problems

Updated September 28, 2018
Veterinarian and dog

Redness, itchiness, and watery eyes on dogs might look like allergies, but these symptoms may indicate something more serious. If an eye issue isn't treated quickly enough, what may seem like a minor problem can result in visual impairment, blindness, and even loss of the eye. If your dog begins to exhibit symptoms of unhealthy eyes, don't delay in getting him to the vet.

Corneal and Scleral Lacerations

Corneal and Scleral Lacerations

Your dog scratching his eye or a foreign object bumping the eye may result in a wound on the cornea or the sclera (white of the eye), and can cause corneal ulcers. These lacerations, often referred to as ocular trauma, are serious, and Animal Eye Care asserts this injury should be addressed right away.


  • Visible scratch or tear on the eye
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Distorted pupil
  • Protruding eye
  • Clouded cornea
  • Swollen eye
  • Blood in cornea


The type and severity of the injury will vary depending on the cause of the laceration. For less severe injuries, the eye may be flushed, and a topical ointment with antibiotics will be used to treat or prevent infection. Typical ointments used include neomycin-polymyxin B and bacitracin for penetrating wounds and cefazolin, gentamicin, or tobramycin for perforating wounds. Your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-inflammatories such as prednisolone or dexamethasone and topical steroids. For more serious injuries, surgery may be required to repair the lens over the eye, and in extreme cases, the eye may need to be removed. Your vet may refer you to a pet ophthalmologist if surgery is needed. No matter the treatment, your dog will have to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from touching his injury and making it worse.

This kind of injury requires immediate veterinary care.


Dog with eye cyst

Cysts can sometimes occur on the iris of dogs. They are not normally painful but can cause vision impairment. PetMD lists genetics as the most common cause, but cysts can also result from glaucoma or trauma to the eye.


  • Sphere or oval shaped mass on eye with light, dark, or transparent pigment
  • Multiple masses on eye


In most cases, no treatment is necessary for cysts. If your dog's cysts are caused by an underlying condition, that condition will be treated. Always have your veterinarian check cysts on your dog to ensure that he doesn't need treatment for them.

Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis)

Eye Inflammation

If you notice your dog is experiencing some inflammation around its eye, it may be Blepharitis. PetMD states Blepharitis is the swelling of the eyelid or mucus membranes around the eyes and can be caused by genetics or by allergies due to medications, food, fleas, or the environment.


  • Scaly, dry, or flaky skin around the eye
  • Intense itching of the eye
  • Watery or mucus filled eye discharge
  • Thickening of the eyelids
  • Loss of hair or skin pigmentation around the eye
  • Elevation of skin with or without pus
  • Concurrent conjunctivitis
  • Inflammation of the cornea, causing blurred vision


Blepharitis can be painful and irritating, so bring your dog to the veterinarian immediately to address this issue. Your vet will do an eye exam and may collect a sample from the skin or discharge to determine if further tests should be conducted.

Treatment for blepharitis depends entirely on the cause of the disease, and treatment paths may include a diet change, antibiotics, or surgery. Treatment may also include using warm compresses on the eye throughout the day and cleaning the eye area with a solution prescribed by your vet.


Black Labrador with cataracts

A cataract is an opaque, cloudy looking hue over the lens of an eye. Diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma cause cataracts, but cataracts can also develop due to genetics, poor diet, or trauma to the eye. As dogs age, cataracts become more common.


  • Grey or blue haze over entire or part of eye
  • Vision loss or impairment
  • Increased water intake and urination (may indicate diabetes)


Animal Eye Care states antioxidant supplements supplied by your veterinarian may assist in the health of the eye, but surgery is the only way to completely rid your dog's eyes of cataracts. This ailment does not normally cause pain to your dog, but if left untreated, cataracts can cause permanent blindness. If your dog has symptoms of cataracts, bring him to see your veterinarian to see if surgery is necessary.

Eyelid Protrusion (Cherry Eye)

Cherry eye

"Cherry eye" is when a dog develops a pink or red mass protruding from his lower eyelid. This condition results when a prolapse occurs in the third eyelid dogs have which aids in producing tears.


  • Itchy eyes
  • Swelling around eyes
  • Small or large pink or red mass near eyelid


Your veterinarian may recommend injections or topical antibiotics, but PetEducation advises these are not normally satisfactory treatments, and surgery is usually necessary to reposition the prolapsed gland. The gland may be removed entirely, but this may cause other problems later, such as dry eye. Talk to your veterinarian about the best method of treatment for your dog.

Keratoconjunctivitis (Dry Eye)


Keratoconjunctivitis, more commonly known as dry eye, is a condition that occurs when the cornea becomes inflamed and the tissue surrounding the cornea becomes dry. VCA Hospitals states dry eye normally occurs in both eyes, but one eye may present worse symptoms than the other.

Genetics play a role, but any condition that prevents proper tear production can result in dry eye, including auto-immune diseases, canine distemper virus, and hypothyroidism. Certain medications, including sulfonamides, may also contribute to this ailment.


  • Excessive squinting or blinking
  • Pain or irritation
  • Redness
  • Thick mucus discharge


Treatment for dry eye may include medication dispensed into the eye to promote tear production, and your vet may advise you to gently clean your dog's eyes daily with a warm moist towel. The most common medications used are cyclosporine and tacrolimus and in some cases pilocarpine. Tear film replacement may also be used in addition to the medications. Lifelong care is required to assist with healing this condition. If a dog refuses to take eye drops or the drops do not work, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem.

Be sure to visit your veterinarian right away if your dog presents symptoms of keratoconjunctivitis. It is an irritating condition and may be a warning sign of a larger, underlying problem.



Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a fairly common eye ailment in dogs. Conjunctivitis is caused when bacteria comes into contact with the eye and is not flushed out properly. According to PetMD, other factors such as allergies, auto-immune diseases, and the canine distemper virus may cause pink eye.


  • Mucus or pus draining from eye
  • Crusty eyes
  • Excessive tearing or blinking
  • Swelling along lining of eye
  • Squinting or keeping eyes closed
  • Pinkness or redness in eyes


After ruling out more serious diseases that may be the underlying cause, your veterinarian will recommend an eye ointment such as Terramycin or drops such as Ciprofloxacin, possibly with an accompanying oral antibiotic. They may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication such as prednisolone. A saline flush of the eye may be conducted to remove mucus or irritants. Depending on the cause of the conjunctivitis, your vet may recommend diet or environmental changes.


Dachshund with glaucoma

Though considered an emergency, glaucoma is a relatively common eye disease in dogs. Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eyeball becomes higher than it should. PetEducation indicates this pressure can damage the eye's internal structures. Glaucoma is caused by genetics but can also be caused as a secondary disease to another condition, such as diabetes or a wound to the eye.


  • Showing pain in or around the eye
  • Dilated pupils
  • Swollen eyes/one eye larger than another
  • Cloudiness in cornea
  • Change in blood vessels in sclera


Immediate treatment is an absolute necessity to salvage the health of the eye from glaucoma. Request a same day appointment to get your dog's eyes evaluated and treated before any lasting damage occurs.

Your veterinarian will give an eye ointment but may also give an oral antibiotic. Treatments will likely be required several times per day. Your vet may also recommend surgery or even removal of the eye.

If glaucoma is not treated immediately, permanent loss of vision or total blindness can result, so be diligent about checking your dog's eyes for anything that may indicate glaucoma.

Home Treatment for Eye Infections

There are several options you can try for a mild case of eye problems, but you should always consult with a veterinarian before using any of these. VetInfo recommends using a simple saline rinse to clean out your dog's eyes. The recipe for the rinse is a half teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm (not hot) water. Use this mix to very gently clean the eye area twice per day.

Another rinse they recommend is using Chamomile tea that has been brewed and then allowed to cool. Place the tea bag on the areas around the dog's eyes (but not on the eye) and let the liquid from the bag seep around the eye area.

Using Human Eye Medication On Dogs

You may be tempted to use medications for eye problems that can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. These medications should not be used on a dog's eye and some of them can actually be toxic to dogs. Examples of medications you should avoid using are colloidal silver, antibiotic ointment, and herbal washes and remedies. Always discuss any medication for humans with your veterinarian prior to using it on your dog.

Is Your Dog Going Blind?

If left untreated, some of these eye disorders can lead to blindness. If you notice any of the symptoms below, bring your dog to your veterinarian for a check-up right away:

  • Walking into walls or objects in the house
  • Tripping over items in the home and a general sense of clumsiness and disorientation
  • An increase in the above behaviors at night, so that darkness makes symptoms worse
  • Walking very slowly and cautiously, or with nose down to the ground and "low" body language
  • Appearing to have trouble finding regular items, like food dishes, toys, beds, dog door, etc.
  • Anxious behavior
  • Lethargy and/or depression
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Opacity or "cloudiness" in the eyes

Observing Your Dog's Eye Health

Eye issues can be a source of pain, irritation, and discomfort for dogs, and the cause may be an undiscovered problem within their immune system. Checking for dog eye problems regularly is an important part of pet ownership. Reviewing pictures of dog eye diseases, infections, and other conditions can be helpful, but it isn't a good substitute for a veterinary exam. If something doesn't seem quite right, it's always best to bring your pooch to see the vet. You could be preventing further complications and you may even discover a bigger issue is at hand.

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Dog Eye Problems