You may see your dog pawing away at their itchy eye or notice a pink swell forming in their eyelid. Just like humans, dogs can also get conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pink eye), and we can even give it to each other!
Pinkeye occurs when the filmy layer over the eye, the conjunctiva, becomes inflamed. Conjunctivitis is a symptom caused by direct infection of the eye or as a result of another illness. Determining the cause of your dog’s conjunctivitis can help you figure out how to treat it.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Dogs:
- Puffy eyelids
- Watery discharge
- Yellowish discharge
- Eyelids stuck together
- Pawing at eye
Types of Conjunctivitis
There is a myriad of reasons your dog may have contracted conjunctivitis. They boil down to three basic categories:
Immune-Mediated: Conjunctivitis can occur as a secondary result of many immune-related diseases. Alternatively, your dog’s eyes may not be functioning properly, and this pink eye is a result of the body letting it’s immune guard down. For example, “dry eye” is a common symptom when dogs lack adequate moisture around their eyelids and conjunctiva and often result in pinkeye.
Viral: Your dog has come in contact with a virus and the conjunctivitis is happening as a symptom of that virus. Distemper is a common viral disease that manifests through pinkeye.
Bacterial: Something is directly irritating your dog’s eyes, or they have an infection somewhere in their head area. This can happen at any age but is particularly dangerous for puppies, who are at a high risk of neonatal conjunctivitis if their eyes are not properly cared for right after birth.
If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, you’re likely wondering what to do next. For really mild cases, you can treat it at home with a saline solution and cold compresses. Make sure you have separate washcloths for each eye so you don’t spread the infection anymore.
However, for eyes that are more inflamed, you will want to seek treatment from your veterinarian. Usually, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic eye drop or ointment. This prescription will take away any discomfort your dog may be feeling and reduce the inflammation. Plus, if something more serious is going on, they’ll be able to tell from some procedural tests.
Preventing conjunctivitis is as easy as monitoring your dog’s play activities and keeping vaccinations up to date. If you notice your dog’s eye is irritated from play, rinse it out immediately to prevent further complications. And always wash your hands!
Original post published on 11/26/15. Updated on 2/18/20.