Many pet parents believe that dogs cannot get ‘pink eyes’ (conjunctivitis). But, much like humans, pets can get dog conjunctivitis. This disease occurs when the conjunctiva is swollen. This is the moist tissue that lines the eyelids. Unfortunately, breeds that tend to have a lot of allergies or autoimmune skin diseases can have usual problems with problems with the conjunctiva. Likewise, dogs with dry eyes can get conjunctivitis.
What is dog conjunctivitis?
As it was mentioned before, conjunctivitis is the name given to the harmful infection that affects the conjunctiva of the eye. Humans and dogs have conjunctiva. It is the mucous membrane which covers the eyeball and completely lines the eyelid. This membrane is extremely important as it acts as a barrier to infection and foreign objects. Therefore, once it is infected and inflamed, your dog’s eyes are at a high risk of another ocular disease. Dog conjunctivitis is also known as ‘canine pink eye’.
Causes of dog conjunctivitis
There are numerous things that cause dog conjunctivitis. Before treatment, your vet will need to investigate the symptoms in order to get an official cause. It is important that you know the most common potential mild causes:
- Foreign bodies such as grass
- Blocked tear duct
- Dry eye
Nonetheless, there are other more serious causes which require special treatment:
- Bacterial – Neonatal conjunctivitis is fairly common. A puppy can experience inflammation of the moist tissues of the eye due to an accumulation of discharge. In fact, your puppy can get the pink eye even before the eyelids separate or open.
- Viral – Several viruses can cause dog conjunctivitis. The most common one is the canine distemper virus.
- Immune disease – Dogs can also get pink eyes due to the effect follicular and plasma-cell conjunctivitis and systemic immune diseases that make the body attack its own tissues.
- Cancer – Ocular tumours are rare but they are known to cause dog conjunctivitis. Also, cancer can cause lesions in the border between the cornea and the sclera. The nodules that are formed can cause pink eyes.
- Secondary disease of the tissues surrounding the eye – Lid or lash diseases can cause dog conjunctivitis.
Diagnosing dog conjunctivitis
When looking for dog conjunctivitis, the first thing your vet will look for is proof of any ocular disease. This is important because the cause of pink eyes might not be a disease in the conjunctiva but in another part of the eye.
For these reasons, your doctor must conduct a complete eye exam. There are different methods of examination. The most common one is the fluorescein stain. This one is very interesting! Your vet will spread the substance on the surface of the eye to make any scratches and ulcers appear under a light. Vets also look for any foreign materials which may have gotten caught in the lids or eyelashes.
Usually, the vet does a test for glaucoma. This determines the pressures in the eye. Also, vets tend to flush out the nasal cavity to rule out any disease in there. If your dog has eye discharges from his eye, a culture is necessary to determine their composition. In rare cases, your vet takes a biopsy of conjunctiva cells for microscopic examination.
Treatment of dog conjunctivitis
Since there are many causes of dog conjunctivitis, every treatment is different. As a pet parent, you should know that it is useless to cure the pink eyes if you don’t also cure the underlying cause. If you do this, conjunctivitis will simply reappear.
If a foreign body causes conjunctivitis in your dog’s eye, your vet will simply remove it. This requires sedation or anaesthetic. In some cases, surgery is an option to unblock any tear duct. Afterwards, a treatment of eye drops and antibiotics is necessary. If an allergy is a cause, vets prescribe antihistamines. Lastly, if your vet thinks a bacterial infection is a cause, he recommends eye drops and antibiotics.
Unfortunately, if your vet suspects that the underlying cause is more serious (like cancer), further tests and more aggressive treatments are mandatory. Remember that during the recovery period, you need to get a buster collar to prevent your dog from scratching at his eyes.
Prevention of dog conjunctivitis
Regretfully, you cannot prevent this disease. However, you can keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date to avoid parasites or viruses.
Pink eyes can be quite uncomfortable for your pet. Make sure you treat it properly!