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Red eyes in dogs: causes, symptoms, treatment

Cocker spaniel at vet getting eyes checked advice

What to do if your dog has red eyes.

© Shutterstock

Have you noticed your dog's eyes are red? Sometimes red eyes come with other more serious symptoms of other problems in your dog, so it's important to not delay in seeking out a vet if that's the case.

By Dr. Stephanie Holmes BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAECC MRCVS

Published on the 10/08/2020, 16:04

You may notice suddenly that one or both of your dog’s eyes are red. This may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as itchiness, pain and holding the eyelids tightly closed, discharges – watery, bloody or sticky yellow-green pus, cloudiness of the eye or even loss of vision. Occasionally red eyes can also be a symptom of a disease elsewhere in the body, so the dog may be unwell in himself and lethargic.

It is important if you notice any of these symptoms to seek urgent veterinary attention. Eyes generally heal very quickly but they can also deteriorate quickly, so prompt medical intervention is advised in order to prevent permanent blindness or even loss of the eye.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What causes red eyes in dogs?

There are many things that can cause a dog to have red eyes. Most commonly, these include: allergies, infection, foreign bodies, trauma, glaucoma, heat, high blood pressure, chemical spill, dry eye and cherry eye.

Why does my dog have bloodshot eyes?

Bloodshot eyes are what we see when the white of the eye (the sclera) becomes red in colour. This can occur due to swelling of the blood vessels – with inflammation, infections, high blood pressure and pain, or it can be due to a bleed such as in cases of trauma or blood clotting problems. The problem may be seen in both eyes or just one.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Why does my French bulldog have red eyes?

Due to their breeding these dogs have very short noses and prominent eyes. They are more prone to trauma, which often leads to ulceration of the eye. If not treated promptly, this can potentially lead to blindness or even the loss of the eye.

They also are a common breed to suffer from a condition called cherry eye, which is where the third eyelid gland prolapses (to look like a little cherry under the eye – hence the name). Cherry eye is corrected with an operation.

Other common conditions in the breed include allergies, increased chance of heat stroke and dry eye, all of which can cause redness of the eyes and eyelids.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Why does my puppy have red eyes?

Once puppies' eyes are opened (at around two weeks of age) it can take them a few weeks to learn to blink and move their head away in response to an object coming towards the eye (this is called the menace response). Because of this they can be prone to getting red eyes due to trauma e.g. a scratch from a playful siblings toenail.

Conjunctivitis is also common in puppies. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the tissues around the eye inside the eyelids and is often contagious. As such, it spreads easily from eye to eye and puppy to puppy or other dogs in contact. The signs of conjunctivitis are usually red, irritated, itchy and sticky eyes.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Other conditions that may cause red eyes in a puppy include abnormalities of the eyelids such as entropion, where the eyelid rolls inwards and the eyelashes irritate the surface of the eye, or cherry eye – see above for more details.

If any abnormalities are noticed in your puppy eyes, it's important to have them checked by a vet as soon as possible.

How do I treat my dog's red eyes?

Treatment for any eye problem should only be given under the guidance of a veterinary surgeon. Lubricants, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be prescribed following an examination of the whole dog and a more detailed examination of his eyes.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How do you know if your dog has an eye infection?

Common symptoms of an eye infection will include your dog blinking frequently or holding his eyelids closed. A discharge is often seen. This can be watery but is often thicker and yellow/green in colour. The eye is usually red and bloodshot. Infections are often itchy, so the dog may rub its face on the floor or his paw.

A veterinary surgeon will make the firm diagnosis of an eye infection.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What can I put on my dog's irritated eye?

If the dog is irritated by his eyes, you may gently place a cool pack onto the eyelids. This should help to soothe. Veterinary attention should be sought as soon as possible.

How can I treat my dog's red eye at home?

It is recommended to seek veterinary advice as soon as any eye problem is noticed.

If your dog’s eye is red following trauma, a cool pack can be placed gently over the eye. Lubricating drops/artificial tears may be instilled into the eye, if it is irritated or at risk of drying out (although be careful as this may interfere with some veterinary tests).

An eye may be cleaned or rinsed with cooled boiled water. If a known irritant has entered your dog's eye, it is recommended to wash the eye with the head lowered to the affected side and seek immediate veterinary attention.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What do vets prescribe for eye infections?

Vets will prescribe antibiotics for your dog’s eye infection. These will usually be drops or ointment to be put in the eye. Occasionally a course of antibiotic tablets may also be prescribed. A swab may be taken from the infected eye and sent to the laboratory to test which would be the best antibiotic to use.

Other medications such as lubricating drops and anti-inflammatories or painkillers may also be prescribed.

Can I use human eye drops for my dog?

Some of the drugs a vet will prescribe may also be human drugs. It is not recommended to use human drugs without a diagnosis and prescription from a veterinary surgeon first.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk