Dog with a swollen eye

Key takeaway

There are several reasons why your dog’s eye might be swollen, such as trauma, bacteria, viruses, and allergies. While most cases of swelling in the eye can be easily cured, if left untreated, symptoms can worsen and lead to further pain and discomfort. Read below to learn more about why your dog’s eye is swollen, including causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Why Is My Dog’s Eye Swollen?

Just like humans, dogs can get eye infections, too. It’s not unlikely that you may come home one day to your dog’s eye swollen and red. There’s nothing worse than seeing your dog uncomfortable and in pain, and seeing your dog’s eye swollen and puffy can be alarming. But fortunately, there are many ways you can treat a swollen eye on a dog.

Swelling in a dog’s eye can be caused by several factors, from a scratch in the cornea to bacteria in the eye. But if your pup is exhibiting discomfort and pain due to this swelling, you should bring them to the vet as soon as possible. While eye infections are usually easily treatable, they can lead to dog blindness if they’re left untreated. So, as soon as you come home to your dog’s eye red and swollen, make an appointment with your vet.

In this blog post, we’ll be going over the causes of swollen eyes in dogs, how to treat a dog’s swollen eye, how to prevent your dog’s eyes from swelling, and more. To learn more about what to do if your dog’s swollen around the eye, continue reading the article or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice:

What Causes Swollen Eyes in Dogs?

There are various factors that can cause swollen eyes in dogs. Eye infections can also occur in different parts of the eye. Some of the most common causes of swollen eyes in dogs include:

Potential causes of swelling in a dog’s eye

    • Parasites: If your dog has a swollen eye, it could very well be due to parasites called eye worms. These parasites move in a fast snake-like motion around the eye and can be found in the conjunctival sac, tear ducts, and conjunctiva. Flies typically act as the intermediate hosts of these parasites and will leave the infective eye worm larvae on a dog’s eye1
    • Bacteria: Various types of bacteria, such as canine brucellosis, leptospirosis, and tick-borne diseases like canine ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease, can all cause swollen eyes in dogs.
    • Viruses: Different viruses, such as distemper, herpes, hepatitis, and canine influenza, can cause swollen eyes in dogs2.
    • Trauma: A traumatic injury to a dog’s eye can cause swelling and redness. This can include a stick or ball hitting a dog's eye, an insect sting, or dirt or dust getting in the eye.
    • Scratch on the cornea: A scratch or cut on the cornea can also cause a dog’s swollen eye. Nail scratches, scratches from foreign objects, or scratches from another animal can all lead to swelling and redness in the eye. 
    • Ruptured Blood Vessels: Ruptured blood vessels under the conjunctiva may lead to swelling in the eyes. This can be caused by trauma to the eye, a blood disorder, or an infectious disease. Ruptured blood vessels typically don’t require any treatment, but if any serious changes occur to your dog’s eye, you should bring them to the vet as soon as possible1.
    • Pink Eye: Pink eye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelid. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, environmental irritants, viral infections, or tumors in the eye. Conjunctivitis in one eye is typically due to a foreign object in the eye or inflammation of the tear sac, and conjunctivitis in both eyes is usually caused by an infection1.
    • Allergies: Allergies can cause your dog’s eyes to swell if they’re exposed to an irritating allergen. Dogs can be allergic to various things, such as pollen, mold, dust, smoke, or insect stings, and these all can cause swelling in the eyes. 

What Are Symptoms of Swollen Eyes in Dogs?

It’s important to be aware of what the symptoms of swollen eyes in dogs look like so that you can identify them early on. An eye infection can affect one eye or both eyes, and the symptoms will vary depending on how severe the infection is and the primary cause. Some of the most common symptoms of swollen eyes in dogs include2:

Symptoms of swelling in a dog’s eye

  • Swelling: Swelling in the eyes will typically be the first symptom you’ll see that indicates your dog is suffering from an eye infection. 
  • Excessive blinking: Excessive, uncontrollable blinking is called blepharospasms, and it’s another common symptom of swollen eyes in dogs.
  • Redness: If your dog’s eye is red and swollen, that likely means they’re suffering from some sort of eye infection or irritation. The redness will be in the white parts of their eyes.
  • Watery eyes: Watery discharge or tearing from the eyes is another common symptom of swollen eyes in dogs.
  • Thick eye discharge: Thick eye discharge is a common sign of an eye infection in dogs.
  • Light sensitivity: If you notice that your dog looks away every time they go outside during the day or walk into a bright room, that most likely means they’re experiencing light sensitivity due to swollen eyes.
  • Squinting: While it’s normal to see your dog squint from time to time, excessive and controllable squinting is a sign of an eye infection.
  • Holding eye shut: If a dog is suffering from an eye infection, they may try to keep one eye shut as a way to relieve some of the discomforts of the swelling.
  • Pawing at the eye: Pawing or rubbing at the eye is another common symptom of swollen eyes in dogs because they’re trying to relieve the pain by touching their eye.

How Do You Treat a Swollen Eye on a Dog?

How to treat a dog's swollen eye ultimately depends on the primary cause of the infection. But in order to determine what’s causing the infection, you need to bring your dog to the vet. Diagnosing a dog with swollen eyes will involve an eye exam and several tests.

Some common tests that your vet may perform to diagnose a dog with swollen eyes include a Schirmer tear test, fluorescein stain, and intraocular pressure. A Schirmer tear test measures the eye’s tear production. A fluorescein stain looks for an ulcer or scratch on the surface of the eyes that may be causing swelling. Intraocular pressure looks for internal pressure changes in the eye that may be a sign of glaucoma.

Once your vet has properly diagnosed the condition causing your dog’s swollen eyes, you have a couple of options for treatment, such as3:How to treat a swollen eye on a dog

  • Eye drops: If a bacterial infection is thought to be the cause of the swelling, eye drops will most likely be prescribed. Your dog may also have to wear a buster collar while they recover to prevent them from scratching their eyes.
  • Steroids: In the case that an allergic reaction is causing your dog’s swollen eyes, a vet will prescribe steroids to treat it. Steroids should help with the inflammation in the eye, and it should go down within a few days.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines may also be recommended to treat swelling that’s caused by allergies. But make sure you speak with your vet before giving your dog any oral antihistamines that you use, like Benadryl or Zyrtec. While these can be used to treat mild-to-moderate allergies, it's always important to check with your vet first.
  • Antibiotics: Topical and oral antibiotics can be used to treat certain conditions that cause swelling in a dog’s eyes. A vet may prescribe antibiotics if the swelling is caused by a foreign object in the eye, a bacterial infection, corneal abrasion, or pink eye.
  • Allergy medications: If your dog’s face is swollen, this is most likely due to an allergic reaction and your vet will probably prescribe allergy medications to bring the swelling down.
  • Surgery: In more severe cases of swelling, surgery may be required. Tumors, corneal ulcers, serious cases of glaucoma, and extreme trauma are all situations when surgery is likely needed to treat the swelling

How to Prevent Your Dog’s Eyes From Swelling

Vet inspecting a dog’s swollen eye

The best way to treat your dog’s swollen eyes is to prevent it from happening altogether. There are a couple of ways you can go about preventing your dog’s eyes from swelling, such as2:

  • Trim hair around your dog’s eyes: This ensures that hair doesn’t get into your dog’s eyes and irritate them.
  • Avoid trauma: One way you can avoid trauma from happening to a dog’s eyes is by keeping the windows closed when driving. This prevents foreign bodies, like dust and dirt, from flying into your dog’s eyes.
  • Invest in goggles designed for dogs: Goggles for dogs are a great way to protect their eyes from dust, debris, and other foreign bodies. These can be used anytime your dog is playing outside and exposed to foreign bodies, like if they’re playing on the beach. 
  • Regularly clean your dog’s face: It’s crucial to keep your dog’s face clean because bacteria can grow in their skin folds and get into their eyes, causing an infection.
  • Inspect for abnormalities: You should regularly inspect your dog’s face for any abnormalities that may indicate something is wrong. If you notice any abnormalities on their eyes/face, bring them to the vet immediately.  
  • Observe your dog’s body language: Your dog’s body language can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. It’s important to always watch your dog’s body language so you can tell if something is wrong.

Final Notes

Coming home to your dog’s eye swollen is definitely scary, but thankfully, there are many ways you can treat a swollen eye. A dog’s swollen eye is not something to take lightly, as most eye infections will not go away without treatment. As soon as you notice your dog’s eye is swollen, you should bring them to the vet to get treated.

And if you need help making an appointment with a vet, you can use Dutch.com. Dutch is an online pet telehealth service that offers remote veterinarian appointments for pet owners. At Dutch, we address a variety of pet health issues, from signs of anxiety in dogs to a cat eye infection and dog lethargy, so you can get your pet the care they need, no matter what they may be suffering from.

Our telemedicine for pets service gives pet owners access to affordable prescription medication that they can get delivered directly to their doors. You’ll begin with an online consultation with one of your highly trained vets, and then we’ll work together to create a treatment plan that works for you and your furry friend.

References

  1. Gelatt, Kirk N. “Disorders of the Conjunctiva in Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/eye-disorders-of-dogs/disorders-of-the-conjunctiva-in-dogs

  2. “Dog Eye Infections: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment.” American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-eye-infections/

  3. “Conjunctivitis in Dogs.” Blue Cross. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/conjunctivitis-in-dogs