Dog with a red eye

Key takeaway

Your dog’s eyes may be red for various reasons, including pink eye, glaucoma, dry eye, allergies, and general irritation. Treatment for red eyes in dogs depends on what’s causing it, and symptoms vary quite a bit based on the medical condition your dog is dealing with. If your dog has red eyes all the time, you should take them to a vet to get a diagnosis and get them treated.

Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Red?

Your dog’s eyes may be red for several reasons, some of which are medical conditions that may require a trip to the vet. A dog or cat with red eyes is a sign that there’s irritation in the area or a medical condition that’s causing it. In some cases, red eyes are simply caused by irritation from dirt or dust that got in your dog’s eyes, which can be treated with simple eye drops.

Why are my dog’s eyes red if they don’t have any dirt or dust in them? Red eyes in dogs can also be caused by several medical conditions, including allergies, pink eye, and glaucoma. Watching out for skin irritation in dogs and other signs of a medical condition can help you determine what’s causing your dog’s red eyes. If your dog has red eyes and you’re concerned, here’s what you need to know about possible causes.

Why are my dog’s eyes red?

1. Pink Eye

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is inflammation or infection of the membrane that covers the eyeball and acts as a liner for your eyelid. This can be caused by allergies as well as a bacterial or viral infection1. Pink eye is common in both dogs and humans, and the bacterial form can easily spread between dogs and humans. Left untreated, pink eye will continue to get worse and may even affect your dog’s vision.

Causes of pink eye in dogs

Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of pink eye in dogs is important because it allows you to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible and prevent the spread of pink eye. Here are some of the symptoms dogs with pink eye may experience1:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Discharge coming from the eye
  • Swelling in the tissue surrounding the cornea
  • Mild eye discomfort

Keep in mind that the symptoms of pink eye in dogs vary from case to case, so your dog may not experience all of these symptoms if they have pink eye. If your dog’s face is swollen, it may have another medical condition.

Treatment

Treatment for pink eye in dogs may include cold compresses, steroid eye drops, artificial tears to moisturize the eyes, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory medication2. The treatment your vet prescribes depends on the type of conjunctivitis your dog has as well as their medical history. It’s important to talk to your vet before you attempt to treat pink eye at home.

2. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a medical condition that occurs in both humans and dogs and is characterized by increased pressure inside the eye as a result of inadequate fluid drainage3. Fortunately, glaucoma isn’t contagious so you don’t have to worry about getting it from your dog. That being said, glaucoma in dogs is serious and can lead to several complications if left untreated, so you may want to take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis if their eyes have been especially red lately.

Symptoms

Like many medical conditions, glaucoma progresses over time, and the symptoms continue to get worse if it’s left untreated. Here are some of the symptoms you may notice in your dog if they have glaucoma3:

Symptoms of glaucoma in dogs

  • Enlargement of the eye
  • High eye pressure
  • Dilated, unmoving, or slow-moving pupil
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Swelling and discoloration of the cornea
  • Bulging eye globe

It’s always important to keep in mind that many symptoms are present with several different medical conditions. Taking your dog to the vet for a diagnosis is an important first step in getting them the treatment they need. If your dog has several of these symptoms, you should visit a vet as soon as possible.

Treatment

There are two options when it comes to treating glaucoma in dogs: medication and surgery. The best option for your dog depends on the severity of their symptoms, their medical history, and their current health. You can always talk to your vet to learn more about the benefits of medication vs. surgery and vice versa. In some cases, a combination of medical treatment and surgery is used to treat glaucoma in dogs3.

3. Dry Eye

Dry eye is a medical condition characterized by a lack of tear production, which causes dryness in the eyes and the symptoms associated with it. Tears are an important part of washing away dirt and bacteria from your dog’s eyes, so dry eye can lead to infections and other complications if left untreated4. If your dog’s eyes are red and they’re showing signs of dry eye, make sure you visit a vet before your dog gets an eye infection or other complications.

Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of dry eye in dogs helps you get a diagnosis before complications arise. Dry eye causes a lot of discomfort and irritation, so your dog may have dry eye if your dog is constantly scratching or pawing at its eye4.

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Thick mucoid discharge
  • Excessive squinting and blinking
  • Keeping eyes closed
  • Pawing at the eye

Your dog may be dealing with a separate medical condition if they only have one or two of these symptoms. If your dog has several symptoms of dry eye, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis.

Treatment

There are a few treatment options for dry eye in dogs, but the best treatment for your dog depends on their medical history. Here are some of the commonly used treatments for dry eye4:

  • Artificial tear drops
  • Medicated eye drops
  • Medicated ointment

In some cases, antibiotics or surgery may be required to treat the root cause of dry eye in dogs. The best way to treat dry eye in dogs is to talk to a vet, so make sure you schedule an appointment if your dog has dry eye.

4. Allergies

Veterinarian looking into a dog’s eye

A dog with red around the eyes may also have allergies. Dogs can be allergic to lots of different things, just like humans, and some of those allergies may cause red, swollen, itchy eyes. If your dog has a rash in addition to red eyes, their red eyes may be caused by allergies. While treating allergies in dogs isn’t particularly difficult, it’s important to visit a vet as soon as possible to figure out what your dog is allergic to. Once you discover the cause of your dog’s allergic reaction, you can avoid exposing them to these allergens to keep them healthy.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dog allergies can vary a bit depending on the severity of allergies. In most cases, dogs who are exposed to something they’re allergic to will experience at least a few of the following conditions5:

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Swelling of the eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Itching and scratching

Keep in mind that your dog may not have all of these symptoms, and you can’t diagnose allergies on your own. If your dog’s eyes are red and you’re not sure why, you should take them to the vet.

Treatment

Treatment for allergies in dogs is very similar to treating allergies in humans. If your dog is allergic to the food they’re eating, your vet may recommend switching to a different dog food brand or making homemade dog food. If your dog is allergic to something in their environment, you need to isolate the cause and get rid of it5.

Your vet may also recommend allergy medication to treat allergies in your dog. Allergy medication isn’t right for every dog, so it’s important to talk to your vet about your dog’s medical history. Typically, getting rid of allergens in your dog’s environment is enough to provide some relief from allergies.

5. Irritation

Irritation is another potential cause of red eyes in dogs, and there are tons of things that can cause eye irritation. It could be that your dog has something in their eye, such as dirt, grass or hair. It could even be that your home is too dusty and that dust is causing eye irritation. The good news when it comes to eye irritation is that it’s not a medical condition, which means your dog doesn’t need to take medicine to get better. However, keep in mind that some cases of eye irritation are worse than others, and visiting a vet is important if your dog has an eye injury.

Symptoms

Recognizing eye irritation in dogs has a lot to do with reading dog body language. However, there are also some symptoms you may notice if you look at your dog’s eyes. Here are some of the common symptoms of eye irritation:

  • Redness of the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Pawing at the eye

These symptoms may also present with other eye conditions in dogs, so it can be hard to say if your dog has allergies or eye irritation. A visit to the vet is the best way to figure out what’s wrong with your dog.

Treatment

Before you try to treat eye irritation at home, you should talk to a vet. If there’s a foreign object causing eye irritation, you could cause further injuries trying to remove it. For minor eye irritation, your vet may recommend using artificial tears or special eye drops to help flush out irritants. Talking to your vet before you treat eye irritation in dogs is crucial.

Dutch makes it easy to get in touch with a vet with telemedicine for pets. You can schedule an appointment with a vet online and video chat from the comfort of your home. If you can’t make it to your local vet, Dutch is a good alternative.

Final Notes

Why are my dog’s eyes red? The answer to this question can vary quite a bit from case to case, but getting a proper diagnosis from a vet is always important. Whether your dog has pink eye, glaucoma, dry eye, allergies, or eye irritation, it’s up to your vet to determine the best treatment option.

If your dog has red eyes, Dutch can connect you with a vet who can help. Thanks to Dutch, you can get online vet help without having to leave your home, and you can even get prescription medication for pets delivered to your door. When you need convenient pet care, Dutch is the simple solution.

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. Lotz, Kristina. “Can Dogs Get Pink Eye?” American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/can-dogs-get-pink-eye/

  3. Gelatt, Kirk N. “Glaucoma in Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/eye-disorders-of-dogs/glaucoma-in-dogs

  4. Meuller, Beth. “Don’t Overlook Dry Eye in Dogs.” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet-health-columns/dry-eye-dogs/

  5. Burke, Anna. “Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment.” American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/