Dog Conjunctivitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Just like humans, dogs can contract conjunctivitis, which is also referred to as dog pink eye. This eye infection is relatively common and dogs that suffer from allergies or skin diseases are particularly susceptible.

What is Conjunctivitis?

This infection happens when the membrane at the front of the eyes (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. Although not life-threatening, it is very uncomfortable and itchy for your pooch and left untreated for too long could cause further complications.

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Conjunctivitis in dogs can be caused by a wide number of reasons including:

  • Viral infections including distemper
  • Fungal infections
  • Dry eye syndrome – where the eye produces inadequate tears
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Foreign bodies in the eye – grass seeds are common
  • Glaucoma – increased pressure in the eyes
  • Bacterial – particularly streptococci and staphylococci infections
  • Irritants such as chemicals, dust, shampoo
  • Follicle formation – an accumulation of cells on the eyelids due to immune response
  • Abnormalities in the eye structure
  • Breed predispositions

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis

You will know when your dog has contracted a pink eye infection by paying attention to the following signs:

  • Excessive blinking or squinting in one or both eyes
  • The eye/s may be completely closed
  • Redness of the eye tissue
  • Visible discharge around and/or in the eye
  • Discharge may be clear and watery or think pus which white or green in colour
  • Swelling in and around the eye
  • Pawing at the eyes (to relieve itching)
  • Rubbing eyes/face on surfaces around the home
  • Additional symptoms such as sneezing, coughing or nasal discharge

Diagnosis of Dog Pink Eye

If you notice any of the above symptoms, you will need to take your dog to the vet, as soon as you are able to. The eyes are an important sense for your dog and left untreated could cause further problems in this sensitive area, not to mention the discomfort it can cause your beloved pooch.

Your vet will examine both of your dog’s eyes thoroughly. Eye swabs may be taken to establish the cause of the infection to aid in providing the correct treatment method and medications.

Where the eye has thick discharge, it can potentially suggest that it is a result of a foreign body, viral, bacterial or fungal infection. If the discharge is clear and watery it could be more likely due to an allergic reaction.  In addition, typically both eyes are affected when the cause is dry eye or a viral infection.

If your dog is diagnosed with allergies or skin disease, it is likely that eye infections may be an ongoing issue, in which case you vet will discuss any specific preventative treatment you can try.

Dog Conjunctivitis Treatment

The treatment for conjunctivitis will depend on what the actual cause is. If it is caused by an irritant or foreign body, then this will first need to be removed from your dog’s eye.

If the cause was a specific irritant, you will need to decrease the chances of exposure to the allergen where you are able to.  For example, using a dog shampoo that is specifically designed for dogs with allergies or skin sensitivities.

Where the cause is diagnosed as being either viral or bacterial, your veterinarian will provide the appropriate treatment which may be a topical cream or drops to put in the eye itself or perhaps a course of tablets which can be given orally.

Mild to moderate infections generally clear up relatively quickly once treatment has begun, and it is unusual for your dog to need to stay in for treatment.

In addition, due to conjunctivitis in dogs often being a potential symptom of other illnesses, if this an underlying cause is diagnosed, your vet will give further treatment or advice to treat the root cause of the problem.

Prevention of Dog Conjunctivitis

It can be difficult to prevent conjunctivitis in dogs mainly due to the variety of potential causes. However, you can take some precautions that may minimise the possibility of your dog experiencing another infection. These include:

  • Keeping your dog’s eyes clean
  • Checking for foreign bodies after walks e.g. grass seeds
  • Keep your dog away from potential irritants such as dust or smoke