What Does a Red Eye Mean in Dogs?
A red eye in dogs means the eye is irritated. The underlying cause of the irritation can range from something as minor as an allergy to something as severe as a systemic disease.
Therefore, the concern behind “my dog’s eye is red“ is real and requires veterinary help. Based on the underlying condition, the veterinary ophthalmologist will prescribe eye supplements, eye drops, or other medication.
What Is the Cause of a Red Eye in Dogs?
Here are some of the answers to the question of why are my dog’s eyes red:
- Dog Eye Allergies. This can lead to irritation of the eye and can be caused due to an allergen or environmental irritants such as pollen, weeds, dust, or fiber.
- Conjunctivitis. This eye infection occurs when the conjunctiva (the thin transparent tissue that covers the outer surface of the eye) becomes inflamed.
- Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS). This is also known as dry eye syndrome. In this case, the whites of the eyes can become red because the tear glands do not produce enough tears.
- Entropion. Red eye or pink eye can also be caused when the eyelid turns inward, causing the eyelashes and eyelid to rub against the eye’s surface.
- Cherry Eye. In other words, this is also known as ‘everted nictitans.’ In this case, a gland inside the third eyelid faces inflammation and sticks out from behind the eyelid.
- Foreign Body. Any foreign object or small particle trapped in the eyelid or on the eye surface irritates the eye. This can then lead to the eyeball becoming red.
- Corneal Ulcer. This can happen because of an open sore on the outer layer of the cornea and is among the most common causes of red eyes.
- Glaucoma. If your dog’s eyes are bloodshot and bulging, it may have glaucoma. This happens when there is increased pressure within the eye.
- Infectious Diseases. Some infectious diseases in dogs can also result in eye issues. A common example is the canine distemper virus.
- Eye Tumors. Tumors can be both benign or malignant, growing behind or within the eye. This can be a reason for your dog’s red eyes and can lead to eye discharge.
What Are the Symptoms of a Dog with Red Eyes?
The symptoms of red eye in dogs include:
- Eye Pawing or Rubbing. If your dog has red eyes, you might see it pawing or rubbing its eye on the floor or the furniture for relief.
- Squinting. When your dog has red eyes, it might become sensitive to excessive light. This can lead to squinting and excess tear production from their tear glands.
- Closed Eyes. Due to the discomfort caused by red eyes, your dog might prefer to keep their eye closed.
- Cloudy Cornea. If you notice your dog’s cornea (surface of the eye) becoming cloudy, chances are that they might have red eyes or an eye infection and need a vet immediately.
- Dry or Watery Eyes. Redness of the eyes can be caused by tear duct or tear gland issues and inadequate tear production or low-quality tear film.
- Eye Discharge. Finally, a dog with irritated and red eyes will exhibit eye discharge. The exact nature of the discharge depends on the underlying cause and can vary from transparent and watery to green and thick.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Red Eyes?
The treatment for red eyes depends on the underlying cause, and it may include:
- Topical Medications. These medications are available in the form of anti-inflammatory or antibiotic eye drops and ointments. Topical meds also include artificial tears and eye cleaners or eye washes.
- Oral Medications. If your dog’s eye has faced trauma, it can lead to an infection of the eye. In this case, your vet might prescribe oral antibiotics along with anti-inflammatories.
- Surgery. Some causes of red eyes in dogs can only be managed surgically. For example, if the eye issue is entropion or cherry eye, the vet will perform a surgical correction.
Should I Worry if My Dog’s Eye Is Red?
Yes, you should be worried if your dog’s eyes are red. While some causes of red eyes are minor and benign, others are severe and require veterinary help.
Also, we should note that certain dog breeds (Terriers, Poodles, Pugs, Bulldogs) are more prone to eye problems, and in these breeds, the likelihood of red eyes is higher.
Bottom line, if your dog’s eyes are red, you should see a vet. The vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist. They will perform an eye exam and, if necessary diagnostic tests such as the Schirmer tear test, corneal staining, etc.
Based on the findings, the vet will recommend the right treatment strategy and, if applicable, give prevention tips. Prompt veterinary care is necessary as some eye conditions worsen quickly, and in severe cases, may result in vision loss.