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Dog with Bloodshot Eyes: Our Vet Shares How to Help At Home

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bulldog with bloodshot eyes

Bloodshot eyes, or red, irritated eyes are a common issue in dogs. They may look scary but are rarely a huge issue. However, bloodshot eyes can be uncomfortable and even painful, so let’s find out what you can do to help your dog with bloodshot eyes.

What bloodshot eyes are in dogs [with picture]

Dogs are known for expressive eyes, but when those eyes appear red and bloodshot, it can be cause for concern. Bloodshot eyes in dogs may indicate a variety of underlying issues, ranging from minor irritations to more serious medical conditions. Understanding the possible causes, symptoms, and appropriate actions to take can help ensure the well-being of our furry friends.

Picture of great dane with bloodshot eyes

What are the common causes of bloodshot eyes in dogs? 

1) Allergies

Environmental allergies are a frequent culprit behind bloodshot eyes in dogs. When a dog’s eyes are affected by allergies, they may appear red, itchy, and watery. Pet owners can best manage symptoms by limiting exposure to potential allergens. Flushing the eyes several times a day with a sterile saline solution can provide some temporary relief as well. If the symptoms persist or worsen, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended as they may want to prescribe allergy treatments or medications.

2) Conjunctivitis

Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis occurs when the thin membrane covering the eye becomes inflamed. This condition can result from infections, irritants, or foreign objects in the eye. Dog owners may observe redness, swelling, discharge, and increased tear production (watering). Dogs may squint or rub their eyes as well. You can keep the eyelid area clean by gently wiping away any discharge with a warm, damp cloth. For this condition, it is crucial to seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which may involve antibiotic eye drops or ointments.

3) Dry Eye

Medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dry eye occurs when a dog’s tear glands do not produce enough tears. This can lead to bloodshot eyes, as well as excessive blinking, redness, and thick discharge. Pet owners can help manage dry eye by regularly applying artificial tears or lubricating ointments recommended by a veterinarian. However, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and long-term treatment plan, which may include prescription medications or in some cases, surgery.

4) Corneal Ulcer

A corneal ulcer refers to a scratch or abrasion on the dog’s cornea from trauma, foreign objects, or infection. Dogs with corneal ulcers may exhibit bloodshot eyes, squinting, excessive tearing, and sensitivity to light. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary for a good outcome; corneal ulcers are excruciatingly painful. There is no safe remedy at home; failure to treat can even lead to permanent loss of vision or a need to surgically remove the eye. Success rates are much higher with early intervention. Treatment prescribed by your veterinarian may involve medication, eye drops, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the ulcer.

5) Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the term for increased pressure within the eye. This can cause bloodshot eyes, pain, vision changes, and even blindness if left untreated. Glaucoma in dogs requires immediate veterinary care as it is a serious condition. Even humans with glaucoma would say the discomfort is often constant, and it can often cause intense eye pain. Treatment options may include eye drops, oral medications, or surgery to relieve the pressure and preserve vision.

What are the physical signs of bloodshot eyes in dogs? 

There are a few common physical signs associated with bloodshot eyes in dogs. The eyes appear red or pink. You may also notice increased tears, swelling around the eye, or a discharge that might be clear or thick. Additionally, your dog might exhibit signs of discomfort such as frequent blinking, rubbing their eyes, or squinting.

Bloodshot eyes due to allergies may also show sneezing, coughing, a runny nose and even itchy skin.

Keep an eye out for these signs, as they can indicate various underlying causes that might require attention and care. If you notice persistent or worsening symptoms, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What you can do at home to help your dog with bloodshot eyes

While home-remedy options may provide some short term relief, it’s essential to monitor your dog’s condition closely. If the symptoms persist longer than a day, get worse at any time or if you have any suspicion your pet is in pain, please seek proper veterinary care.

  • Gently clean the dog’s eyes with a clean, damp cloth to remove any discharge or debris
  • Consider rinsing the eyelid or eye area with a pet friendly saline solution such as
    Burts Bees Natural Eye Wash for dogs or puppies, or Vetericyn Plus Animal Eye Wash
  • For short term irritation, it may be safe to use an unmedicated eye drop such as Genteal Tears Gel Drops
  • Keep the dog’s environment clean and free from potential allergens.
  • Ensure your dog stays hydrated by providing fresh water at all times.
  • Use a humidifier in the house to maintain moisture levels, especially in dry environments and during the colder months.
  • If your dog frequently experiences dry eyes, consult with a veterinarian about using medication specifically formulated for dogs.

Never use a medication meant for humans, or even a medication meant for pets that was not prescribed for this current incident, as it could be hazardous. For example, for some minor eye infections a veterinarian may prescribe a combination antibiotic and steroid eye medication. You may think this is safe to use again because it was prescribed by a veterinarian, but it may not be. If your dog’s issue this time is due to an ulcer or scratch, rather than just an infection, a steroid could make the issue much, much worse.

Signs that your dog’s bloodshot eyes should not be addressed at home

It’s crucial to be aware of certain signs that indicate your pet’s bloodshot eyes require immediate veterinary care rather than attempting home remedies. If you are aware of any of the following, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Severe or worsening symptoms: pain, extreme redness, swelling, or a sudden increase in discharge,
  • Changes in vision: sudden blindness, difficulty navigating familiar surroundings, or disorientation
  • Eye injury or trauma: foreign material or a foreign object entering the eye or a blunt force injury
  • Persistent or recurring symptoms: signs do not improve, or they continue to recur despite treatment
  • Systemic signs: presence of additional concerning signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or any other abnormal behaviors

In all of these cases, immediate veterinary care is recommended to ensure the proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment of the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will be able to provide the necessary expertise and support to address your pet’s condition effectively.

When to visit the vet and likely costs

If you notice any of the above concerning signs, you should call your dog’s veterinarian right away. Although they may not be able to immediately see you for an appointment, they can recommend protective steps in the meantime. They’ll schedule your dog for the next available opening. If they don’t have an opening they may refer you to an emergency vet that can see you sooner.

A veterinarian will provide a thorough examination, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate treatment options based on your dog’s specific condition. Prompt veterinary care ensures underlying issues are addressed effectively, helping to alleviate discomfort, prevent complications, and maintain your dog’s ocular health.

Depending on the severity of the issue, costs can vary. All dogs with eye issues will require an examination (which may be more expensive for an emergency visit). Depending on the exam, diagnostic tests can be ordered (which will look at corneal abnormalities, tear production, or eye pressure). Depending on the exam and treatments, treatment will be prescribed potentially including oral or topical medications.

Many veterinarians will also recommend or prescribe a protective device such as an e-collar (cone of shame) or inflatable collar. These can help prevent your dog from further damaging the eye (though they’re not foolproof, so you still need to closely observe your dog even when they’re wearing it.)

The overall cost of a visit can range anywhere from $200 to $600 or more depending on the severity of the condition. If surgery is necessary the cost could be greater than $1500 in addition to the original visit and will often require referral to a veterinary ophthamologist.

Would a vet be able to help over a video call?

In some cases, a veterinarian may be able to diagnose and prescribe treatment for a dog’s bloodshot eyes through a video call/ telemedicine visit. They will request clear images or videos of your dog’s eyes for evaluation. Based on the information gathered, the veterinarian can make a preliminary diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. This is more for bloodshot eyes related to allergies or mild irritants.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Not all cases can be diagnosed or treated through telemedicine, especially if a physical examination or diagnostic tests are warranted. Certain conditions may require in-person evaluation to provide a more accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

You must check your dog’s veterinarian to see if they offer this service. Many veterinary offices do not offer video or telemedicine visits, and regulations regarding telemedicine for veterinary care vary by state. Some states may have specific restrictions or guidelines in place that impact a veterinarian’s ability to offer telemedicine visits for pets.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I provide temporary relief for my dog’s eye irritation at home?

You can provide temporary relief for your dog’s eye irritation at home by gently cleaning their eyes with a damp cloth to remove any discharge or debris. You can also use sterile saline solution or specialized dog eye wash to flush the eyes. Additionally, keeping your dog’s environment clean and free from potential allergens can help reduce irritation.
If the signs persist or worsen, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How often should I clean my dog’s eyes?

The frequency of cleaning your dog’s eyes can depend on their specific needs and any underlying conditions. Generally, a gentle wipe with a damp cloth or specialized dog eye wash once or twice a week can help remove any debris or discharge.

If your dog has excessive tear production, is prone to eye infections, or has specific eye care requirements, your veterinarian may provide specific instructions.

What are the signs that my dog may be experiencing pain or discomfort due to eye problems?

Signs of pain or discomfort include red or bloodshot eyes, increased tear production, swelling, squinting, frequent blinking, rubbing the eyes, sensitivity to light, and changes in behavior. You may also notice a discharge from the eyes that could be clear or thick.

If you observe any of these signs, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and appropriate treatment to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and address any underlying issues.


  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

  • Kate Howard, Vet Tech

    Kate Howard lives in Upstate New York, and received her degree in Veterinary Technology from Alfred State College of Technology in 2010. She has been a veterinary technician for 13+ years, and spent her career working primarily in general practice and veterinary emergency care. Kate has 3 dogs, a cat, and keeps a small flock of backyard poultry.

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