This article was updated on March 5th, 2023
Squinty, weepy, red, painful dog eyes are nothing out of the ordinary to a veterinarian. They can be so common that some days it seems like my ophthalmoscope never leaves my hand.
While there are many possible causes for swollen, watery eyes in dogs, pink eye nearly always tops the list. While pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can range from mild to severe, it is typically easy to treat with a veterinarian’s help or even some at-home treatments. However, any time there’s something wrong with your dog’s eye, you should get a proper diagnosis from your vet as some eye issues can become very serious very quickly if not treated properly.
What is Dog Pink Eye?
Pink eye is a fitting name for the pink/red inflammation that this issue causes. Technically pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the mucous membrane that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. Any time the conjunctiva is inflamed in a dog’s eye, you’ll see redness, swelling, and tearing of various levels of severity. Dogs may also squint or hold their eye closed due to light sensitivity or discomfort. They may even paw or rub the eye, and of course, look at you pitifully to do something.
Pink eye in dogs has a lot of potential causes. Since the conjunctiva is a mucous membrane, its main purpose is to act as a barrier to protect the rest of the eye from irritants, foreign objects, and infections. This makes it the front line to all kinds of bad things and more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. Possible causes include:
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection
- Foreign objects like grass seeds, dirt, or pollen
- Eyelid abnormalities
- Tear production or drainage issues
While pink eye is probably the most common eye issue that your pup is going to run across, many different eye problems will also present with redness and watering. Be sure to have your dog checked out by a vet anytime they have eye problems to be sure it’s getting properly diagnosed.
Is Dog Pink Eye Contagious to Humans?
Pink eye spreads like wildfire from human to human, but in dogs, it’s a different story. Most causes of pink eye in dogs aren’t able to be passed to humans, especially those that involve trauma, abnormalities, or allergies. Even infectious causes aren’t easily spread to humans, but you’re better off to consult your veterinarian and wash your hands after treating your dog’s eye or petting their head.
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3 Easy Treatments for Dog Pink Eye at Home
Eye issues in your canine companion are nothing to mess around with but that doesn’t mean that every one warrants an emergency trip to the vet. However, proper diagnosis is essential, so always keep your vet in the loop if your dog is experiencing any eye trouble. After consulting your vet, here are some treatments that you can do at home for mild cases of pink eye.
1. Wipe the eye with a warm washcloth. This will help remove any extra discharge. If your pup will let you, apply a cool compress to their eye for 5-10 minutes to help relieve discomfort.
2. Rinse with saline solution. This will help remove any irritants, small foreign objects, or allergens. Mild conjunctivitis may clear up simply by removing the inciting cause through rinsing 2-3 times per day. Small foreign objects may be removed through rinsing, but anything larger or stuck in the conjunctiva needs veterinary help.
3. Make sure your dog has a quiet, dark place to retreat to. Pink eye can be very painful and the last thing your pup will want to do is bask with their face in the sunlight.
How To Know When Your Dog’s Pink Eye Need Vet Attention?
At home treatments are best for mild, recurrent cases of pink eye that have been previously diagnosed by a vet. Any new eye issues that pop up in your pup should be seen professionally as soon as possible.
You’ll also want to see your vet if the redness and tearing doesn’t clear up within 24 hours of at-home treatment or if the condition gets worse.
Another major indication that it’s time to see a vet about your dog’s pink eye is if they are pawing or rubbing the eye. This indicates an amount of discomfort that more than likely won’t respond to at home treatment.
Of course, any time you have questions or are uncomfortable while doing at home pink eye treatments for your dog, contact your veterinarian.
How Do Vets Treat Pink Eye in Dogs?
The first thing your vet is going to do when you take your dog in is a thorough eye exam. This will include an anesthetic eye drop to deaden the eye making it easier to look for foreign objects and staining the eye to look for ulcers or scratches. They may also dilate the pupil to look at the back of the eye all to help determine the cause of the inflammation.
Pink eye is most often treated with medicated eye drops that help to moisturize and lubricate the eye and kill any pathogens that could be causing an infection. They may have an anti-inflammatory in there as well to help decrease redness and swelling.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Some cases of pink eye will need oral medications for more systemic problems or even surgery to fix eye abnormalities that could be causing pink eye.
Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions and give medications for the entire prescribed time. One of the biggest mistakes that owners make when treating pink eye is stopping the medication too soon. The eye may start to look much better in just a couple of days, but you’ll want to continue the medication for the allotted period in order to prevent a relapse.
Most cases of conjunctivitis will fully recover quickly with the proper treatment. However, more severe cases including eye abnormalities will require more extensive treatment or surgery to fully fix.
Diagnosing and treating pink eye in dogs can range is cost from $150-$200 for mild cases to more than $2,000 if your dog requires eye surgery.
What You Should Know Before a Vet Visit for Pink Eye
Most of the time, your dog’s pink eye will do the talking during your vet visit. However, be ready to tell your vet how long your pup has had this problem and if you know if they did anything to injure the eye or if they are showing any other signs such as coughing, sneezing or having a runny nose.
Your vet will also want to know if this is the first time your dog has had pink eye and tell them about any at home treatments that you have tried.
Dog Pink Eye FAQs With the Vet
Is conjunctivitis in dogs an emergency?
Generally speaking, pink eye in dogs is an “as soon as possible” type of issue rather than an emergency. However, if your dog injured the eye, is extremely uncomfortable, or signs are severe, seek emergency care.
How long does dog pink eye last?
Depending on the cause, pink eye in dogs can last for up 3-4 weeks. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections typically take this long to clear the system and injuries may take this long to heal.
Does dog pink eye go away on its own?
Mild cases of pink eye caused by dust irritation or allergies may go away on its own if the eye is able to flush out the causes. However, pink eye often requires help from you either to increase the flushing capability with saline solution or to give medicated eye drops.
Can dog pink eye spread to humans?
Most cases of pink eye in dogs aren’t contagious to humans. However, roundworm infections causing pink eye can be spread to humans, so you’ll want to wash your hands after treating your dog with pink eye or after petting them around the eyes just to be safe.
Can dog pink eye spread to cats?
Some causes, mainly viral or bacterial infections, can spread to cats. If your dog has pink eye, you’re better off to keep them separated from other animals.
How long is dog pink eye contagious?
Only infectious causes of pink eye in dogs are contagious to other animals. They remain contagious from the time signs appear until they disappear unless antibiotics drops are started.
Should I clean my dog’s pink eye?
Cleaning around the eye may make your dog more comfortable when they have pink eye. You can use a warm, damp washcloth and gently wipe the excess discharge from around the outside of the eye a couple of times a day. Your vet may also advise you to flush the eye with saline solution if irritants or allergens are the suspected cause.
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