Featured image for post: Conjunctivitis in Dogs – Dog Eye Infections

Conjunctivitis in Dogs – Dog Eye Infections

Ask any dog owner, and they’ll tell you that one of the most expressive parts of their furry friend is their eyes. But when those eyes are red, swollen, or constantly tearing up, it’s a cause for concern.

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye” in dogs, is a common issue but one that can be easily diagnosed and treated by a veterinary professional. In this helpful guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about conjunctivitis in dogs, including key symptoms, treatment steps, and more.

What is Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the pink lining on the inside of the eyelids. It can be painful, itchy, or merely annoying for your pet, often leading them to paw at their eyes, squint or become light-sensitive.

Types of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

While conjunctivitis is a general term, the condition can manifest in various forms:

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis: Triggered by environmental factors like pollen, dust, or specific chemicals. These cases are often seasonal and may be accompanied by other allergic reactions such as sneezing or itching. This is very similar to when humans have itchy eyes from allergies.
  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis: This form arises from bacterial infections. The eyes may produce a yellow-green pus-like discharge.
  • Viral Conjunctivitis: Caused by viruses, such as the one responsible for distemper. It might lead to a clear, more watery discharge.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS): Also known as dry eye, it’s a condition where the dog doesn’t produce enough tears, leading to chronic conjunctivitis.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Conjunctivitis?

So, are certain dog breeds more likely to get pink eye? Does age have anything to do with it?

All dogs can get conjunctivitis, but some breeds are more vulnerable due to their anatomy or genetic predispositions. Breeds with short noses and large, round eyes, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, can easily get dirt and debris trapped in their eyes, leading to inflammation.

Also, older dogs (or those with pre-existing health conditions) might be more susceptible due to weakened immune systems.

Signs and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye” as it is commonly known, manifests through a variety of signs that every dog owner should be familiar with. Recognizing these symptoms early can ensure a quick recovery and prevent unnecessary discomfort for your beloved pet.

  • Redness in the eyes: One of the most unmistakable symptoms of conjunctivitis in dogs is a noticeable red or pink hue in the whites of their eyes. This is due to the inflammation of the blood vessels in the conjunctiva. This redness can range from a slight pink tint to a bright, angry red, depending on the severity.
  • Excessive tearing or unusual discharges: Dogs suffering from conjunctivitis may have watery eyes, which is the body’s natural attempt to flush out irritants. In some cases, the discharge can become thicker or even pus-like, especially with bacterial infections. It may be clear, white, yellow, or greenish in color. You may also notice crusting on eyelids, especially in the morning.
  • Frequent blinking or squinting: Blinking more often than usual or squinting can be a dog’s way of trying to relieve the discomfort or itchiness caused by the infection or inflammation. This is especially noticeable when they’re exposed to bright lights or the outdoors.
  • Swollen, puffy eyelids: The inflammation can extend to the eyelids, causing them to appear swollen or puffy. This will be particularly noticeable in the morning or after a nap. In severe cases, the swelling can be significant enough to cause the eyelid to shut entirely.
  • Rubbing the face: Dogs may paw at their eyes, or rub their face on the ground or furniture to relieve itching and burning. Unfortunately, this can lead to more serious eye damage such as corneal ulcers.
  • Apparent discomfort or sensitivity to light: Dogs with conjunctivitis might seem more light-sensitive, often seeking shade or preferring dimly lit areas. They might turn away when exposed to bright lights or sunshine.

Apart from these telltale signs of pink eye in dogs, it’s essential to pay attention to any behavioral changes in your pet. A dog that is experiencing discomfort might be less playful, more irritable, or might avoid interactions that they usually enjoy, such as face petting. Nobody knows your pet better than you do, so listen to your gut and seek care if something seems off.

How Do Dogs Get Conjunctivitis?

Understanding the root causes of conjunctivitis is useful not only for treating the current condition but also for preventing future episodes. Conjunctivitis in dogs is not unlike that in humans, with several common causes leading to this inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Here are some of the most common factors that can lead our furry friends to develop this uncomfortable eye condition.

Environmental Irritants

  • Smoke: Just as smoke can irritate human eyes, it can cause similar reactions in dogs. Whether it’s from cigarettes, fireplaces, or outdoor burning, the particles in smoke can quickly irritate a dog’s eyes, leading to redness and inflammation.
  • Dust and Pollen: Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors or in dusty environments can get minute particles trapped in their eyes. Pollen, especially during high-pollen seasons, can also be a significant irritant, leading to allergic reactions in some dogs.
  • Shampoo and Chemicals: Bath time can sometimes become the inadvertent cause of conjunctivitis. If a shampoo or soap product gets into a dog’s eyes, it can lead to immediate irritation. Always make sure to use dog-specific, tear-free shampoos and be careful around the eye area during baths.


  • Scratches: Playful antics or minor scuffles with other pets can sometimes result in unintentional scratches to the eye. These can become inflamed, leading to conjunctivitis.
  • Foreign Objects: A walk through the park can sometimes mean a stray grass seed or speck of dirt getting lodged in a dog’s eye. If not removed, such foreign bodies can cause significant irritation and subsequent inflammation.

Birth Defects

  • Tear Duct Problems: Some dogs are born with congenital anomalies related to their tear ducts. These can lead to inadequate tear production or improper drainage, both of which can create conditions ripe for inflammation and infection. Breeds with flatter faces, like Pugs or Bulldogs, may be particularly susceptible to tear duct issues.

Although symptoms of conjunctivitis can be fairly similar across different dogs, the causes can be vast and varied. Proper diagnosis, which determines the underlying reason, is crucial. Only then can an effective treatment plan be charted out.

If your dog exhibits any of the signs of conjunctivitis, it’s extremely helpful to consider their recent activities, environments, and overall health to help your vet identify a potential cause. During your visit, providing these details can make it easier to diagnose and treat the condition quickly and effectively.

Diagnosing Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Diagnosis starts with a thorough examination of the eye. Special stains might be used to identify corneal ulcers, and a tear production test can diagnose dry eye. Sometimes, swabs for bacterial cultures or cytology to check for fungi, parasites, or abnormal cells might be necessary.

At UrgentVet, we provide all these tests under one roof to give you answers quickly so your dog can receive rapid treatment.

Treatment for Conjunctivitis in Dogs

The right treatment for dogs with pink eye depends on the root cause:

  • Medication: Most bacterial infections respond well to topical antibiotic ointments or drops. In cases of KCS, tear replacement therapies or medicines that stimulate tear production are effective.
  • Washing: Regular saline flushes can help keep the eyes clean and free of discharge.
  • E-collar: It is often necessary for the pet to wear to an e-collar to protect the eyes while the condition is resolving and prevent further rubbing of the eyes.
  • Surgery: Rarely, if the condition is due to physical abnormalities, corrective surgery might be needed.

Is there a cure for conjunctivitis in dogs?

Absolutely! With the right dog eye infection treatment and care, conjunctivitis can often be cured. But remember, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcomes.

Is conjunctivitis contagious for humans and other pets?

While most dog-specific strains aren’t contagious to humans, they can be to other pets, especially if caused by bacteria or viruses. Proper hygiene and temporary isolation are a good idea.

What is the cost of treating conjunctivitis for dogs?

Costs can fluctuate based on the treatment needed. Rest assured, at UrgentVet, we prioritize your pet’s health, offering transparent pricing for all services.

Recovery and Management of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

After starting treatment, keep an eye on your dog (pun intended!). Watch for worsening symptoms or new issues. Ensure they don’t scratch or rub their eyes, which can aggravate the condition. With proper care, most dogs bounce back quickly.

Preventing Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Prevention is always better than cure. Keep your dog’s living area clean, be cautious during grooming, and ensure they’re up-to-date with their vaccinations and regular well-checks.

Allowing your pet to hang their head out of the window while in the car significantly increases the risk of conjunctivitis and eye injuries.

Contact UrgentVet Near You Today!

If your dog’s eyes seem off, let the dedicated professionals at UrgentVet take a look. With our extensive expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, and genuine love for animals, we promise to offer the best dog conjunctivitis treatment available.

Find the UrgentVet location nearest you for walk-in care today!

Image Credit: Tsuguliev / Shutterstock