Red Eyes in Dogs: Its Causes and What It Means

Just like in people, our dogs' eyes get red when they become irritated. This irritation can be from any number of sources, from dry eyes to infections, foreign objects or physical trauma to the eye. Here, our Apple Valley vets explain the causes and treatments for your dog's irritated, red eyes and what you can do to help.

Our dogs' eyes work a lot like ours. They are active organs that are constantly adjusting themselves, working to transmit what your pup sees to their brain. Their eyes differ from ours in that they have a third eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, that is located in the corner of their eye. 

As you have surely experienced with your own eyes, there are a whole host of things that may cause them to become irritated and noticeably red, from external irritants to excessive dryness and disease. Some breeds of dog are more susceptible to developing red, irritated eyes as well as the associated health issue.

Flat-faced breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus as well as breeds with long hair around their eyes like Sheepdogs, Maltese and Poodles can all be at greater risk of developing red eyes than other dogs. Likewise, older dogs will develop issues with their eyes causing them to become red more often, especially if they have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. 

What Are The Causes of my Dog's Red Eyes?

Noticeable redness in your dog's eyes generally indicates irritation and inflammation, which can be the result of many different eye health issues. The following are some of the most common health conditions that may be the reason your dog has red eyes.

Allergies

Just like you may get watery eyes and a stuffed-up nose when allergy season rolls around, your dog can get red, weepy eyes and become uncomfortable from any number of allergies. 

These may be seasonal to pollen or the like, or they may be to your pup's food. If you notice that your pooch has red eyes and is itchy or sneezing more often without seasonal patterns, bring them into your vet for allergy testing. 

Eye Injury or Trauma

This cause of red, irritated eyes can range from quite mild to very serious. Your dog may have a hair or piece of grass stuck in their eye that is irritating surface tissues and causing them to become red and inflamed. 

Your pup may also have a scratch, cut or another more serious abrasion that is difficult to detect. If you think that your dog has had a serious physical injury to their eye that is causing one or both of their eyes to become red, bring them into your vet as soon as you can. 

Conjunctivitis

This itchy inflammation of the eye is also called "pink eye" and is relatively common in people. It affects the tissues covering your dog's eyes and generally only affects one eye at a given time. 

This infection can be caused by environmental irritants, viruses or bacteria. Because you likely don't know the case of your pet's pink eye, make sure you bring them into the vet for advice on how best to treat their irritated eyes. 

Dry Eye Syndrome

Also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, dry eyes in dogs are caused by a deficiency in the moist film of tears that generally covers a healthy eye. When this film is thinner, it allows your pup's eye to dry out and become inflamed. 

One of the most common causes of this condition is immune-mediated disease in dogs that causes their tear gland to stop functioning properly. Other underlying conditions like diabetes can also have an impact on your dog developing dry eyes. 

What Are Treatments For Red Eyes in Dogs?

You should never start treatment of your dog's red and irritated eyes without first consulting a vet.

Since red eyes are a symptom of a whole host of eye-related health issues, a veterinary examination will be required to determine the root cause of your pup's discomfort. Any attempts to treat your dog's condition without knowing what it actually is that you're treating likely won't help and may even worsen their condition.

That being said, some common treatments for health issues in your dog's eyes generally include medicinal, antibacterial or anti-inflammatory eye drops or ointments. Your vet will be sure to walk you through the best way to administer these treatments for your dog's red eyes to make sure they are as comfortable and effective as possible. 

In more extreme cases, surgical intervention may be required, especially for issues like cherry eye.  

Does your dog have red eyes and causing them discomfort? Contact Bear Valley Animal Hospital today to book an appointment. Our vets will be able to examine, diagnose and plan an appropriate treatment to alleviate your dog's discomfort.