Diagnosing and Treating Eye Infections in Dogs

You suddenly notice that your dog is whining and pawing at his eyes like there is something stuck in one of them, or maybe he is rubbing his head on the carpet and trying to scratch his eye. If these actions are accompanied by some of the following symptoms, then your pet more than likely has an infection in one or both of his eyes.

While eye infections are somewhat common, they can still be a serious condition that if not treated right away could lead to blindness or worse. They are also usually very contagious, so you should wash your hands when treating them and make sure your dog doesn’t pass it to some other pet.

If you suspect your dog has an eye infection, he needs to get to the veterinarian shortly in order to get the proper diagnosis and medications to clear up the infection.

Symptoms of eye infection

Some of the common symptoms of a possible eye infection in your dog may include:

  • Watery or sticky discharge from the eyes
  • Red inflamed or cloudy looking eyes
  • Rubbing or scratching the eyes
  • Squinting of one or both eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swollen eyelids

Common types of dog eye infections

Conjunctivitis – Also called “pink eye,” this is the most common type of eye infection in dogs and is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. Other things that may cause this type of infection include: herpes, Lyme disease, inflammation of the tear sac, or something that gets stuck in the eye and causes damage.


It causes red or pink tint to the eyes, inflammation and a thick, sticky discharge. Treatment includes gently cleaning out the dog’s eyes with a cotton ball and warm water to get rid of the sticky crud, and using a warm compress over his eyes for about five minutes to bring down the swelling and help with pain. Your vet will also probably prescribe some sort of antibiotic drops or ointment.


Glaucoma – This is a very serious eye infection that puts pressure on the eyes caused by a blockage in the eye. It can lead to blindness if not treated. The symptoms include redness, cloudiness and enlarged pupils. Treatment is somewhat complicated, with the vet having to apply various agents and ointments geared to relieve pressure, treat the underlying infection, and protect the neurons in the eye.

Be sure to follow the vet’s instructions carefully.


Keratoconjunctivitis Siccac – Also known as “dry eye,” this is also a very serious infection. It means the dog’ eyes aren’t producing enough tears and it can lead to ulcers and inflammation of the cornea. It can be caused by many factors such as herpes, disease, or other issues with the tear ducts. It’s treated with artificial tears solution, eye drops or oral medications as needed.


Juvenile Cellulitis – Also called “puppy strangles,” this is caused by a bacterial infection. A puppy will present with blisters around the eyes that can progress into ulcers.

Diagnosing Eye Infections

If your veterinarian suspects your pet has an eye infection he will perform a few specific tests. One of these is an ophthalmoscopic exam. The vet will look into a dog’s eyes, test the response to light, and do a general exam of the surrounding area.

Another common test is the tear duct test, which checks to see if the dog is producing enough eye moisture. The vet will place a special type of paper under a dog’s eye and then compare it with a chart to see how much tears are being produced and if it is the normal amount.

Another eye test is the Flourescein staining test, which is used to see if there are any tears or ulcers on a dog’s cornea. The stain is dripped into a dog’s eyes with an eye dropper and if there is any damage, it will show up as a fluorescent green color when the stain is washed out.

Bacterial Culture is another type of test which takes a sample of the discharge or other fluids and grows in a special culture to see what type of bacterial organism is causing the dog’s condition so they know which antibiotic to treat it with.

Treatment of Eye Infections

First, if you suspect your dog has an infection, or his eyes have a discharge, then you can gently clean them out using a saline solution or special eye cleaning solutions you can find in pet supply stores or at your veterinarian’s office. You can make your own home saline solution by placing one teaspoon of salt into a glass of mineral water and using this on cotton balls to clean your dog’s eyes.

But if symptoms persist after about a day or two, the dog needs to go see the vet, especially if the discharge is a green, grey or yellow color. He will prescribe treatment that usually comes in the forms of drops, ointments or orals or injected medications.

Dogs Inclined to Get Eye Infections

There are some dogs more prone to get an eye infection, such as dogs with long hair around their eyes. If this is not properly groomed, it can irritate the eyes and cause diseases like pink eye. Dogs that are susceptible to this include the Lhasa Apso, the Shih ‘Tzu and the Pug.

The bottom line is that while most eye infections are easily treated, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your dog to the vet to be checked out to see if it is something serious. As responsible dog owners we all want our pets to enjoy good health and happiness for years to come, and that means taking care of their eyes, as well as their general overall health.


22 Responses to “Diagnosing and Treating Eye Infections in Dogs”

  1. Miss Kayy says:


  2. Anne Carslaw says:

    I have a 10 yr old Lhasa Apso who is well groomed. I keep him in a puppy cut so no hair gets into his eyes. I just noticed today June 1, 2015 that his eyes are swollen both of them look sore. I also noticed the color of his eyes have changed they were brow but now they look blue. Could this be him going blind? would someone please give me some help. Taking him to the vet is very costly so I have been washing the crud away from his eyes. I did notice some pus in the left eye this morning. I have given him some drops for what I thought might be pink eye, but not sure. He is my constant companion and I would hate for him to be losing his eyesight. He is afraid to go out when its dark this is why I wonder if possibly he may be losing his eyesight.
    Thanks for any advice

  3. shelly says:

    My dog wouldn’t open his eye and it was watery and the eye looked cloudy witch told me it was infection and not allergies. A loratidine for the itch and some of my pink eye med, erythromycin gel in his eye and all better. If I had erythromycin pills I’d give him that to. If you think it’s allergies then sterile saline and a benadryl will help.

  4. Alice says:

    I have a 7yr old laso apso who has sore ryes and won’t let me clean them he gets very aggressive if I go near him would a vet put him to sleep to treat his condition

  5. Yom says:

    My 4yr old lab has got the pink eye again. The last time he got it, the vet prescribed an eye ointment that was yellow in color. I can’t remember the name now. This time around I didn’t panic, instead I searched online and found several sites advising to use black tea and lots of reviews on how great it works. So I’m giving it a try now.
    Just started last night..it’s supposed to clear out within a day or two.
    Use black tea and brew a cup until dark brown and let it cool. Apply/wash eye with a cotton ball soaked with cooled down tea
    Hope this helps!

  6. Rosie says:

    I have a 10mon. old golden retriever/blck lab mix female whose left eye or eyeball looks swollen, slightly bigger then the right eye……any suggestions? It doesnt seem red or theres no usually colored discharge. It almost looks like when a fish gets popeye……

  7. Michelle Caster says:

    My Dog out of no where has an irritated eye. He will not open it and he keeps rubbing his eye. it happened out of no where today. in the last hour he went from just rubbing his eye to not being able to open his eye I cleaned his eye and say nothing different with it. but it has started to swell is there any ideas… i put a collar on him to prevent him form making it worse. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated…

  8. Ava says:

    Angel I have a boston with the same symptoms. What was the result? Is the dog better?

  9. angel says:

    my boston who is well up in age has started squinting. she has extra watery eyes. one eye is pink or red in color. we also noticed that the one eye with extra watery discharge is starting to get cloudy. but she isnt acting like shes sensitive to light or anything like that. any ideas on what it could be and how to treat it without the vet

  10. Becky says:

    Sue did u find out what was wrong? My one yr old has started squinting and not focusing properly went to vets who cdnt really help he wasnt doing it at the time we’ll be seeing an eye specialist, worrying time

  11. Sue says:

    Jack I just bought some of the nfz puffer. My 5 year old dog just started squinting and closing his eyes yesterday! I got online and read all the diseases my dog could have. I am hoping this is only an eye irritation and that the puffer will work. He has had only one squirt of it!!

  12. gail says:

    what was the medication

  13. Chris de CB says:

    My schnauzer frequently has problems with corneal erosion and conjunctivitis. Frequent trips to the vet for Fucithalmic ointment were costing an arm and a leg. Then someone recommended Golden Eye. It works a lot better than Fucithalmic and you can get it over the counter without a visit to the vet.

    All clear now

  14. Jack lape says:

    we used 0.2% nitrourazone nfz puffer a powder that when bottle is squeezed at dogs eye it emitts a dry antiabotic powder cloud into dogs eye this helped within a day we seen inprovment and used sline solution befor the puffer was used hope this helped 501.442.7710 J.ack thanks hope this helps someone out there

  15. Mand says:

    Jennifer you can clean it everyday with something sterilized water. Try to take him to the beach and let salty water go through his eyes, I guess salt water fixes all kinds of infections

  16. Jennifer says:

    hey I have a 3 year old pitbull. Since he was 2 he’s have his eyes pinkish or red and now he seems like he can barely open his left eye I think it hurts him and we have to money to take him to the vet is there anything I can do for now at home to treat him till I have enough for the vet I’m scared he could turn blind
    any suggestions?

  17. Pegah says:

    Hi i have a 7 months old morkie male puppy. and he has a pink eye infection. We took him to the wet and he prescribed an antibiotic ointment about 2 weeks ago but the infection isn’t gone so we have probably have to take him back to the vet so that he refers us to an specialist. what causes these infections? thanks bye

  18. jes says:

    I have a 9 week old english staffy that has a black mark in her eye. It doesnt seem to bother her until she on the sunlight . There a lil bit more sleepy discharge in her sore eye. Wat should i do. Please reply…

  19. s wright says:

    My shi tzu had eye discharge, took her to vet, says she has eye infection, gave her oniment that cost 47.00 dollars at the drug store for the med.
    He said it was something like a pickeye inf. Isn’t there anything over the counter here in the USA that could be used for this kind of inf.?

  20. Amy says:

    my 4 yr old german shepard has to me looks like a film, a coating from her bottom lid on her eye coming towards the center of her eye. She does not bother with it. like pawing it or anything. Sometimes in the am she has yellow discharge which we take out. she is eating , playing and etc. we see she has pain. brought her to dr today. they are not sure took alot of pictures maybe something rare.

  21. Frances says:

    I am not sure what is available in Australia but I have always used a homemade saline solution. I am not a vet, just a dog mom, but here is a link for making a solution. However, always check with a vet (even if online) to get suggestions. http://www.dog-health-handbook.com/dog-eye-wash.html

  22. mike lake says:

    Good advice …helpful A vet is a long drive(4hrs outback roads ) to town for me is there any ointment that can be bought over counter( here in Auistralia ) …for human eyes that might be effective ??

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