Conjunctivitis In Dogs

Just like you and I, our dogs can experience eye irritation from time to time.

Sudden redness of your dog’s eye can point to many potential causes, ranging from infectious illness to previous injury.

Eyes are a vital organ, making it important to act at the first sign of any irritation.

Not only is it essential to get to the bottom of their current eye redness, but to prevent any potential complications that can develop as a result.

In this article we will get into the details of conjunctivitis in dogs, and help you better understand how you can best handle this uncomfortable eye condition going forward.

Conjunctivitis In Dogs

What Is Conjunctivitis In Dogs?

Conjunctivitis is a condition that refers to irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva tissue.

The conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue that covers the entire eye, the lining of the eyelids, as well as the third eyelids.

When a dog is free of conjunctivitis, the conjunctiva on the eyelids are a pale pink color that cannot be easily seen.

The inflammation associated with conjunctivitis is what makes these membranes visible, as the tissue will become red and swollen.

Conjunctivitis itself is a term used to describe the presence of inflammation within the eye, but does not refer to the cause of the irritation itself.

Dogs will develop conjunctivitis due to an underlying factor, ranging from infectious illness to chronic eye disorders.

Is Conjunctivitis Considered ‘Pink Eye’ In Dogs?

When someone uses the phrase ‘pink eye’, they are using a casual term that refers to conjunctivitis in dogs.

Pink eye in both humans and dogs simply refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva, leading to the obvious redness of the membranes within the eye.

While the two terms are interchangeable, it’s important to note that most people using the phrase ‘pink eye’ are referring to an infectious cause of eye irritation rather than other underlying factors.

Common Causes Of Conjunctivitis In Dogs

As we mentioned above, the term conjunctivitis simply refers to the inflammation that is present within the conjunctival tissue.

This inflammation can be the result of many underlying factors, so it’s important to get to the bottom of your pup’s symptoms.

To help you better understand your pup’s condition, let’s list a few of the most common causes of conjunctivitis in dogs below.

Eye Allergies

Dogs can experience allergic reactions to many potential irritants in their environment.

These allergies can lead to an array of irritating symptoms, with red and watery eyes being one of them.

Conjunctivitis due to eye allergies is not contagious, but can deeply impact the affected dog.

Bacterial Infections

If bacteria invades the tissue within the eye, this can easily lead to a case of conjunctivitis.

Bacteria can make its way to your dog’s conjunctiva in multiple ways, ranging from pawing at their eyes to coming in contact with other infected dogs.

This bacteria may not only infect the eyes, but it can also lead to other respiratory symptoms based on the condition in question.

The two most common culprits of bacterial conjunctivitis in dogs include Streptococcus and Staphylococcus.

Viral Infections

Viral infections can also lead to inflammation of the conjunctival tissue in dogs.

These viral diseases can invade many areas of the dog’s body, with symptoms ranging in severity based on the illness in question.

Some of the most common causes of viral conjunctivitis in dogs include canine distemper, parainfluenza, and canine herpesvirus.

Eye Trauma

Trauma to the eye can easily lead to swelling of the conjunctival tissue.

Not only can the trauma itself cause irritation within the eye, but so can the dog’s behavior following the incident.

Many dogs will paw and scratch at the eye in search of relief, only resulting in more trauma to the area.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a chronic eye condition that can cause inflammation of the conjunctival tissue in dogs.

Dry eye that is left untreated will lead to significant irritation within a dog’s eye, causing complications ranging from conjunctivitis to corneal ulcers.

Eyelid Disorders

Eyelid disorders are another potential cause of significant inflammation of the conjunctival tissue.

Eyelid disorders can cause the eyelashes to rub against a dog’s eye, causing an array of complications to follow.

Chronic Eye Conditions

Chronic eye conditions of any kind can lead to the development of conjunctivitis in dogs.

Not only can underlying eye conditions cause irritation of the tissue within the eye, but it can cause a dog to self-mutilate through rubbing and scratching.

Some of the most irritating eye conditions that lead to conjunctivitis include glaucoma, pannus, and anterior uveitis.

Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is not a cause of conjunctivitis in itself, but it can be confused with conjunctivitis in some cases.

Cherry eye refers to the prolapse of a dog’s third eyelid, often appearing as an irritated red mass in the corner of the eye.

When some see the redness of the eye, they may confuse the condition with conjunctivitis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Conjunctivitis In Dogs?

Conjunctivitis can cause damage to the eye if it is not treated quickly, making it so important to act at the first sign of developing symptoms.

Some of the most common signs of pink eye in dogs include:

  • Redness of the sclera, or white portion of the eye
  • Redness around the eye
  • Excessive blinking
  • Squinting
  • Eye discharge
  • Pawing at the eyes
  • Rubbing eyes on the ground

It’s important to note that conjunctivitis can occur in addition to other symptoms, especially if the inflammation is related to an infectious illness.

Some of the most common symptoms you may see in these scenarios include sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

Is Conjunctivitis Contagious In Dogs?

Some cases of conjunctivitis can be passed from dog to dog.

Bacteria and viruses can easily spread throughout a canine population, with some illnesses being more infectious than others.

These illnesses can spread through direct contact with other contagious dogs, typically infecting others through sneezing and close playtime.

If your dog’s conjunctivitis is a result of a bacterial or viral infection, their condition is considered contagious.

Diagnosing Conjunctivitis In Dogs

When diagnosing conjunctivitis in your dog, your veterinarian will need to get to the root of your dog’s eye inflammation.

The list of causes mentioned above are some of the most common factors behind this condition, so your vet will need to try their best to diagnose a specific issue.

In most situations your veterinarian will examine the eye with an ophthalmoscope in search of any abnormalities within the eye.

Examining the physical characteristics of the eye and its surrounding tissues can not only diagnose the conjunctival inflammation, but rule out the presence of any obvious injuries or masses.

Once your vet performs an eye exam, there are a few different diagnostic options that can provide answers.

Your vet can perform a stain of the eye to search for evidence of a corneal ulcer, a tear production test to rule out dry eye, and even an eye pressure test to rule out chronic conditions that impact eye pressure.

The combination of diagnostics and an assessment of your dog’s exposure history can help your vet get to the bottom of their symptoms.

This will allow them to create the best treatment plan for your pup going forward.

It’s important to note that some cases may require the guidance of a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Your veterinarian may recommend a specialist if the results of your dog’s diagnostics are complicated, or if their condition does not resolve with their initial treatment plan.

Treatments For Conjunctivitis In Dogs

Your dog’s treatment plan for their conjunctivitis will vary based on the underlying cause of their conjunctival inflammation.

Some of the most common treatment plans involve antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatory eye drops, and even eye drops to stimulate tear production.

In most cases of conjunctivitis in our furry friends, dogs will make a full recovery within 7-10 days of their initial diagnosis.

Situations can vary if a contagious illness is causing other symptoms, or if your dog is suffering from a chronic eye condition that requires specialized care.

Your veterinarian is the best one to speak with if you are looking for an accurate prognosis.

Conjunctivitis can have many different causes and necessary treatment plans, so we always suggest following your vet’s guidance.

Final Thoughts

Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition that can lead to serious discomfort for the dog affected.

As long as you seek veterinary guidance from the moment their symptoms develop, most dogs will make a full recovery.

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