Dog Eye Allergies – Everything You Need To Know

When thinking of allergies in humans, our mind often goes to itchy and watery eyes.

We tend to experience these symptoms when suffering from seasonal allergies, so you may wonder, can our dogs struggle in this way as well?

While our pups may have different allergy triggers than you and I, their eye allergies are just as real.

In this article we will dive into the details of dog eye allergies, and help you better understand how to help your canine friend .

Everything You Need To Know About Dog Eye Allergies

Can Dogs Get Allergies?

We are not the only ones that struggle with the irritating presence of allergies.

Our canine friends can experience allergies to multiple forms of irritants in the world around them, ranging from environmental allergies to contact allergies.

Some dogs will have similar sensitivities to humans, while others will struggle in the presence of certain materials and scents within our homes.

Canine allergies can manifest in many ways, but they are extremely prevalent in the canine population.

Can Dogs Have Eye Allergies?

Allergies in dogs often impact their skin or digestive health, but some dogs will experience allergies in the form of eye irritation.

Just as some humans will experience itchy and watery eyes when pollen levels are high, our dogs are no different.

This occurrence is referred to as allergic conjunctivitis in dogs, and is a term to describe inflammation of the eye due to an allergic response.

While allergy symptoms will range from dog to dog, most dogs with eye allergies will display other signs of irritation as well.

Allergies limited to a dog’s eyes are fairly uncommon, and usually occur in conjunction with other symptoms.

Red and irritated eyes may be the most obvious symptom for some pet owners, often leading to a trip to the vet for answers.

What Causes Eye Allergies In Dogs?

Before we discuss the most common causes of eye allergies in dogs, it’s important to first understand the forms of allergies a dog can experience.

Anything can be a potential allergy trigger for our canine friends, but the possibilities are broken down into three categories.

Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies refers to an allergic reaction to anything in the world around your dog.

This can include plants, pollen, dander, dust, and any other material that your pet may encounter.

Food Allergies

Food allergies occur when a dog has a sensitivity to an ingredient in certain foods, whether it’s their daily diet or occasional snacks.

Contact Allergies

A contact allergy is an allergic response to an allergen that came in direct contact with a dog’s body.

A contact allergy often leads to irritation where the contact occurred, but can spread to other parts of the body as well.

While there is a long list of potential allergens in the world around our pups, there is a list of allergens that are known to cause itchy and watery eyes in our canine friends.

Some of the most common causes of dog eye allergies include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Dander
  • Fragrances
  • Smoke
  • Cleaning products
  • Essential oils or incense
  • Insect stings
  • Fleas (particularly an active case of flea allergy dermatitis)
  • Shampoos or skin treatments, especially if they are scented

If your dog has come in contact with any of the above allergens and is experiencing eye irritation, it’s very possible that canine allergies are behind their symptoms.

What Are The Signs Of Eye Allergies In Dogs?

Our dogs may not be able to tell us when their eyes are irritated, but there are a few subtle signs and behaviors they may experience when suffering from eye allergies that we can be aware of.

Ranging from mild eye discharge to frantic pawing at the face, eye allergies in dogs can impact our pups in many ways.

Some of the most common signs of dog eye allergies include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Squinting
  • Eye discharge 
  • Sneezing due to eye irritation
  • Inflammation of the eyes and tissue around the eye
  • Scratching or pawing at their eyes
  • Rubbing their face on the ground

If you see any of the above symptoms in your canine friend, it may be time to reach out to your veterinarian for further guidance.

While eye allergies are always on the list of possibilities, it’s important to have your vet rule out other eye complications as well.

Diagnosing Eye Allergies In Dogs

While your veterinarian can suggest specific allergy testing, most cases of eye allergies in dogs are diagnosed by gathering a detailed history and ruling out other eye conditions.

As we mentioned above, eye allergies are often accompanied by other signs of canine allergies, ranging from skin irritation to chronic itching.

In most situations, vets can offer a general allergy diagnosis by simply gathering all the details of your dog’s case.

However, if your dog’s case is complicated by any other outside factors, they may need to see a specialist for further care.

To help you better understand how your vet may diagnose eye allergies in your dog, let’s list a few of the most common testing options below.

Gathering A Detailed History

Like we mentioned before, itchy and watery eyes are often accompanied by other changes in behavior.

Though some of these symptoms can be subtle to pet owners, our veterinarians know exactly what to ask to help them get to the bottom of our dog’s troubles.

Your veterinarian will ask you how often your dog is rubbing their face, if their itching has increased, if you have noticed any sniffing or sneezing, or even if it seems like they are shedding more than usual.

These are just a few of the questions your vet may ask, so be prepared to offer as much detail as possible.

Eye Diagnostics

Our dogs can experience an array of eye complications, many of which can lead to itchy and watery eyes.

Due to this, it’s important for your vet to perform a few basic eye diagnostics to rule out other potential complications.

This will often involve performing an eye exam with an ophthalmoscope, staining the eye to search for any injury to the cornea, as well as testing the pressure in the eye with a tonometer.

There are more advanced eye exams and biopsies that your vet can perform if needed, but this is usually only necessary in dogs with chronic eye inflammation.

If your dog does not find relief with standard treatment approaches from your veterinarian, they may need to be sent to a specialist.

Allergy Testing

If your dog is suffering from a severe case of allergies, your vet may suggest allergy testing to determine their current sensitivities.

Though a case of mild eye allergies may not warrant specific testing, it can be extremely beneficial for dogs that struggle with unmanageable allergies.

Your vet can either collect a blood sample to perform a RAST test (a sample is sent to a lab for allergen testing), or they can refer you to a dermatologist for intradermal skin testing.

Ruling Out Other Eye Conditions

As we mentioned above, there are other eye conditions that can mimic eye allergies in our canine friends.

Conditions like eye infections and corneal ulcers can cause a dog’s eyes to water, proving just how important eye exams are to rule out these underlying possibilities.

Some of the most common eye conditions that can display similar symptoms to canine eye allergies include:

These are just some of the many eye conditions our furry friends can experience throughout their lives.

This is why it’s important to never just assume that your dog’s eye irritation is a result of eye allergies, as the conditions listed above require specific treatment to resolve.

Treating Eye Allergies In Dogs

When treating eye allergies in our furry friends, there are a few different treatment approaches based on how severe the dog’s allergies are.

To help you better understand the options available to your dog, let’s list discuss some of the many treatment methods your vet may suggest below.

Eye Flushing

If your dog’s eye allergies are mild and only bother them from time to time, your dog may find relief with daily eye flushing when their symptoms are flaring up.

Flushing their eyes can help to remove any allergens that are present within the eye, helping to relieve their symptoms.

We always suggest either purchasing an approved eye wash from your vet’s office, or following their recommendation on which eye flush to purchase at the store.

Antihistamines

Just like you and I, our pups can find relief from allergy symptoms with the use of antihistamines.

Antihistamines help to stop the body’s response to allergens in a dog’s environment, providing some relief in cases of mild canine allergies.

While this is not the best option for dogs with chronic allergies, they can be used as a wonderful line of defense in dogs with itchy, watery eyes.

Some of the most common antihistamines your vet will recommend include Benadryl, Zyrtec, Loratadine, and even prescribed antihistamines from your vet’s office.

Eye Drops

If your dog is experiencing a more severe case of allergic conjunctivitis, your vet may prescribe eye drops that contain steroids.

These drops can help to limit inflammation and irritation within the eye, and will often be used in addition with a daily antihistamine until their symptoms resolve.

These drops will only be prescribed after your vet performs a thorough eye exam, as steroidal drops can damage the eye if any ulcers or scratches are present.

Itch Relief

Sometimes our dogs will suffer from eye irritation when a dog is experiencing severe skin itching from canine allergies.

This can cause dogs to paw at their eyes if their face is itchy as well, leading to the presence of irritated eyes.

If it is clear that a dog is suffering with pruritis (itchy skin) due to allergies, your vet may suggest an anti-itch treatment in the form of oral or injectable medications.

Some of the most common medications include Apoquel, Cytopoint, and Atopica.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, allergies can lead to serious eye irritation in our canine friends.

Whether your vet suggests regular eye flushing or daily antihistamine use, there is usually a solution for the itchy pups in our lives.

Be sure to review the information above, and you can have the tools you need to relieve your dog’s eye allergies.

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