Dog Eye Infection: How To Know & What To Do

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / February 21, 2018

Being clued up on signs and causes of a dog eye infection is probably one of a puppy parent’s most important responsibilities. How often do people take those puppy eyes for granted? Other than perhaps their tail, a dog’s eyes are quite possibly their most powerful means of communication. They use those eyes to create and communicate true love.

dog with eye infection

When you gaze lovingly into your fur child’s eyes, and they gaze right back? That has been scientifically proven to release Oxycontin, the love hormone. It’s a rather fundamental part of the bonding process between humans and their canine companions. Their eyes are important, so dog owners should know what to look out for in their dog’s peepers. If your pup has a dog eye infection, you need to identify it and treat it immediately.

Types of Dog Eye Infection

Eye infections in dogs can range from minor, not too serious, and easy to treat to chronic infection nightmares that may require long term treatment. If the infection is not dealt with, it can lead to permanent damage and blindness.

If you even vaguely suspect that your dog might have any of these diseases, get right on over to your veterinarian for advice. A dog eye infection caught early on is more than manageable. Leave it too late though and there is a chance your dog might lose more than just their sight.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye or Red Eye)

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye or Red Eye)

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common types of eye infection in humans as well as dogs and cats. Pink Eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that covers the sclera (the white part of your dog’s eye). It’s a thin, transparent mucous membrane that contains blood vessels amongst other things.

The most common causes for conjunctivitis, or Pink Eye, in dogs are bacterial infections and viral infections. It could, however, also be caused by a number of allergens or irritants. Anything from dust and pollen, to the perfume you just sprayed, could cause your dog’s conjunctiva to become inflamed.

Pink Eye may not be the most serious of dog eye infections, but it is no fun for your pup. It can be painful and itchy, and much like humans, dogs can’t help but try to scratch the itch. Needless to say, pawing at their eyes with a dirty paw is not going improve the situation.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) Treatment

In a dog, conjunctivitis is usually treated with a round of medicated antibiotic eye drops or orally administered antibiotics. Medicated ointments such as Terramycin Ophthalmic ointment are also a popular choice for fighting the infection.  Terramycin eye ointment is an antibiotic ointment which works wonders to heal Pink Eye and other dog eye infections with a topical approach.

If your veterinarian has made the deduction that the inflammation was caused by allergies, they will most likely opt for allergy medication. If the infection is minor they may even recommend that a warm compress could heal it, and no medication is necessary. Many dog owners swear by saline solution rinses for curing mild Pink Eye.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye)

Technically speaking, Dry Eye is not an infection. It is however a condition which often leads to dog eye infections or worse. A dog suffering from Dry Eye has tear ducts which, for any number of reasons, are not producing enough tears from their tear glands. Dry Eye could be caused by anything from damage to the tear ducts due to trauma, distemper, or an immune system responding to a problem with the tear glands.

There are quite a few things that start going wrong when a dog’s eyes aren’t producing enough tears. Tears help to clean and clear the eyes of anything that is not supposed to be there like bacteria, allergens, or irritants. Needless to say, if there is no tear production, these foreign bodies remain in the eye, drastically increasing the risk of eye inflammation and infection.

Additionally, without tears, there is nothing to lubricate the eye and eyelids when your dog blinks. Instead of gliding smoothly over the cornea every time your dog blinks, the eyelids become graters and scratch the cornea. An untreated, scratched cornea can lead to serious painful inflammation and infection, as well as corneal ulcers.

Dry Eye Treatment

Depending on the cause of Dry Eye, this condition may require long term care. It is far better to manage this condition from the beginning than to deal with the chronic eye problems it can result in.

In mild cases, the veterinarian will prescribe synthetic tear drops. These are eye drops which keep the eye clean and lubricated. In more serious cases where there is a secondary infection, the vet may treat it topically with medicated inti-inflammatory or antibiotic eye drops. They may also approach it systemically (from the inside) with immunosuppressants, anti-inflammatories, or antibiotics.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may also prescribe pain medication for your poor pup. Most of these eye conditions and infections can be incredibly painful.

Keratitis (Corneal Infection or Corneal Ulcer)

As the name suggests, a corneal infection is the inflammation or infection of the cornea (the outer layer of the eye). There are two types of keratitis. The first is non-infectious, which is often the result of a scratch or trauma to the cornea. The second type, infectious keratitis, is the result of bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. Parasites can also cause the infection which can result in serious damage to the eye. Many dogs have lost their vision or even their eyes to these infections, or ulcers which ruptured the eye.

Keratitis Treatment

The treatment for Keratitis will depend on the cause of the infection as well as the severity of the ulcer. If your dog only has an infection, the vet will probably prescribe antibiotics, antifungal medication, or anti-inflammatories.

If an ulcer has developed, then the treatment will take a little longer. On the plus side, the prognosis is often good. If caught in time and treated efficiently, keratitis can heal without problem.

Pannus (Chronic Superficial Keratitis)

This condition, like so many others, can be blamed on the immune system. It is an autoimmune disease which affects the cornea and can lead to keratitis.

The interesting thing about this disease is that it is often caused by UV exposure. There are a handful of breeds which are genetically predisposed to developing this disease, but the chances are aggravated by heightened exposure to the sun. High altitudes also effect the development of this disease. People don’t often think that their dogs would be effected by sun and high altitudes. However, Pannus is rather common amongst the dogs of adrenaline junkie pet parents who take their dogs skiing in the mountains.

Treatment for Pannus

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. The symptoms can, however, be treated with eye drops. Your vet might also recommend immunotherapy, which has been successful in suppressing that response affecting the cornea.

If your dog is an adventure pup, then you can avoid that next trip to the veterinarian by getting your dog some goggles. No more worrying about UV rays. No more fear that pollen, dust, or any other foreign body is entering your dog’s eye.

Anterior Uveitis (Eye Inflammation)

The Uvea consists of three parts: the ciliary body, the choroid, and the iris. Uveitis is the infection or inflammation of these parts and is one of the more serious dog eye infections. In a nut shell, there are four possible causes: Autoimmunity. Cancer. Infection. Trauma.

Like many health issues, pinpointing the exact cause or source of a problem is never simple. In fact, Uveitis itself can be a symptom of an entirely different disease such as blastomycosis or leptospirosis.

The symptoms of Uveitis are quite easily distinguished from their eye infection brethren. Because it affects so many parts of the eye, you can expect worse symptoms than those from infections, which tend to be more contained. There will be redness (or blood in the eye) and the eye will appear murky and cloudy. As the infection spreads, fluid and pressure will build up, causing cataracts and glaucoma, and eventually blindness.

Anterior Uveitis Treatment Options

The key to managing uveitis is catching it early and pinpointing the cause. Making the correct diagnosis is paramount. This disease can be caused by so many things. Your vet may need to perform a few tests to find the cause.

Fungal infections will be treated with antifungal medication. Bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections will be treated with antivirals. If your vet discovers that the uveitis is caused by an autoimmune response, the prognosis and treatment options look a lot dimmer. Dogs with uveitis caused by an autoimmune response are looking at long term afflictions that will require long term management or treatment.

Primary and Secondary Glaucoma

Glaucoma, like Dry Eye, is not technically an eye infection. However, as we mentioned before, dog eye problems and dog eye infections often go hand in hand. Dry Eye is not an infection, but it can lead to one. Similarly, Glaucoma oftentimes leads to infections as well.

With that said, Primary Glaucoma is not a result of an eye infection. In most cases, dogs suffering from this condition are breeds with a genetic predisposition for it. Breeds like Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels and Beagles are the top of the list of dogs likely to develop Primary Glaucoma.

Secondary Glaucoma can be caused by an infection such as Uveitis, trauma to the eye, or a displaced lens.

Both types of Glaucoma cause an immense amount of pain. Fluid build up causes the eyes to swell and bulge. Once the pressure from the fluid build-up kicks in, the pain starts. Glaucoma is the mean culprit that forces many pup parents to make the difficult decision to have the affected eye(s) removed surgically. If it is caught early, it can be managed. While you can take action to manage the disease, it is unfortunately a progressive condition for which there is no cure.

Symptoms of a Dog Eye Infection

symptoms of dog eye infection

Pup parents should know the signs and symptoms of a dog eye infection. The key to successfully treating an infection is catching it early. Many different types of eye problems and infections share the same signs and symptoms. The important thing is to know the warning signs and take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of dog eye infections:

  • Redness
  • Blood under the cornea
  • Constricted (small) pupil
  • Increased tears or eye discharge
  • Abnormal eye discharge color or consistency
  • Squinting
  • Inflammation and swelling around the eye
  • Swollen or bulging eye
  • Incessant blinking
  • Apparent light sensitivity
  • Pawing or scratching at the eye

Eye Boogers

Eye boogers. Every pet parent worries about them at some or other stage. The most important thing about eye boogers is to know what is normal for your dog. For example, if you have a bloodhound, chances are, the normal state of their eyes is red and teary. In Yorkies and Poodles, there may be a constant stream of tears staining the fur around their eyes. Other breeds will have little to no boogers at all. In their case, it will be very easy to tell when there’s a problem!

Dog Eye Discharge Explained

If you know the normal quantity and consistency of your dog’s eye discharge, it will be easy for you to tell apart a minor eye irritation from an infected eye. Every dog should have at least some eye discharge. It’s a way for the body to rid the eye of allergens and irritants, as well as bacteria and other icky things which shouldn’t be there.

An attentive assessment of your dog’s eye gunk should tell you what you need to know about the state of the eye’s health.

  • Clear eye discharge is usually an indication that there is not necessarily an infection, but rather that the eye is reacting to an allergen or irritant. Excessive eye watering is called Epiphora. It often happens when the eye is irritated and stops once the irritant has been removed. If watering continues, there may be an infection.
  • Reddish-brown tear stains are common in many breeds and are nothing to worry about if they’re not accompanied by other symptoms of eye infection.
  • Yellow, green, pus-like and bloody eye discharge are probable indicators of an infection.
  • White or gray mucus oozing from the eyes is never a good sign. This often occurs in dogs suffering from Dry Eye. In this scenario, the eye produces excess mucus to overcompensate for the lack of tears.

Causes of a Dog Eye Infection

causes of dog eye infection

Sometimes finding the cause of an eye infection is simple. Perhaps a viral Pink Eye was making its rounds in the dog park? Maybe there was a piece of sand in the dog’s eye which caused a bacterial infection? Or your pup may have even taken a frisbee to the eye in yesterday’s play session. If the explanation is not as clear as the former, it can take a lot of time, energy, and testing to get to the true, underlying cause of the infection. Finding the underlying cause of an infection can mean better chances of avoiding or preventing the condition from becoming a chronic one.

Here are some of the possible causes of eye infections in dogs:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune and nervous system diseases
  • Bacteria
  • Breed specific genetic predisposition
  • Environmental allergens or irritants
  • Eye problems such as Cherry Eye, Dry Eye, Meibomian Gland Disease or Epiphora (excessive tearing which can lead to infection)
  • Foreign bodies
  • Fungi
  • Genetic Abnormalities or Defects of the eyelids or tear ducts and glands
  • Parasites
  • Toxins
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Tumours
  • Virusesfungi can cause dog eye infection

Medical Treatment of Dog Eye Infection


A veterinary approach to treating a dog eye infection will either be systemic or topical. They may choose to treat the symptoms first, in order to buy more time to find the underlying cause. In most cases of eye infections, treatment will usually involve administering or applying eye drops, ointment, pills or tablets.

Surgery should always be a last resort, but if you have exhausted all other options and your dog is still suffering, you may need to make that call. There are surgical procedures for certain eye conditions which are minimally invasive and have a great prognosis. Rest assured! Eye surgery does not necessarily mean that your vet intends on removing your dog’s eye.

Dog Eye Infection Home Remedy

Home remedies can absolutely help heal and treat minor cases of dog eye infections. You do need to be sure however that you are dealing with a minor eye infection and not something more serious. Always check with your vet before treating your dog with a natural or home remedy.

As well as helping to heal minor cases of eye infections such as Conjunctivitis, home remedies and supplements can do wonders to improve your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Supplements in particular, are the ultimate weapon in the battle against health issues.

By keeping them healthy and boosting their immune system, you can nip the eye infection in the bud.

Home Remedies for Pink Eye in Dogs

home remedies for pink eye in dogs

  • Saline Solution – Add 1 tsp of salt to a glass of warm water and stir. Once the salt has dissolved and the water is only lukewarm, rinse your dog’s eye with the solution and use a cotton ball to wipe away the excess fluid.
  • Tea Bag Rinse – This. Is. Pure. Gold. Just make a cup of tea and let it steep. Once it is lukewarm, you can use the teabag to rinse your dog’s infected eye. Do this 2-4 times daily. Chamomile is a good choice. It has soothing anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in anti-oxidants. Rooibos (Red Bush) Tea is a better choice. The South African tea is incredibly high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, including quercetin and other amazing flavonoids. Additionally, it is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. To give you an idea of how good this stuff is, it is one of the more popular methods of treating a dog’s eyes after an attack by various species of Spitting Cobras in South Africa.

Other Home Remedies for Dog Eye Infection

  • Colloidal Silver – Colloidal silver cures everything from ear infections to skin issues. It can be unnecessarily pricey though. Why not cut out the middle men and buy a micro-particle colloidal silver generator?
  • Supplements – These can help to cure as well as prevent dog eye infections. There are so many supplements to choose from. You just need to find one that will have the biggest and most beneficial impact on your dog’s health.

Note: Be VERY careful when considering using essential oils as a home remedy for your dog’s eye infection. There are so many essential oils that are great for us but harmful to dogs. When using essential oils topically, most people agree that you should keep them far away from a dog’s eyes. You need to run this by your vet and get their OK. Putting the wrong essential oil in your dog’s eye, no matter how diluted it is, could have serious, painful consequences.

healthy dog eye

It is so important as a pet parent to have a grasp or basic knowledge of dog eye infections and eye problems. However, you do not need to read and study the Merck Veterinary Manual every day. It is an interesting read (for some) to be sure, but not a necessary one. Knowing the basic checklist of signs and symptoms for eye infections is good enough. If you’re educated on pet health, you’ll know at what point to get your pupper to the vet!




Are eye boogers bad?

Can my dog get Pink Eye?

I don’t want to use meds. What are my home remedy options?

How do I know if my dog has an eye infection?

I’m worried my dog has Glaucoma?


About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for