If your dog starts showing symptoms of canine conjunctivitis, but you are not sure if his eyes are really infected, chances are they really are. Just like with us, humans, dog conjunctivitis can be painful and uncomfortable.
So, immediate attention is necessary to relieve discomfort and prevent the progression of the infection. And in case you might be wondering, “Can dogs get pink eye?” The short answer is, “Yes.”
What is Pink Eye in Dogs? Can Dogs Get Pink Eye?
Pink eye is the itchy inflammation of the conjunctiva – the membrane that lines a dog's eye, eyelid, and the third eyelid covering the sclera, or the white part of the eyes. It is the common term used for conjunctivitis in dogs.
Due to the inflammation, the conjunctiva becomes enlarged and red, so the name pinkeye is used. A dog’s eye or eyes can be infected from exposure to viruses, bacteria, foreign bodies, allergens or external irritants, and parasites. With so many ways a dog’s eyes can be infected, the treatment for pink eye also varies.
Symptoms of Pink Eye in Dogs
The inflammation of the conjunctiva leads to symptoms that we commonly associate with human pink eye. You can notice the symptoms in one eye or both eyes, depending on the cause. If you notice any of the following, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis:
- Watery eyes
- Puffy eyelids
- Eyelids sticking together
- Eye discharge that can appear clear or watery, mucus discharge, or purulent mucus discharge that can appear yellowish or greenish
- Excessive blinking or squinting
- Pawing at eyes
While treating your dog’s pink eye as soon as possible is crucial, it is more important to get it right first from the very start. There are different types of canine conjunctivitis, and self-medicating your dog’s eye infection with home remedies, and eye drops may do more harm than good. Hence, if your dog starts showing symptoms, take him to the vet immediately so he can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Common Types of Canine Conjunctivitis or Dog Pink Eye
The main types of canine conjunctivitis or pink eye in dogs include contagious and non-contagious. And the causes of both types of pink eye include:
- Dust mites
- Upper respiratory infection
- Inflammation of the tear duct
- Underlying eye disease or eye injury
- Foreign body
If we further subdivide these two primary types, we will get the following:
Occasionally, a dog develops pink eyes as a result of an allergic reaction. Make sure to take steps that can be helpful in protecting your home from dust, dander, mold, and pollen, which can trigger pink eye. Learn the causes and treatment of your dog's allergies such as foods, perfumes, smoke, plants, and grass.
Keep your dog's eyes as good as you can by keeping them clean and dry. In cases where allergies result in pink eye, the vet may recommend either steroid eye drops or artificial tears. Cold compresses help reduce the irritation of dogs with conjunctivitis caused by the presence of an allergy.
Allergic Conjunctivitis is seasonal and it’s non-contagious. As mentioned earlier, below are the common causes of this type of pink eye in dogs:
- Dust mites
- Aerosol cleaners
- Artificial tears
- Cold compress
- Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Steroid eye drops
This type of conjunctivitis is infectious, and it can be harder to prevent since we can’t see bacteria lurking in the environment just like with the common triggers of allergic conjunctivitis.
The common culprits of bacterial conjunctivitis are Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. And while it’s rare in dogs, it can be very contagious.
- Antibiotic eye drops or ointments
Similarly, viral conjunctivitis can also be tricky to prevent, and it can result from respiratory infection or cold. Just like with any viral infection, the best defense for this type of pink eye is to ensure your pup is healthy overall. And you can do that by giving him a proper diet and exercise, which can help strengthen his immune system.
However, if your dog has already been diagnosed with viral conjunctivitis, your vet will most likely prescribe steroid eye drops and artificial tears to help keep the eyes clear of crust or discharge. This will also help alleviate your dog’s discomfort once the medication kicks in.
- Cold compress
- Steroid eye drops
- Artificial tears
How Are Dogs Diagnosed with Pink Eye?
You may have a dog that is experiencing one or two pink eye symptoms, but that is typically not sufficient for a thorough diagnosis. Your veterinarian will do a variety of diagnostic tests to properly diagnose your dog's pink eye and determine the correct treatment.
As mentioned earlier, there are several types of canine conjunctivitis. So, the successful treatment of your dog's eye infection should start by properly identifying the root cause.
For instance, if your dog's pink eyes are secondary symptoms of his underlying condition like dry eye or tumors, treating pink eye alone is not enough. Your vet will most probably perform a comprehensive eye examination of your dog's eyes, eyelids, and surrounding structures using an ophthalmic lens.
Additionally, he or she may also use Schirmer tear strips to test your dog's tear production, measure your dog's eye pressure to make sure that he doesn't have uveitis or glaucoma, and perform a stain test to identify corneal damage.
If your vet finds it necessary to try more tests, he can resort to other diagnostic examinations such as bacterial culture, allergy testing, nasolacrimal duct flushing, cytology of the conjunctiva, or biopsy.
How to Treat Pink Eye?
The treatment for pink eye depends on how it developed or its cause. And when left untreated or treated incorrectly, pink eye can cause long-term effects on your dog’s vision and overall health. Hence, a visit to your veterinarian is a must.
In most cases, eye drops are an essential part of treating canine conjunctivitis. Your veterinarian will show you how to properly administer eye drops to maximize their efficacy.
Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, your vet may prescribe ointments or topical eye drops to reduce inflammation and combat infection, and he may also recommend products to stimulate tear production and eye lubrication.
For allergy-induced conjunctivitis, your vet may prescribe an antihistamine, steroid eye drops, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or artificial tears. He may also recommend that you clean the affected eye or apply a cold compress to relieve the irritation brought by the allergens.
However, if your vet determined that the cause of your dog’s pink eye is a deformity or abnormality, such as entropion or distichiasis, your dog may need to undergo a surgical procedure to correct the problem.
How to Prevent Pink Eye?
In rare cases, a dog can transfer pink eye to us humans in the same way that we, humans can also transfer the infection to our beloved canine companion. Hence, if you are suffering from conjunctivitis, it’s crucial that you take steps to prevent the spread of infection to other people and animals.
And as always, the gold standard for the prevention of cross-contamination and/or transmission of infection is regular handwashing. You should also avoid touching your eyes during the healing process, and when you do touch them, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Moreover, when removing crust or eye discharge on your dog’s eyes, it’s best to use a cotton ball to reduce skin-on-skin contact. However, you should still wash your hands after to be on the safe side. Also, since there are different types of pink eye, there are also several ways to prevent the infection.
For allergen-induced conjunctivitis, keep your home free from dander, dust, mold, and specific irritants that trigger your dog’s symptoms.
Grooming your dog, and trimming the fur surrounding his eyes can also help to keep debris and irritants away, which can trigger pink eye. It will also make it harder for dust and other allergens to accumulate on your dog’s coat and eventually land in his eyes. You can also ask your vet for medications to stop flare-ups.
For bacterial conjunctivitis, you can keep your dog’s sleep and play areas clean to prevent the growth of bacteria. You can also keep these areas sterile to kill the bacteria. You may ask your vet for safe cleaning solutions that can help decontaminate your dog’s living area.
As for viral conjunctivitis, it never hurts to boost your dog’s immune system with the help of a vitamin-packed diet and a lot of exercises. And of course, it’s important that you keep your dog’s vaccines up-to-date to prevent some of the viral causes of pink eye.
As with most diseases, some dog breeds are more prone to having pink eye than others. For instance, Pugs, Pekingese, and other brachycephalic dogs are more susceptible to having canine conjunctivitis due to their facial features.
For these dogs, it’s best to supervise them while they are playing and discourage them from doing things that might result in eye damage, such as sniffing around thorn bushes or provoking cats.
Also, if you are going on a road trip with your canine buddy, don’t let him stick his head out of the window while your car is moving. A lot of things can happen if you let your dog do this, one of which is that dirt, debris, and foreign bodies can easily enter his eyes.
When it comes to pink eyes, pet owners should not resort to home remedies, especially if the cause has not been properly identified.
To ensure that your efforts in helping your pup recuperate will bear positive results, it’s best to seek veterinary advice right away the moment you notice symptoms resembling pink eye or any eye infection. When left untreated or treated incorrectly, pink eye can cause permanent eye damage to your dog. So, it’s something that every pet parent should not take lightly.
Will pink eye in dogs go away on its own?
While non-infectious conjunctivitis is not a serious condition in and of itself, it won't clear up on its own without treatment, and it may point to a more serious health problem that needs to be addressed. Additionally, if left untreated, your dog could sustain a permanent eye injury or even vision loss.
Do I need to take my dog to the vet for pink eye?
Certain causes of pink eye may require other treatments, such as medications or surgical procedures. While it might be tempting to try home remedies to treat your dog's conjunctivitis at home, this is not a good idea, and it is absolutely worth it to take your dog to a veterinarian to get a diagnosis first.
Does Benadryl help conjunctivitis in dogs?
Depending on their diagnosis and symptoms, some pups may need additional support with oral medications. Common examples include an antihistamine like Benadryl for conjunctivitis due to seasonal allergies, or a dog-safe pain medication to relieve eye pain.
Is pink eye from poop?
You CAN get pink eye from poop. Poop — or more specifically, the bacteria or viruses in poop — can cause pink eye. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , if your hands contain fecal matter and you touch your eyes, you can get pink eye.