Your dog’s eyes are the window to her soul … and her health.
You can’t deny the expression in your dog’s eyes if she’s unwell, in pain, or upset. The connection of your dog’s gaze with you is a very powerful way for her to communicate.
So when there’s a problem with your dog’s eyes … you’ll nearly always notice it very quickly.
There are a whole lot of things that can make your dog’s eyes red.
Some are no real problem. But others need an immediate trip to the vet.
Beware of Your Dog Squinting
Before I go any further with explaining why your dog’s eyes may be red, here’s an important warning:
If your dog is squinting one or both eyes partially or completely shut, even some of the time, you need to get to your vet as soon as you can.
Squinting is often a symptom of a corneal ulcer (more about that in a minute). In rare cases, if it’s a really nasty bacteria, an ulcer can perforate your dog’s cornea in as little as 24 to 48 hours!
I usually try to avoid antibiotics, but in this case they can save your dog’s sight.
Okay … so let’s dig into the possible reasons why your dog’s eyes are red.
The cornea is the clear membrane over the front of the eye. If your dog manages to scratch the cornea, it can allow a bacterial infection to attack.
The bacteria dissolve the cornea as they grow. This is very painful.
You’re likely to see:
- Severe squinting
- Mucky discharge
- Possibly scratching at the eye
Your dog needs veterinary attention for this one!
Note: If you have a Brachycephalic (flat faced) dog, her eyes stick out more than is healthy. This means her eyelids can’t cover and protect the surface of the eye properly. So Brachy breeds often develop ulcers that are more chronic. The symptoms may be less obvious.
If your dog bangs her eye while playing or chasing, you might see some of these symptoms:
- Reddening (and swelling if it’s a heavy knock) of the eyelids
- Reddening of the tissues around the eye
- Reddening of the sclera (the white part of your dog’s eyeball)
- Tears flooding the eye right after the incident (especially if the cornea has been scraped or injured)
- Possible squinting for a short time after a knock (if that doesn’t stop within 30 minutes or so, go to your vet)
If the cornea isn’t harmed, and the knock isn’t too bad, your dog should recover fairly quickly. The eye should return to normal in 12 to 24 hours.
How To Relieve Your Dog’s Red Eye From Trauma
Homeopathic Arnica at a 6C to 30C potency given every 3 hours or so until improved can hasten healing with this sort of injury.
If it’s a really severe trauma (think hit by a car, running into a tree at full tilt etc) you may see severe swelling and bleeding in small patches or large sections of the white of the eye, or even within the eyeball. If you see these signs, please take your dog to the vet as soon as you can.
Smoke, chemicals, artificial fragrances, pesticides and herbicides can all irritate your dog’s eyes, making them red and sore. If your dog swims in the sea or a chlorine pool, that can do the same.
If you’re out and about, your dog’s eyes can get red from smog, drift from crop-spraying, cigarette smoke and other toxins.
This will usually be fairly mild. It should resolve quickly once you move away from the irritant.
If your dog has atopy (allergy to pollens etc) she may get hay-fever like symptoms, such as:
- Lots of face rubbing
- Scratching in some cases
The white of the eye and the conjunctiva* can become red, swollen and irritated.
*The conjunctiva are all the tissues in and around the eye – the inside of the eyelids, the third eyelid, etc.
Dogs with severe inhalation allergies can lose all the hair around their eyes.
Treating allergies is difficult … so find a holistic vet to help you out if your dog has this problem!
You can also try these homeopathic eye drops to see if they relieve the irritation.
Conjunctivitis is caused by an infection – bacterial or viral.
Symptoms can range from:
- Mild reddening with no swelling to …
- A tomato red eye with a lot of swelling of the conjunctiva
- You’ll nearly always see a mucky discharge. The discharge can be mild … or thick and profuse in severe cases.
If your dog has bad conjunctivitis, it’s painful. So you may see her squinting, even without a corneal ulcer. But if she’s squinting, you always need to ask your vet to stain the eye. This is to make sure there’s no ulcer, as ulcers can sometimes be present with conjunctivitis.
How To Relieve Conjunctivitis
Mild cases of bacterial conjunctivitis may respond to washing the eyes every couple of hours with salt water or herbal tea.
You can use saline solution from a pharmacy. Or, make your own. Place 1 tsp salt in a cup of boiling water. Allow it to cool. Use a glass dropper or a cotton ball to dribble the salt water into your dog’s eyes.
Chamomile, Calendula or herbal Euphrasia are great choices. Let the tea steep and cool, then use some cotton balls or pads to gently dribble the tea into your dog’s eyes.
Wipe away any discharge. If the problem doesn’t improve or is getting worse, go see your vet.
Euphrasia in homeopathic formcan help with many eye issues. Using a 30C potency, give 3 oral doses a day for a day or two, then once a day until the problem resolves.
Or, try these combination homeopathic eye drops.
Note: Viral conjunctivitis is rare in dogs but can occur in distemper patients.
Uveitis is inflammation of the whole eye. It’s not very common.
It’s usually caused by a systemic infection or disease. This condition is very painful, and your dog may avoid bright light.
Infectious causes include:
- Viral diseases (rabies, distemper)
- Bacterial diseases (Lyme disease, leptospirosis)
- Parasitic diseases (toxoplasmosis, ehrlichiosis)
- (In rare cases) Fungal diseases (blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis)
- Metabolic disease (such as diabetes) or high blood pressure
So you’ll likely need your vet’s help in figuring out the root of the problem. Once you know the cause, your vet can help you with a treatment plan.
Breeds selected for a lot of folds and loose skin … (think Shar Pei, Bloodhound, Mastiff) … may have eyelid problems that can cause red eyes.
The eyelid can fold out so that the eye is left without protection (ectropion).
Or it can fold in so that the eyelashes rub on the surface of the eye itself (entropion).
These problems are severe. They nearly always require surgical correction to prevent severe damage to the eye over time.
Sometimes there will be a hair growing on the inside of the eyelid … even in dogs with good conformation. This is an ectopic cilia, which can cause corneal ulceration. It’s a rare problem, but if it happens, your dog will be squinting or holding her eye shut.
This serious eye condition is cause by an increase in pressure in the eyeball.
It happens when the normal healthy drainage of fluid from the eye is damaged. Primary glaucoma happens in several breeds, due to inherited anatomical abnormalities.
Breeds to look out for this in are:
- Great Dane
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Cocker Spaniel
- Italian Greyhound
- Basset Hound
- Miniature Pinscher
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Boston Terrier
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Shar Pei
- Bull Mastiff
- Chow Chow
- Shih Tzu
- Siberian Husky
- English Cocker Spaniel
- Smooth-Haired Fox Terrier
- English Springer Spaniel
- Welsh Springer Spaniel
- Flat-Coated Retriever
- Wirehaired Fox Terrier
- Giant Schnauzer
Secondary glaucoma may be due to uveitis, intra-ocular bleeding, lens dislocation, tumors or damage to the lens.
Often the blood vessels on the white of the eye become very obvious and swollen, and the affected eyeball may be visibly larger. It’s often very painful.
Glaucoma is a serious problem, and in acute cases can cause blindness quite quickly. It can occur in one or both eyes.
You’ll need help from a vet for this one. Homeopathic treatment can help with glaucoma, so consider consulting a good homeopathic vet for a gentle, non-invasive way to treat this condition.
Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitus Sicca)
In this condition the tear glands dry up – usually because your dog’s immune system attacks them. Rare causes are damage to the nerves, drug side effects, or some hormonal diseases.
Some breeds are more prone than others:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- West Highland White Terrier
- American Cocker Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
You’ll see a red, dry eye, often with a very tacky or sticky discharge.
Again, this is a problem you’ll need to take to your vet. It’ll need lifelong treatment.
I do recommend you consult a homeopathic vet to treat your dog’s dry eye. Homeopathy can be highly effective in treating dry eye … but don’t try to use it on your own. You’ll need a professional homeopath to prescribe a remedy that fits your dog’s overall symptoms.
Homeopathic Euphrasia, or these homeopathic eye drops may also relieve your dog’s dry eye … but I recommend you only use them as part of a holistic treatment plan with your vet’s guidance.
Conditions like mange, pyoderma, allergies, or even in some cases cancer, can also cause reddening and swelling around and in the eye and conjunctiva.
Again, you may need your vet’s help in figuring out the root of the redness.
So there you have it … a comprehensive list of reasons why your dog’s eye(s) may be red.
Eyes are delicate organs…
I encourage you to seek veterinary attention sooner rather than later if your dog’s condition doesn’t improve … and especially if things are getting worse.