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Red Eyes in Dogs

Why are My Dogs Eyes Red? Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Red eyes in dogs are pink to reddish discoloration of the white of the eyes due to blood vessel inflammation. Red eyes are distressing for the owner and often painful to the dog. 

Common causes of red eyes in dogs include allergies, eye infections, trauma, glaucoma, dry eyes, corneal ulcers, eyelid abnormalities, and tumors. 

Red eyes are a symptom of an underlying condition and are accompanied by other signs, such as swelling, increased tearing, eye discharge, cloudiness, blinking, squinting, eye pawing, and changes in behavior. 

A pet owner who asks, “Why are my dog's eyes red?” must schedule a prompt veterinary visit to determine the underlying cause and craft a treatment plan. 

Eyewashes and cold compresses provide temporary relief for dogs eyes red, but medicated eye drops, systemic drugs, and surgery are needed for definitive treatment. 

Why are My Dogs Eyes Red? 

Your dog's eyes are red because of inflammation that forces the tiny blood vessels on the eye's surface to expand (congestion). 

The expanded blood vessels give the white of the eye a pink or red coloration. Red eyes and blood vessel congestion in dogs occur due to conjunctival hyperemia and episcleral injection. 

Conjunctival hyperemia is congestion of the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva (the transparent membrane that covers the sclera and the inside of the eyelids). 

The conjunctival hyperemia type of dogs eyes red is a sign of extraocular disease that occurs outside the eye. For example, allergen-triggered conjunctivitis occurs on the eye’s exterior surface. 

Episcleral injection is marked by enlargement and straightening of the eye’s superficial blood vessels. 

The episcleral injection type of dog red eyes is an external sign or intraocular disease (disease occurring inside the eye). For example, a dogs eye is red and swollen due to glaucoma. 

A red spot on a dog’s eye is different from red eyes. A red spot on dogs eye indicates blood vessel damage rather than inflammation. 

How to Treat Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs?

To treat bloodshot eyes in dogs, follow the steps listed below. 

  1. Monitor the Dog’s Condition. Observe the dog’s eye symptoms and check for signs of general distress, such as pawing at the eyes, increased vocalization, appetite loss, reduced energy levels, and disinterest in daily activities. 
  2. Call the Veterinarian. Call the vet and schedule an appointment. Explain what is happening and provide as much information as possible. The veterinarian uses the dog’s health history to produce a medical profile. 
  3. Determine the Underlying Cause. The veterinarian performs a physical examination and focuses on the eye. The vet orders specific eye tests and determines the underlying cause of red eyes based on initial findings. 
  4. Follow the Instructions. Follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding the treatment of red eyes. Administer the eye drops and medications in the proper doses and at the correct times. 
  5. Ensure Regular Vet Checks. Schedule a follow-up appointment with the veterinarian. Conditions causing eye redness are slow-healing and require frequent checkups. Visit the vet when necessary to ensure a successful bloodshot eye treatment. 

Is Red Eyes and Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs the Same?

Yes, red eyes and bloodshot eyes in dogs are the same. Eye redness is an inflammatory sign. Inflammation causes the small blood vessels in the eye to become red and swollen. 

The blood vessels’ redness and swelling give the white portion of the eye (sclera) a bloodshot appearance. 

Brachycephalic breeds with large and bulging eyes are at a higher risk of experiencing dog eye bloodshot episodes. Flat-faced breeds are generally more prone to eye issues in dogs

Does Allergies cause Red Eyes in Dogs?

Yes, allergies cause red eyes in dogs. Red and swollen eyes are one of the main symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs. 

Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust, mites, feathers, dander, and mold spores. 

The conjunctiva is the transparent tissue layer covering the eye's white and the eyelids' interior. Airborne allergens irritate when they make contact with the conjunctiva. 

Washing and artificial tears or cleansing solutions provide alleviation when a dog has red eye. A systemic approach, including oral or injectable medications, is necessary for managing long-term symptoms of allergies in canines

What are the Causes of Red Eyes in Dogs?

The causes of red eyes in dogs are listed below. 

  • Allergies: Allergies are one of the common causes of red eyes in dogs. Dogs are sensitive to airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, mold spores, dander, and feathers, which cause irritation upon direct contact with the eye’s surface. 
  • Eye Inflammation: Redness is caused by conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye's surface) and uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye or uvea). Trauma, infections, metabolic diseases, environmental irritants, and toxins are known triggers. 
  • Dry Eye: Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is marked by reduced tear production or quality. KCS is associated with immune-mediated diseases and diabetes. Dry eye causes redness and increases the risk of corneal ulcers. 
  • Corneal Ulcers: Corneal ulcers are minor but deep defects in the cornea. Trauma and untreated eye conditions are frequent culprits for ulcers. Ulcers are painful and cause red eyes. Ulcers cause vision deficits or blindness if left unmanaged. 
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma results from increased intraocular pressure (IOP), causing redness, eye enlargement, clouding, and tearing or epiphora. Canine glaucoma is the result of unregulated or poorly controlled diabetes. 
  • Trauma: Trauma is a widespread source of eye redness. Traumatic injuries of the eye are benign or severe, depending on the location and extent. Serious trauma cases cause blindness if treatment is delayed. 
  • Entropion: Entropion is a genetic eyelid abnormality in which the dog’s upper or lower eyelid is rotated inward, resulting in the eyelashes scratching the cornea. The irritation of the cornea, in the early phases, manifests with increased tear production and redness. 
  • Cherry Eye: Cherry eye is a condition in which the gland of the third eyelid becomes swollen due to inflammation and protrudes. The gland resembles a cherry in the inside corner of the eye, hence the name. 
  • Tumors: Eye redness is sometimes caused by tumors growing within or behind the eyeball. The tumors are either benign or malignant and require surgical correction depending on their location. Pet owners asking, “Why is my dogs eye red?” must consult a veterinarian to eliminate tumors as a cause.
  • Hypertension: Increased blood pressure, or hypertension, causes the small vessels in the dog’s eye to burst, resulting in redness. Hypertension in dogs is secondary, meaning it is attributed to underlying systemic conditions. 

Should I be Worried if my Dog's Eyes are Red?

Yes, you should be worried if your dog’s eyes are red. The eyes are acutely sensitive, and redness occurs with the slightest irritation. Some causes of red eyes are benign and resolve without treatment. 

Red eyes are problematic if the inflammation is intense, prolonged, or accompanied by other eye changes. Symptoms to monitor are increased tearing (epiphora), eye discharge, photophobia (light sensitivity), and visible defects on the cornea (corneal ulcers).

A veterinary visit is warranted if the mentioned symptoms coincide with the dogs eye is red situation.  

What can I give to my Dog with Red Eyes?

You can give your dog with red eyes saline eye drops, artificial tears, or pet-specific washes to flush out irritants and keep the eyes moist. 

Saline eye drops and eye washes are readily available and easy to use. Squirt them directly into the dog’s eyes to flush out irritants. Artificial tears formulated for dogs come as drops or ointments and are painless to administer. 

Place cold compresses with soft washcloths on the dog’s eyes to temporarily alleviate inflammation. 

Limit the dog’s exposure to airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke, strong cleaning products, dust, pollen, scented candles, and perfumes. 

At-home treatments for red eyes in dogs focus on symptom management and temporary relief. A vet visit is warranted to determine the underlying cause and create a definitive treatment plan. 

What are Dog Red Eye Symptoms?

The dog red eye symptoms are listed below. 

  • Swelling: Swelling is a hallmark sign of inflammation, similar to redness. The swelling is visible in the eyelids (known as blepharitis). Some red eye causes, like glaucoma, cause the entire eye to swell or enlarge. 
  • Increased Tearing: Redness of the eyes coincides with increased tearing. The tearing is a defense mechanism as the dog’s body tries to eliminate the source of irritation. The medical term for increased tearing is epiphora. 
  • Eye Discharge: Eye discharge forms when tears mix with debris and skin cells. The eye discharge forms crust when it dries up following contact with air and accumulates in the corners of the eyes. 
  • Cloudy Appearance: Clouding of the cornea is an accompanying sign of redness and is in the advanced stages of eye damage. The clouding is localized or diffuse, depending on the underlying cause. 
  • Excessive Blinking: Blinking is repetitive eyelid movement observable in dogs with red and irritated eyes. The medical term for rapid, excessive blinking is blepharospasm. 
  • Squinting: Squinting is staring through semi-open eyes and is common in dogs suffering from light sensitivity or photophobia. 
  • Eye Pawing: Eye pawing occurs when the dog uses its paws to rub its eyes, a telltale sign of discomfort. Pawing is the dog’s attempt to remove an irritant or scratch an itch for temporary relief. 
  • Behavioral Changes: Behavioral changes are common in dogs with painful red eye conditions. The dog is moody, unusually vocal, reluctant to eat, or refuses to participate in everyday activities. 

How to Prevent Red Eyes in Dogs?

To prevent red eyes in dogs, follow the steps listed below. 

  • Keep the Dog’s Eyes Clean. Be diligent about the dog’s eye hygiene. Use pet-specific eye washes or wet eye wipes to clean the eyes daily. Keep the hair around the dog’s eyes well-trimmed, and inspect the eyes thoroughly after walks and playdates.  
  • Avoid Airborne Irritants. Use an air purifier and avoid walks in high-vegetation places during allergy seasons. Airborne particles are troublesome and cause or worsen red eyes in dogs. Do not smoke around the dog or use perfumes or scented candles. 
  • Correct Eyelid Abnormalities. Ensure the defects are surgically corrected early to avoid eye irritation and more severe problems. Redness, which causes eyelid abnormalities like cherry eye and entropion, is inherited.  
  • Practice Vet Eye Exams. Schedule regular vet checkups to stay abreast of the dog’s eye health. The veterinary exam is the perfect time to diagnose minor eye issues and prevent them from progressing or becoming complicated. 

What are dog red eye treatments?

The dog red eye treatments are listed below. 

  • Topical Eye Meds: Topical eye medications include eye drops and ointments, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-glaucoma medications, artificial tears, and tear stimulants. The exact choice of medication depends on the cause of the redness.  
  • Systemic Drugs: Systemic drugs, like antibiotics, treat bacterial infections. Insulin injections are given to dogs with eye problems due to diabetes, while medications for lowering blood pressure are prescribed for dogs with hypertension-triggered red eyes.  
  • Surgery: Surgery is recommended for dogs with red eyes caused by traumatic injuries, eye tumors, corneal ulcers, and eyelid abnormalities, like entropion and cherry eye. Surgery is combined with chemotherapy or radiation in dogs with eye tumors. 
  • Eye Supplements: Eye supplements support healing and promote eye health when combined with mainstream meds and treatment options. CBD oil, omega fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants positively affect dogs’ eye health.   

When to Visit the Vet Regarding Dogs' Red Eyes?

Visit the vet regarding dog’s red eyes when the redness is intense, persisting, or present with other problematic signs and symptoms. 

Redness is an inflammation symptom and manifests with visible swelling and increased tearing or epiphora. Sensitivity to light, eye rubbing or pawing, blepharospasm, small corneal defects, and eye discharge are accompanying signs. 

Dogs with bloodshot eyes and severe underlying eye conditions display systemic symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, and disinterest in daily activities. 

Eye conditions in dogs are progressive and quickly degenerate. Visit the veterinarian immediately once early symptoms are detected. 

Does Dryness of the Eye cause Red Eyes in Dogs?

Yes, dryness of the eye causes red eyes in dogs. Redness is a telltale sign of inflammation and occurs in dogs with dry eyes or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). 

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is the medical term for dry eye. KCS is a chronic inflammation of the cornea caused by a lack of tear production. 

Congenital abnormalities, breed predispositions, autoimmune conditions, neurological disorders, medication side effects, and environmental factors are common causes of KCS in dogs. 

Dry eyes are emergencies requiring prompt treatment, including artificial tears, antibiotics, and surgery. The redness dissipates when dry eye in dogs are treated. 

Does Corneal Ulcer Cause Red Eyes in Dogs?

Yes, corneal ulcers cause red eyes in dogs. The white lens of the eye gets inflamed, and pinkish red is present in dogs with corneal ulcers. 

Corneal ulcers in dogs are crater-like defects of the surface and deeper layers of the cornea. Trauma, eyelid abnormalities, and dry eye are common causes of ulcers, and brachycephalic breeds are predisposed. 

Pugs are 19 times more prone to corneal ulcers than crossbred dogs, according to a study, “Corneal Ulcerative Disease in Dogs Under Primary Veterinary Care in England: Epidemiology and Clinical Management,” issued in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology in 2017.

Red eyes caused by corneal ulcers resolve once they heal. Topical medications (eye drops and ointments) and surgery are treatment options for ulcers in dogs