Dog Eye Infection: Symptoms, Treatment, and FAQs

Four Minutes
Dec 21, 2022

An eye infection is a very common issue dog parents will experience. There are many types of eye infections that cause itchy, red eyes, but what should you do about them? How do you know when it's a run-of-the-mill eye infection or if it’s something more serious, like cancer?

Before you panic, here’s a quick explainer about common eye infections.

What Are Common Dog Eye Infection Symptoms?

Luckily for pet parents, dog eye infection symptoms are relatively easy to identify. The common signs of eye infections in dogs include:³

  • Discharge
  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Keep an eye out for other symptoms like sores that don’t heal, a fever, or a loss of appetite.³ Make a note when the symptoms start so you can tell your veterinarian. This can help them determine if it’s a typical infection or something more serious.

What Causes a Dog Eye Infection?

Let’s discuss things your dog can catch in the environment, like conjunctivitis (or pink eye) or uveitis (inflammation of the internal parts of the eyes).⁴ Both conjunctivitis and uveitis in dogs have four primary causes.⁵,⁶ They are:

  • Parasites: These are tiny, microscopic creatures whose life cycle happens in the eyes of domestic animals — including your dog.
  • Viruses: Some viral infections like canine distemper can cause swelling in the eyes. If your dog has spent time at a dog park or a kennel, they may have caught a virus.
  • Bacteria: Bacteria from household surfaces, dog beds, or even dirt can cause eye infections. The most common bacteria comes from dog poop that accidentally gets into your puppy's eyes.
  • Fungus and mold spores: Fungi and mold reproduce by releasing spores into the air. This can irritate your dog's eyes and lungs.

All of these triggers cause swelling and redness, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t tell the difference. Contact your vet and let them figure that out! The type of infection will guide your vet’s decisions on how to treat your dog’s eyes.

Debris, infection, injury?

Sometimes, your dog’s eye issues aren’t caused by an infection but by debris.⁶ Smoke exposure, like your Friday night bonfire, can irritate your dog’s eyes.

Any sort of dirt, grass, or debris that enters your dog’s eyes can be flushed out with water or a vet-approved eye wash.⁶ Inspect your dog’s eyes carefully to see if you can wash the debris out. If you can’t, your vet may have to sedate your dog to remove the debris themselves.

The most apparent eye irritation will be physical trauma to your dog’s face, which can compromise your dog’s eyesight. Your vet will have to take X-rays to see how much damage has been done to their eyes.⁴

Non-environmental eye infections in dogs

  • Eye disorders: There are dozens of infections and disorders that affect a dog’s eye. The most common eye issues include disorders that cause individual parts of the eye to expand. For example, cherry eye causes a dog’s third eyelid to collapse, which then causes their tear glands to swell. This cherry-like polyp requires surgery to remove but it isn’t a life-threatening disorder. The cost of the surgery may be covered if you opt-in for a dog insurance policy before the issue becomes a pre-existing condition.²
  • Genetic eye issues: Some eye issues that dogs experience are genetic, like tear gland disorders, abnormal eyelids, and eyelash deformities.⁷ For example, French bulldogs and pugs have wrinkled faces that can affect the way their eyelids function, causing infections or inflammation. In some cases, surgery is required to stop chronic infections, but usually vets try their best to use medications first.⁴

Other illnesses

Red, irritated eyes may be a sign of something more serious. Immune disorders can cause your dog’s eyes to overreact to normal irritants, like their eyelashes or fur.⁴,⁶ If infections keep happening, your vet may conduct additional tests for further diagnosis.

Dog Eye Infection Treatment

Treatment of your dog’s eye infection depends on the cause. Both bacterial and parasitic infections can be treated with a combination of antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medications.⁵,⁶ Some advanced parasitic infections may require a procedure, but some vets opt to use medication only.⁶,

Viral and bacterial infections are often treated with eye drops or topical creams.³ These prescriptions can keep your dog comfortable while their body fights the infection.

It’s unlikely, but your vet may choose to conduct blood tests and take scans of your dog's eyes if they think your dog’s eyesight is at risk.

Let MetLife Keep an Eye on Your Finances

A swollen eye can turn into a major drain on your pockets if you aren’t careful. Most eye infections take a combination of prescription medications and your vet’s labor to get under control. In some cases, an eye infection may be a sign of serious conditions like immune disorders or even cancer.

With a MetLife dog insurance policy, you can submit the receipts for labor, prescriptions, and diagnostics for up to 100% of the cost.² At MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award, we’re committed to helping you keep your pets happy and healthy, whether that means sharing some knowledge about your pets or protecting them with an insurance policy,² Let us help you find the perfect policy for you with a free quote today!

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1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

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³ “Conjunctivitis in Dogs,” VCA Hospitals

⁴ “Managing Uveitis in Dogs and Cats,” Today’s Veterinary Practice

5 “Disorders of Conjunctiva in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

6 “Disorders of the Anterior Uvea in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

7 “Disorders of the Eyelids in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

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