Why Are My Dogs Eyes Red?

Four minutes
Oct 12, 2023

Dogs' eyes can be red for many different reasons — from allergies and eye infections to glaucoma and injuries — and the reason may not be immediately apparent. Getting your dog’s eyes looked at as soon as possible can help diagnose the cause and hopefully prevent further damage from happening.

Let’s take a look at the causes of red eye in dogs, corresponding treatments, and how pet insurance can help cover vet bills.

What Causes Red Eye in Dogs?

If your dog is experiencing redness in one or both eyes, it could be a minor condition or something more serious. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of red eye and the treatments that can help.


Dogs, like humans, can suffer from allergies that can be caused by environmental or food allergens. Symptoms can include itchy, swollen, tearful, and red eyes. Treating allergies usually involves removing or limiting exposure to the triggers, and it may also require allergy medication and eye drops to help relieve symptoms.

Eye trauma

Eye injuries and other traumas can cause redness — not to mention pain, swelling, eye rubbing, squinting, or keeping the eye closed. Trauma can come from an irritant, infection, foreign object, or direct injury to the eye. Depending on the type of injury, treatment can include medication, eye drops, or ointments. In more severe cases, dogs may need surgery.


Conjunctivitis is an inflammation on the surface of the eye and can be triggered by irritants, infection, or trauma. It can be treated with vet-prescribed eye drops or ointments, and dogs may need oral medication for more severe cases.

When in Doubt, Get Your Dog Checked Out     

Pet Insurance Can Help

Corneal ulcers

The cornea is the clear membrane on the eye’s surface. When there’s an open sore — typically due to trauma, infection, or disease — on the cornea, it’s called a corneal ulcer.1 Dogs may rub their eye, keep it closed, or experience redness or discharge because of the pain and irritation.

Corneal ulcers are typically treated with vet-prescribed eye drops or ointment. In severe cases, surgery to remove corneal tissue may be necessary to help healing.1

Medical conditions

  • High blood pressure: The small blood vessels in a dog’s eye may burst when they have high blood pressure, causing the eye to become red. Treatment usually involves addressing the underlying cause of high blood pressure.2
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS): Also known as dry eye, KCS is when a dog doesn’t produce enough tears, and the eyes can become red from irritation. Medication is used to help stimulate tear production and protect the eyes.3
  • Entropion: This condition happens when the eyelid rolls inward, and it can cause pain, irritation, damage, and redness. Generally, the treatment method for entropion is surgery and can include eye drops and medication to help the eye heal.
  • Cherry eye: When a dog’s tear gland comes out of its normal position, it can swell and look like a small red bump in the corner of their eye. Treating cherry eye can require surgery to reposition the tear gland.
  • Glaucoma: This condition develops due to higher pressure in the eye and can cause blindness. Treatment typically includes medication and, in advanced cases, surgery.4
  • Uveitis: Uveitis is characterized by inflammation of the uvea part of the eye, and it can cause redness, pain, squinting, and cloudiness. Treating this condition involves reducing inflammation and pain through medication and may require repairing damage.5
  • Blepharitis: Blepharitis is eyelid inflammation caused by a variety of different factors — like allergies, infections, eyelid abnormalities, or irritation. Treatment depends on the underlying condition causing the inflammation.6


When a tumor grows in or behind the eye — whether it’s cancerous or not — it can cause redness. Surgery may be the preferred treatment method, depending on how severe the tumor is, its location, and the dog’s condition.

Tear stains

When a dog’s body breaks down red blood cells, porphyrin — an iron-containing dye molecule — is released in tears, urine, saliva, and bile. Some dogs, especially white dogs, show these reddish-brown tear stains running from their eyes on their fur.7 Typically, this condition isn’t concerning, and you can help your dog by keeping their fur trimmed short around their eyes and regularly cleaning off stains.

My Dog’s Eyes Are Red, Now What?

Since the causes for dogs with red eyes can range from minor to severe, it may be a good idea to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will likely give your dog a thorough exam — not just the eyes — and, using their symptoms and medical history, may run some diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the redness. Specific eye tests can include a fluorescein stain test, tonometry (pressure) test, or Schirmer tear test.2

Ultrasounds, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and blood tests can also be used to help the vet get a more thorough picture of what’s going on. Once they know the cause, treatment can begin.

Help Protect Your Dog’s Eye Health With Pet Insurance

Keeping your dog’s eyes healthy is an important part of their overall health. Getting regular checkups can help — especially if your furry family member is a dog breed that may be prone to eye problems. Some of these breeds can include:

Whether they’re recurring eye conditions, like allergies or infections, or chronic conditions, like glaucoma or dry eyes, vet bills for diagnostics and treatment can become a financial burden. Fortunately, a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet can help you avoid choosing between finances and getting the best care for your dog’s red eyes. Take a look at how MetLife Pet has helped these pups and their owners.

Kallie, a hound puppy in New York, went into the vet with entropion. She received surgery to help correct her eyelid position. Thanks to their dog insurance policy, Kallie’s owners were reimbursed almost $120 — over half of the vet bill.8

Buster, a cane corso from California, had cherry eye. After undergoing a $2,500 surgery to correct it, his owners were reimbursed over $2,200 thanks to their MetLife Pet policy.8

Fenti, a toy poodle in New York, had surgery for a corneal ulcer. The surgery cost over $2,300, but Fenti’s owners had a dog insurance policy and were reimbursed more than $2,100.8

Get a free, personalized quote today to see how a MetLife Pet dog insurance policy can help you save money and keep your dog happy and healthy.

A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Costs Related to Red Eyes

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Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Corneal Ulcers in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

2 “Red Eyes in Dogs,” PetMD, 2023

3 “Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

4 “Glaucoma in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

5 “Uveitis in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

6 “Blepharitis in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

7 “Dog Tear Stains: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention,” PetMD, 2023

8 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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