Pink Eye in Dogs

What it is and how to treat the infection

An explanation of the Pink Eye condition in dogs and advice on how to treat the infection

Many dog owners often ask the same question, can dogs get pink eye? And the answer is yes. Just like us humans, dogs run the risk of contracting the frustrating and potentially harmful condition. This means that if you have a pet dog it’s important you know the signs of pink eyes, the potential problems it can cause and the ways in which you can help prevent it.

What is Pink Eye?

Commonly referred to as pink eye, the condition is officially known as conjunctivitis and is a common ailment amongst humans. Did you know you conjunctivitis in dogs is also possible? Pink eye is caused when the thin, transparent layer above the white of the eye becomes infected and inflamed. This layer is known as the conjunctiva and is made up of a series of blood vessels that sit above the sclera. The sclera makes up around 80% of the eye ball’s surface area and is in constant contact with the surface of the eye socket, which is why inflammation to this area can cause so much discomfort.

When the blood vessels of the conjunctiva become inflamed, they swell up and feel sore, which is the reason for the redness or ‘pinkness’ of the eye. There are different types of conjunctivitis but the term pink eye usually refers to viral conjunctivitis which is a highly contagious strain caused by an infection or virus.

Causes of pink eye in dogs

Just like with humans, there are a number of ways in which canines can catch conjunctivitis. The main two categories are bacterial and viral, each of which come with their own respective problems and potential risks.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by, you guessed it, bacteria. When nasty bacteria finds its way into the eye tissue it can cause a lot of potential problems and just like in humans, causes dog eye infection too. The main types of bacteria that are often related to conjunctivitis are Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. This type of bacteria can be picked up in any number of ways, particularly by curious canines. In some cases a cut or scratch to the eye can cause a build-up of bacteria if left untreated. Conjunctivitis in dogs which has been caused by bacteria can pose serious long-term problems if it’s not dealt with sooner rather than later.

Conjunctivitis in dogs caused by a virus comes with much less potential risk and will usually clear up by itself after a few days, even without any treatment. The main issue with this type of conjunctivitis is the fact that it’s highly contagious, which can be a problem if you have multiple dogs or you regularly leave your dog with a sitter who looks after a number of others.


What does pink eye look like?

So can dogs get pink eye? Yes. It can be hard to tell straight away if your dog contracts pink eye though because the symptoms can sometimes take a few days to appear. Here are the things you should be looking out for:

  • Inflammation or redness around the white of the eyes
  • Discharge from the eye or a build-up of residue
  • Trouble blinking or eyelids becoming sticky
  • Unusual pawing at their eyes
  • Puffed up eyelids



    • Treating pink eye

      It’s never nice to see your furry friend suffering from an illness, especial such a frustrating and painful condition like pink eye. If your pet does develop a case of dog pink eye, here are a few of the ways you can help them get better.

    • Bacterial

      In most cases a vet will prescribe a series of antibiotic eye drops to be applied over a series of days or weeks. If you think your dog may have contracted pink eye then be sure to take them straight to the vet so you can get the necessary medicine. Eye drops for dogs can cause anxiety in humans as it’s easy to be worried about the difficult task of actually applying them. Here are a few tips that will help when it comes to using antibiotic eye drops for dogs:

      • Get the help of a friend who is familiar with your dog. If you have someone to hold them still or keep them calm, it will be a lot easier to get the drops where they need to be and not all over the floor.
      • Be sure to wash your hands and use clean wipes to remove any residue.
      • Move slowly towards your dog’s eye and make sure you’re applying the drops to the inside of the lower eyelid. This will help to spread the doggy eye drops evenly.
      • Reward your four-legged friend with a treat to show them they did a good job after you have applied the drops. This will also help them get used to the routine. 
    • Viral

      When it comes to viral conjunctivitis it’s often just a case of tending to the symptoms and keeping your dog comfortable while their immune system deals with the virus. Your vet may sometimes prescribe a series of steroid-based eye drops if the condition is particularly bad. The main thing to focus on is keeping your dog’s eyes clean and free from discharge by regularly using a warm, clean cloth to gently wipe them.

      Sometimes the discharge produced can turn crusty but it is important never to use your fingers or any hard objects to scrape it away, or you could risk causing permanent damage to your dog’s eye. 

    How to help prevent pink eye

    Unfortunately it’s practically impossible to protect your canine friend from every illness in the world, but there are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of them contracting a dog eye infection:

    • Regular checks: Try as often as you can to check over your dog and look for any signs of sickness or potential illness. The symptoms listed above will be a lot easier to spot if you check your dog’s eyes regularly. Doing this will mean that if your little friend is unfortunate enough to contract pink eye, you will spot it early and can deal with it before it gets worse. This is also a good way to keep an eye out for any other illnesses or injuries, not just dog’s pink eye.
    • Bacterial conjunctivitis is the hardest to prevent because you can’t control the type of bacteria found floating around outdoors. Your dogs are always at risk from bacteria while they’re out and about so it’s important to make sure their home is free from any invisible bugs. Always try to keep your dog’s sleeping and eating areas clean and sterile. This will help to reduce the risk of infection by killing any unwanted bacteria.
    • Trying to protect your dog from viruses can also be very tricky because it is mainly down to the strength of their immune system. This means that their diet is very important when it comes to fighting off viral infections. Make sure to include a good amount of vitamins and minerals in your canine’s food to help boost their immune system and give them improved resistance to any viruses that may be lurking.
    • If you have multiple dogs and one of them contracts pink eye it’s important to separate them as much as possible from the others, especially if the condition is viral. Equally, if you often organise walks or playdates with fellow dog lovers, be sure to cancel them until your four-legged friend is back to good health.
    • Pink eye can often be caused by allergens or irritation from debris. This isn’t something that can always be prevented but by keeping your dog well-groomed you can reduce the risk of hairs, dust or dirt getting into their eye and causing any scratches. 

    • Can dogs catch pink eye from humans?

      Yes. Canines are quite susceptible to the types of viral infections and bacteria associated with pink eye. If you are showing the signs of pink eye then there is a risk that you may pass it on to your dog. If you or your children develop pink eye, be sure to keep the dogs away from your face and always clean your hands before feeding them.

    • Can all breeds of dog catch pink eye?

      Many vets and researchers have found that there are certain types of pink eye that they believe are related to specific breed conditions. This doesn’t mean that certain breeds are immune or that different breeds can’t pass on the condition, but it does mean that certain types of dogs may be more susceptible to different strains of pink eye.

    • Can other animals catch pink eye?

      There are many types of animals that are susceptible to pink eye, including cats, guinea pigs and hamsters. If you have multiple pets and one of them catches pink eye it’s a good idea to keep them separated and enquire with your vet about whether or not it is contagious.

    • Can pink eye cause blindness?

      In extreme cases conjunctivitis in dogs has been known to cause blindness, especially if they were left untreated for an extended period of time. You don’t need to worry about your dog going blind after a few days of having pink eye, just be sure to take care of their eyes and get them the treatment they need.

    Want to know anything else about the health of your dog? Let us know.

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