A dog’s eyes could be a way for it to communicate feelings of love, adoration, happiness, pain or sadness. Your dog’s eyes are not just a window into its soul but also a window into its health. It’s beautiful how looking into those eyes could make you want to melt while telling you so much about your dog’s feelings.

That is why you feel a pang of worry when you look into your dog’s eye and notice those eyes are red and bloodshot. Like humans, dogs’ eyes are quite similar, as when they are normal. A dog’s eyes use light by transforming it into objects and pictures, allowing it to see its environment. 

When your dog’s eyes are red and irritated, they can make your dog uncomfortable, even affecting the dog’s eyesight. If your dog’s eyes are red, it is important for you to know why this is happening, other symptoms to look out for, and how you should treat it.

Dogs’ eyes are like human eyes. The significant difference being a dog has a third eyelid that serves as a protective layer and also has more rods in its cornea that allows it to keep track of light and movement around it. In addition, your dog doesn’t see as much colour as you do.

Your dog can get red eyes for various reasons, from minor causes like an allergy to a major underlying health condition like a tumour. Many of the reasons your dog’s eyes might be red can be easily corrected and may not be severe enough for you to get alarmed.

However, if you’ve noticed that your dog has red eyes, and you feel worried and curious, it is the right thing to do to try to understand why your dog has red eyes. While all dogs can suffer from eye problems, some breeds with long facial hair, flat-faced breeds and older dogs are more prone to eye problems and having red eyes.

Causes of red eyes in dogs

Your dog’s eye could be red for different reasons. Some of these reasons may include: 

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)

Also known as dry-eye syndrome. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca happens when your dog’s eyes become red due to it not producing enough tears. Tears help keep your dog’s cornea moist and clean out any dirt or foreign body that might get into the eye. Once your dog’s eye cannot produce enough tears for these, the cornea becomes dry and inflamed.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca causes your dog’s eye to look red and can be quite painful. Dry eyes have many causes, the most common of which is immune-mediated adenitis when your dog’s immune system damages the tissue responsible for forming the watery portion of tears. Other causes include medication or diabetes.

Some of the symptoms of dry eyes include thick, white or yellow mucus around the eyes, dull eyes, frequent eye infections and excessive blinking.

Conjunctivitis

Is also known as pink eye. Conjunctiva refers to the thin, moist transparent pink tissue covering the outer surface of the eye, separating the inner eyelids and the front of the eyes. Your dog has a pink eye when the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, causing your dog’s eye to become red.

Conjunctivitis could happen because of an infection, allergy or environmental irritants like dust and pollen and usually occurs in one eye. Some symptoms of conjunctivitis include squinting or blinking, swelling and redness and a watery discharge that could either be clear or with some mucus.

Cherry eye

Known as everted nictitans, a cherry eye looks like a small red bump poking out from below your dog’s eye. Dogs naturally have a hidden third eyelid. In some dogs, the ligament holding the invisible third eyelid is weakened by a genetic disorder, causing a gland inside the third eyelid to be inflamed and poke out of the eye. Cherry eye gets its name from it looking like a cherry inside the corner of your dog’s eye.

Corneal damage

The cornea is the transparent, protective outer layer in front of your dog’s eye that allows it to focus on light. Different things like grass, sticks or whatever could poke your dog’s eye can cause damage and severe irritation that makes your dog’s eye red.

Allergies and foreign bodies

your dog’s red eye might also be because of an allergic reaction to something from its environment or food. Allergies like dust, smoke, pollen etc., could make your dog’s eye itchy, uncomfortable and red for a while.

Foreign bodies could also get trapped in your dog’s eyelid or eye surface for a moment, making your dog irritated and turning its eyes red. Itchiness, discomfort, watery discharge, excessive tearing and swollen red eyes are all signs your dog has an allergic reaction.

Entropion

This is a condition that causes your dog’s eyelid to roll inwards. Entropion can affect both your dog’s upper and lower eyelid. Making the hair around your dog’s eye and its eyelashes touch the inner eye causing irritation and redness of the eye.

Tumour

The presence of a tumour growing behind or inside your dog’s eye might be the reason it has constant red eyes.

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How to treat your dog’s eye problem?

Although your dog’s red eye might not call for an emergency, it is still important to have it checked out as soon as you can, as an eye problem could deteriorate into a more dangerous health condition. It would be best if you visited your vet to get a proper diagnosis.

Knowing what other symptoms your dog has along with the red eyes and knowing when they started, would be beneficial information for your vet. Do not treat your dog’s red eye yourself as your vet is in the best position to know what is wrong and the treatment method.

Treatment for my dog’s red eyes

Depending on your dog’s diagnosis by the vet, various treatment methods can cure your dog’s red eyes. Taking your dog to the vet would help it get diagnosed, as your vet would conduct a detailed eye exam. If your vet suspects dry eyes, they would take a sample of watery fluid from your dog’s eye to test for a bacteria infection. They’d also perform a Schirmer tear test to determine how much tear your dog produces. If the red-eye is because of trauma or disease, your vet would most likely prescribe oral medications.

Your vet is in the best position to recommend the best way for your dog’s red eye to be treated. It could be via ointments or teardrops that you would need to apply regularly daily. These could either be steroids, antibiotics, artificial tears, pain relievers or dilators.

Surgery might also be required in some cases like cherry eyes, or in the rear case, your dog’s eye has to be removed because of an untreatable problem. But this is often rare as your dog is more likely to have any more common cause of red-eye.

What other dog eye symptoms should I look out for?

Sometimes, your dog might display other symptoms along with having a red eye. Some of these are:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Pawing or rubbing an eye on the floor
  • Squinting when exposed to light
  • Your dog closing its eye a lot more than usual
  • A white, yellow or green discharge from the eye
  • Swollen or puffy eyelids
  • Teary eyes
  • Red mass appearing from under the eyelid
  • Red spot on the white of the eye
  • Cloudy cornea (surface of the eye)

If you notice your dog showing any of these or a couple of them occurring, you should immediately take your dog to the vet.

How to keep your dog’s eyes healthy?

If you notice something is off about your dog’s eye, you should have it checked out immediately. It might be due to something that could be fixed easily or a more serious underlying health condition. Oftentimes you can’t prevent your dog’s eyes from getting red, but there are a whole lot of things you could do to ensure your dog’s eyes are healthy.

Little things like; cleaning your dog’s eye with a soft and damp cloth, or washing your dog’s eyes regularly especially if it is flat-faced or an older dog, and trimming your dog’s facial hair if it is a breed with long facial hair like the German Wirehaired Pointer, Airedale Terrier or Brussels Griffon, can help keep your dog’s eyes healthy.

You should also pay a visit to your vet regularly to have your dog’s eyes checked out. Also, stopping your dog from poking its head through the car window when driving could help prevent foreign objects from entering or damaging your dog’s eyes.