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Dog Eye Infection

Dog Eyes

As pet parents, it can sometimes be tricky determining when your dogs need medical care. Unlike humans, pets aren’t able to simply tell us how they’re feeling. They are also very good at masking their pain. You must be diligent and monitor their actions—which can prove no easy feat for busy pet parents. 

Identifying the need for treatment can be even more complicated when it comes to ailments like eye infections. Dogs’ eyes are very sensitive. A small amount of eye discharge can be common for many canines and may not indicate an infection. Some common causes for your dog’s eye discharge include the following: 

  • Dry eye 

  • Allergies 

  • Dust or debris 

  • Inflammation 

Consult your vet to determine if your dog needs treatment for their eye discharge. Your vet may prescribe drops to help alleviate these symptoms. However, the symptoms may persist—just like in humans. It is also important to know whether these symptoms are due to dog eye allergies vs. an infection. Read on to find out more about common discharge and dog eye infections.  

How can I tell if my dog’s eye discharge is normal?  

It can be normal for your dog to have a little bit of eye discharge—especially after sleeping. Humans also commonly experience mucus buildup after waking. The difference is dogs can’t simply grab a moist tissue and wipe it away. Normal eye discharge usually appears in small amounts as a crusty buildup in the corners. 

Some breeds are more prone to dog eye discharge than others. Canines like Chihuahuas, Pugs and Boston Terriers have eyes that protrude prominently, which may lead to more tearing and tear staining than other dogs. It’s important to monitor them closely and consult your vet if there are changes in the amount, consistency, or color of your dog’s eye discharge. 

What causes my dog to get an eye infection?  

Several factors can cause an eye infection, including the following: 

  • Viruses 

  • Bacteria 

  • A foreign body in the eye 

  • Fungi 

  • Trauma to eye 

  • Allergens 

  • Secondary to glaucoma or dry eye

Different causes of a dog eye infection can require varying solutions. It is important to visit your veterinarian to find the root issue. 

How can I tell if my dog has an eye infection? 

If you notice any change to your pup’s eyes, seek medical attention— eye infections can worsen rapidly. Some common dog eye infection symptoms are: 

  • More discharge than normal 

  • The discharge is yellow-green or pus-like in color 

  • Their eyes are red and swollen 

  • Their eyes are crusted over 

  • Your pet is pawing or rubbing their eyes and won’t open them 

  • Watery discharge and tearing  

  • Sensitivity to light 

  • Painful or head shy

Is my dog’s eye infection contagious? 

It can be, depending on the underlying cause. If the eye infection is caused by a foreign body, trauma, or allergies, it’s not contagious. However, if it is caused by a virus or bacteria, the discharge from your dog’s eye infection makes it possible to pass it to another pet—or even a human. Conjunctivitis—also known as pink eye—can be passed from dogs to humans and vice versa in very rare cases.  

If one of your pets has an eye infection, separate them from other pets until they’re better. They shouldn’t share bowls, chew toys or bedding until the dog’s eye infection treatment has cleared symptoms. It’s also recommended to regularly clean your dog’s bowls, bedding and toys using hot water to kill germs.  

Will my dog’s eye infection go away on its own? 

It’s not likely. It’s never a good idea to wait to seek treatment, particularly for eye issues. Eye infections can be very uncomfortable and consulting your vet in the early stage of a dog eye infection can help bring your pet relief. Serious complications can develop if you wait too long to seek treatment, including eye rupture and risk of blindness. 

Is my dog’s eye infection an emergency?  

It can be an emergency in some cases. It’s always best to consult your vet as soon as possible regarding an infection. Delaying treatment can cause the condition to worsen, which could lead to the need for surgery or possible blindness. 

How can I treat my dog’s eye infection? 

Seek veterinary care. If your dog doesn’t have a primary vet, Petco has veterinary services in store. Simply book an appointment at your closest neighborhood Petco Pet Care Center.

Your vet will examine your dog to determine the appropriate course of treatment. If your dog’s symptoms are caused by dry eye or something other than bacteria or a virus, they may recommend warm compresses, over-the-counter ointments, or washes for the eyes. Our dog ear and eye care section may have just what you need.   

If your dog’s ailment is bacterial, your vet may prescribe antibiotics for dog eye infections. You can have them call in refills to our pharmacy to get them shipped conveniently to your door.  

If your dog finishes the whole round of antibiotics and the symptoms haven’t cleared, make sure you follow up with your vet. Avoid any home remedies—canine eyes are very sensitive, and you could risk seriously hurting or causing permanent damage to your dog.  

Is there anything I can do to protect my dog from eye infections? 

Dog eye infections can happen regardless of the precautions you take, but you can take some preventive measures to help reduce the risk.  

If your dog has long hair, it’s recommended to use a professional groomer to trim back the hair around their eyes. Keeping the area around the eyes clean and free of debris may also help. Use a pet eye wipe or damp cloth to gently wipe away the buildup that can appear after sleeping. Make sure you avoid the eyeball and only clean around the eyelid and corners.  

Consult your veterinarian for more ideas to help avoid eye infections or to determine whether your dog may be susceptible. Our dog health and wellness section also has a variety of solutions to common ailments.  

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide