Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Red Or Bloodshot? Causes (Allergies, Pink Eye, & More), Symptoms (Discharge, Swelling, Watery, Goopy) & Treatment

Dog with red eyes (caption: Why Are My Dog's Eyes Red?)Have you noticed that your dog’s eyes are red in the whites of his eyes? There are many causes for this — some are minor, while other reasons could be a serious health concern that requires prompt veterinary attention.

Our experts have compiled a guide to common dog eye issues that cause redness, swelling, and other symptoms to help you understand what your pup might be suffering from.

Article Overview

Why Do Dogs’ Eyes Get Red?

Quote Form WidgetThere are many causes for red eyes in dogs. We’ve highlighted the most common dog eye problems below. But underlying health conditions, like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and some cancers, can also cause red eyes. So it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis, especially if your dog has chronic red eyes.

Possible Causes

These are some of the common causes of red eyes in dogs, but your vet may have a different or more specific diagnosis.

Irritation

Your dog’s red eye could simply be an irritation to a foreign object, like dirt, dust, or grass, that has gotten into his eye. Other minor irritants like smoke, cleaning sprays, and perfumes can also cause temporary redness in your dog’s eyes.

Symptoms

  • Eye redness
  • Tears or watery discharge
  • Itchy eyes (pawing at his eyes or rubbing his face)

Treatment

A mild irritation will usually clear up on its own, so check your dog’s eyes after a couple of hours to see if the redness is gone. If you’re concerned, give your vet’s office a call. They may suggest rinsing your dog’s eye out with lukewarm water to flush out the irritant. If redness persists after a day, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet.

Allergies

Vet giving pill to dog (caption: Best Allergy Medicine For Dogs)Many dogs develop allergies to environmental factors (mold, dust mites, grasses, etc.) throughout their lifetimes. Some dogs also get seasonal allergies, just like humans. If you’ve noticed that your dog has chronic bloodshot eyes and other symptoms below, he could have an allergy.

Symptoms

  • Eye redness
  • Tears or watery discharge
  • Itchiness in eyes and/or skin
  • Excessive scratching and licking of the skin
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Hair loss
  • Sneezing

Treatment

Dog allergies are best handled by your veterinarian, who can help you determine what’s causing his allergies and treat the specific cause appropriately. Don’t try to give your dog over-the-counter allergy medicine without first consulting with your vet.

Dog Allergy Testing

If you suspect allergies may be the culprit of your dog’s red eyes, these at-home dog allergy tests may give you some answers. These kits test for a wide variety of environmental factors and food ingredients that your dog may not tolerate well. Once you get the results, you should consult with your vet about any treatment options.

Injury

Dogs play hard, and this means they could end up injuring their eyes. A ball could accidentally hit your dog’s eye, or he could poke his eye with a stick.

Symptoms

  • Whites of eyes are red
  • Swelling and reddening of the eyelid and area around the eye
  • Tears or watery discharge right after the incident
  • Squinting

Treatment

If you think your dog’s eye was injured, consult with your vet to make sure your dog’s cornea wasn’t scratched. Minor eye injuries typically clear up within 24 hours. If redness and swelling continue, make sure you call your vet.

Pink Eye

Maltese dog with pink eyes (caption: Conjunctivitis In Dogs)Is your dog’s eye red and swollen? Dogs can get pink eye (conjunctivitis) just like humans do. Infectious conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria and is quite common in dogs. Dogs can also get non-infectious pink eye, which can be caused by irritation, allergies, injury, dry eye, parasites, or tumors.

Symptoms

  • Red or puffy eyes
  • Clear, watery eye discharge
  • Goopy eye discharge with mucous that could be yellowish or greenish
  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Squinting or excessive blinking

Treatment

Pink eye should be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian. They can determine whether it’s infectious, which would require prescription eye drops to reduce inflammation, fight infection, and, if necessary, stimulate tear production. If the cause is viral or bacterial, your vet may also need to prescribe another medication to treat the underlying condition.

Dry Eye

Lab at vet (caption: Hypothyroidism In Dogs)Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, commonly called dry eye, is a condition in which the tear glands don’t produce enough tears, causing the cornea to dry out and become inflamed. The most common causes include immune-mediated diseases that damage the tear glands (an inherited disorder that’s not well understood), systemic diseases such as canine distemper, hypothyroidism, and sulfa medications.

Some breeds are more likely to develop dry eye, including:

Symptoms

  • Painful, red eyes
  • Thick, yellowish, mucoid discharge
  • Squinting, excessive blinking, or holding the eyes shut

Treatment

Your vet will test your dog’s eyes to determine the level of moisture the tear glands are producing. Vets usually prescribe special moisturizing eye drops for you to give your dog once or twice a day. They also recommend gently cleaning the eyes several times a day with a warm, wet washcloth to help relieve pain and to stimulate tear film production.

Your vet may also check for corneal ulcers, which commonly occur with dry eye. In many dogs, dry eye is a chronic, lifelong condition.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma in a dogIs your dog’s eye cloudy and red? He could have glaucoma, a condition is caused by too little aqueous (eye) fluid draining from the eye — the fluid buildup creates swelling, pressure, and pain. Over time, this pressure causes damage to the eyeball structure and leads to vision loss and even blindness if left untreated.

There are two types of glaucoma: primary (inherited) glaucoma and secondary glaucoma, which is caused by another condition such as injury, infection, cancer, uveitis, or retinal detachment.

Some popular breeds that are more prone to inherited glaucoma include:

  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Chow Chow
  • Cocker Spaniel (American and English)
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Poodle
  • Siberian Husky

Symptoms

  • Bloodshot whites of the eyes
  • Cloudy eyes (sometimes with a bluish tint)
  • Swollen or bulging eyes
  • Watery discharge
  • Dilated pupils
  • Poor vision
  • Pain

Treatment

If your vet suspects glaucoma, you may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist. They use a tool called a tonometer to measure the pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure).

In less severe cases, vets prescribe medications that decrease fluid production and promote drainage to treat the increased pressure. In severe or advanced cases (where there’s already optic nerve damage), dogs may require surgery to improve fluid drainage.

Cataracts

Dog sleeping with glasses on (caption: How much does dog cataract surgery cost?)Another condition that makes dogs’ eyes cloudy and red is cataracts. When a cataract develops in an eye, it forms a film in the front of the eye. The film prevents light from passing normally through the lens to the back of the eye, causing blurry vision (and pain if left untreated over time).

Dogs (and humans) can develop a cataract in one or both eyes, but the condition is frequent in both eyes. There are several causes of cataracts in dogs, including age, trauma, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and genetics.

Some popular breeds that are more susceptible include:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Golden Retriever
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Siberian Husky

Symptoms

  • Cloudy white or gray film over the center of the eye lens
  • Chronic eye redness
  • Eye socket inflammation
  • Bulging of one eye compared to the other
  • Noticeable vision problems, especially in dimly lit conditions
  • Squinting
  • Pawing at eyes

Treatment

If your vet suspects cataracts, you may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist. There are limited medications, including topical eye ointments or eye drops, which can postpone the need for surgery, but cataracts will not go away without surgery. Cataracts in dogs can progress rapidly, so it’s important to get your dog treated.

Uveitis

Dog with bandage on paw (Caption: Rabies Symptoms in Dogs)Uveitis is an inflammation of one or more of the structures of the uvea. The uvea is the tissue at the front of the eye made up of the iris, choroid, and ciliary body. Uveitis is a serious, painful condition that can lead to permanent vision loss.

Common causes are viral infections (rabies, distemper), bacterial infections (Lyme disease, leptospirosis), parasitic infections (toxoplasmosis, ehrlichiosis), fungal infections (blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis), metabolic disease (such as diabetes), high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, toxins that get into the eye, trauma, and tumors.

Symptoms

  • Eye redness
  • Discharge
  • Squinting
  • Avoiding bright light
  • Cloudy or dull eyes

Treatment

Veterinary treatment depends on the cause of uveitis and could include prescription eye drops, oral medications, eye ointments, and pain relievers. Your veterinarian will likely run diagnostic tests to narrow down the cause and treat the underlying condition.

Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye in a dog's eye
What cherry eye in a dog looks like

All dogs have a third eyelid that normally stays hidden in the inner corner of the eye. However, some dogs have a genetic disorder that weakens the fibrous attachment holding the third eyelid gland in place. This causes the eyelid to bulge in the inner corner of the eye. Cherry eye (technically called prolapse of the third eyelid gland) is rarely seen in dogs over two years old.

Popular breeds that are most commonly affected include:

  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bloodhound
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Shih Tzu

Symptoms

  • Pink or red bulge in the inner corner of the eye
  • Inability to close the eye
  • Pawing or rubbing at the eye

Treatment

Treatment of cherry eye involves surgical replacement of the third eyelid gland. Sometimes, the best surgical option is to remove the third eyelid gland, but dry eye could develop as a result. Your vet will discuss the best surgical technique for your pup.

It’s important to treat cherry eye as soon as possible to minimize permanent damage to the eye or the third eyelid gland. The third eyelid gland produces up to 50% of the watery (aqueous) portion of the eye’s tear film. Without this tear production, your dog is likely to develop dry eye, which can impair vision.

How Pet Insurance Can Help You And Your Dog

Quote Form WidgetEye problems in dogs — and especially in some breeds — are very common. Vet bills, medications, and surgical procedures can get expensive. You may want to consider signing up for pet insurance as a proactive measure to lower your financial risk for potential health threats during your dog’s lifetime.

Why? Pet insurance is one of the best things you can do for your dog — not only for the health of your pup, but to save you from financial trouble should an accident, illness, or pet emergency arise. But keep in mind, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so the earlier you purchase a pet insurance policy for your dog the more likely to have any future diagnoses covered.

Humans have health insurance, so our furry friends should too. That way, you’ll never have to choose between an expensive treatment and your pet’s suffering or even his life. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind, so you can make better and less emotional decisions in the face of a crisis.

Check out our comparison of the top three pet insurance providers to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions our readers ask. Don’t see yours here? Ask us in our comment section, and our experts will help you out.

What If It’s Red Around My Dog’s Eyes?

If your dog’s eyelids are red and swollen, it could be a condition called blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids. Blepharitis can be caused by allergies, infections, congenital abnormalities, tumors, or inflammatory disorders. If your dog’s eyelids are red and swollen, it’s best to get him checked by your veterinarian.

What If There’s A Red Spot In My Dog’s Eye?

If you notice a small red spot in your dog’s eye, it could just be a minor broken blood vessel. This usually isn’t a cause for concern and should clear up on its own. However, if you notice several blood clots in the front of the eye or any other changes to your dog’s eye or vision, you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Is There A Home Remedy To Treat Dog Red Eyes?

Burt’s Bees Eye Wash for dogsIt’s wise to seek veterinary attention to determine the cause of your dog’s red eyes and to get the appropriate treatment. However, if you think it’s debris that’s gotten into your dog’s eye, you can use a dog eye wash like Burt’s Bees Eye Wash for Dogs, which is a saline solution, or Nutri-Vet Eye Rinse for Dogs, a boric acid solution. Both are safe for dogs, but you should speak with your vet beforehand to ensure debris is the issue.

How To Clean Your Dog’s Eyes

Do your dog’s eyes often get goopy? Check out this video from a professional dog groomer for some tips on how to clean your dog’s eyes at home (and how to make it comfortable for your pup). Again, it is recommended to check with your vet before treating your dog’s eyes at home.

Protecting Your Dog’s Eyes From The Elements

If you take your dog on outdoor adventures (camping, hiking, etc.) or on long car rides where he has his head out of the car window, you may want to protect your dog’s eyes from the sun, wind, debris, and other elements that could affect his eyes. See our reviews of the best dog goggles for our product recommendations and find out if dogs are really colorblind.

Has your dog ever suffered from an eye problem?