What is Canine Conjunctivitis?

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Taking care of your dog’s eyes is one of the best things you can do for your pet. This includes bringing your dog to the veterinarian for a complete ophthalmic exam. The ophthalmic exam is important because some diseases of the eye can cause vision problems and even lead to permanent blindness. Canine conjunctivitis—an inflammation of the membrane on the inside of the eyelids—is a common eye condition in dogs.
Many of the signs of canine conjunctivitis can also be associated with other eye diseases including corneal disease, glaucoma and underlying conditions. Signs of canine conjunctivitis can include:
  • Redness of the eye
  • Eye discharge (may be clear, green, or yellow)
  • Scratching at the eye or face
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Increased tear production
  • Squinting of the eye
  • Avoiding bright places
As numerous as the signs of canine conjunctivitis are, so are the causes. They can include allergies, infection (bacterial or viral), decreased tear production, a foreign object in the eye (toxins, hair, dust, etc.), an injury to the eye, irregular eyelashes or an eyelid/conjunctival mass. Conjunctivitis can also be secondary to certain underlying medical problems or eye issues.
Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis of canine conjunctivitis based on a complete ophthalmic exam and specialized eye tests. The doctor will look at your pet’s entire eye including the retina, lens, pupil and inside of the eyelid. Specialized eye tests can include the testing of tear production, a fluorescein stain test (which looks for corneal scratches or injury) and glaucoma testing. Along with these tests, blood tests and other assessments may be ordered to help diagnose any underlying medical concerns. Treatment is based on the principal cause of the conjunctivitis.
It is important that you do not put any medications into your pet’s eyes unless directed by your veterinarian. Since conjunctivitis can look like other eye diseases, certain medications can cause the eye disease to worsen. Even if your pet has been prescribed a medication in the past, it should not be used unless your veterinarian says it’s OK to do so. Many signs of eye diseases can look similar but the treatments can be very different.
Need more advice?
If you see any signs of conjunctivitis or have concerns about your dog’s eyes, contact your local Banfield veterinarian.