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Conjunctivitis in Dogs (Pink Eye)

 

 

Yes, dogs can get pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis in dogs is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the moist tissue that covers the front part of the eyeball and lines the eyelids.

Breeds that tend to have allergies or autoimmune skin diseases tend to have more problems with inflammation of the conjunctiva. Brachycephalic or short-nosed breeds are also more at risk for developing conjunctivitis.

Symptoms and Types of Dog Conjunctivitis

Signs of dog pink eye include:  

  • Squinting or spasmodic blinking (blepharospasm )

  • Redness of the moist tissues of the eye

  • Discharge from the eye(s); it may be clear or contain mucus and/or pus

  • Swelling from fluid buildup of the moist tissue covering the eyeball

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

Bacterial:

  • Primary condition—not secondary to other conditions, such as dry eye

  • Neonatal conjunctivitis: newborn inflammation of the moist tissues of the eye—accumulation of discharge, often associated with a bacterial or viral infection; seen before the eyelids separate or open

Viral:

Immune-mediated:

  • Allergies

  • Follicular conjunctivitis

  • Plasma-cell conjunctivitis—inflammation of the moist tissues of the eye characterized by the presence of plasma cells, especially in German Shepherds

  • Related to generalized (systemic) immune-mediated diseases in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues

  • Cancer: tumors (rare)

  • Lesions that appear to be cancer, but are not cancerous. Inflammation of the border between the cornea (the clear part of the eye, located in the front of the eyeball) and the sclera (the white part of the eye); characterized by the presence of nodules, it is most commonly found in Collies and mixed Collies, and usually appears as a pink mass.

  • Secondary to disease of the tissues surrounding the eye: lack of normal tear film (dry eye)

  • Lid diseases

  • Lash diseases

  • Disease of the glands of the eyelid

Secondary to trauma or environmental causes:

  • Foreign body in the moist tissues of the eye

  • Irritation from pollen, dust, chemicals or eye medications

Secondary to other eye diseases:

Diagnosis

The first thing your veterinarian will look for is evidence of other ocular (eye) diseases. For example, the disease may not be in the conjunctiva but in other parts of the eye. Your doctor will conduct a complete eye exam.

Different methods of examination may include a fluorescein stain, which is spread on the surface of the eye to make scratches, ulcers and foreign material stand out under light. This is to rule out ulcerative keratitis. Foreign materials may also have gotten caught in the lids or eyelashes, so they will be examined thoroughly as well.

A test for glaucoma may be conducted by determining pressures in the eye, and the nasal cavity may need to be flushed out to rule out disease there. If the dog has an eye discharge, a culture may be done to determine what the discharge consists of, and a biopsy of conjunctiva cells may be collected for microscopal examination. Your veterinarian will also want to rule out allergies as the underlying cause of inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Treatment and Care

There are many possible causes for this disease, and the course of treatment will be determined by the cause. For example, if there is a bacterial infection, your veterinarian will probably prescribe an antibiotic ointment.

In some cases, surgery may be required to remove an obstruction in a duct. If cancer is the diagnosis, surgical removal of the tumor may be recommended. Your veterinarian may recommend cryotherapy, a therapy which uses cold application to remove ingrown hair, cysts or other irritations. In the most serious and severe cases, removal of the eyeball and surrounding tissues will need to be performed.

If inflammation is present, prescription pet medications will be prescribed depending on the cause. Your veterinarian will make these determinations and recommendations. In the case of newborn conjunctivitis, your doctor will open the eyelids with great care, drain the discharge and treat the eyes with topical antibiotics for dogs.

Living and Management

If the cause is an allergy, you will need to try to prevent contact with whatever your pet is reacting to, or otherwise address the allergies. To decrease the risk of spreading an infectious disease, try not to expose your pet to other animals. If your veterinarian suspects canine distemper virus, it is especially important to quarantine your dog and prevent spread of this terrible disease to other dogs.

If a large amount of discharge is noted, gently clean the eyes before applying any ointment. If both solutions and ointments are prescribed, apply the solutions first. If several solutions are prescribed, wait several minutes between the application of each.

If the condition worsens and it is apparent that your pet is not responding to the treatment, or is even having an adverse reaction to the treatment, you will need to contact your veterinarian immediately. An Elizabethan collar (recovery cone) to protect the eyes from scratching or rubbing can be especially helpful for the healing process.