Blepharitis (eye inflammation) in dogs can cause your pooch intense discomfort, itchiness, and other symptoms. Our Greensboro ophthalmologist explains the types, symptoms, causes, diagnostic methods and treatment options for this condition.
What is blepharitis (eye inflammation) in dogs?
Blepharitis is a term used to describe a condition in which the outer skin and middle (glands, muscle and connective tissue) parts of the eyelids become inflamed. Typically, the inner surface of the eyelid (palpebral conjunctiva) will also become inflamed.
What are symptoms of blepharitis in dogs?
If your dog is experiencing inflammation of the eyes, you may notice these symptoms:
- Intense itching and/or scratching of the eye
- Abrasions, or tearing/wearing of skin (excoriation)
- Thickening and edema of the eyelids
- Concurrent conjunctivitis (conjunctiva of the eye is inflamed)
- Flaky or scaly skin surrounding the eye
- Discharge from the eye (containing mucus, water or pus)
- Formation of papule(s) - a small inflamed elevation of skin, minus pus
- Formation of pustule(s) - small inflamed elevation of skin, with pus
- Inflamed cornea (causes painful, watery eyes and blurred vision, also referred to as keratitis)
- Loss of hair
- Loss of skin pigmentation surrounding the affected area
What causes blepharitis in dogs?
There may be several factors causing your dog’s eyes to become painful, itchy and inflamed. Here are a few potential causes that could be causing your pup’s condition:
Type I (immediate) allergic reactions can occur due to insect bites, inhaling a substance, or consuming food that irritates your pet’s eyes.
Staphylococcus or streptococcus infections may cause inflammation in your pooch’s eyelids.
Congenital (Born with the condition)
Abnormalities in your dog’s eyelids can promote moist dermatitis, excessive scratching or rubbing.
Certain breeds such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, Shih-Tzus and others will often have prominent nasal folds, entropion and trichiasis. Distichia is often seen in English Bulldogs, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Shih-Tzus and Pugs.
Lagophthalmos is an inability to completely close the eyelids and is often seen in dog breeds with flat faces and/or short snouts.
Neoplastic (Abnormal growth of cells, or tumors)
Mast cell tumors, sebaceous adenomas and adenocarcinomas may all cause blepharitis.
Other potential causes of eye inflammation include:
- Eye diseases (dry eye, conjunctivitis, keratitis)
- Parasitic infections (Cuterbra), sarcoptic mange, demodicosis)
- Viral infections (FHV-1)
- Traumatic injuries such as chemical burns or lacerations to the eyelids
- Unknown causes
How is blepharitis in dogs diagnosed?
During your appointment, the veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and ask about your dog’s medical history, including when the symptoms began, what may have happened before the condition developed, and other relevant questions.
The physical exam will typically include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile and urinalysis. Though the results of these do not usually identify specific causes, they may help your vet find out whether your pooch has a systematic disease.
An eye exam can help determine the severity of the condition and to what degree the eye is involved. A sample from the ocular area or surrounding skin may be collected to identify any microorganisms that may be present. In our onsite diagnostic lab, these samples can be cultured to grow fungus, bacteria or parasites.
When you join our practice as a new patient and bring your pet in for his or her appointment, the eye exam will include:
- Schirmer tear test to learn whether the eye produces enough tears to maintain moisture
- Fluorescein Staining to assess the corneal surface
- Tonometry to evaluate intraocular pressure
- Indirect Ophthalmoscopy to check the back of the eye
- Slit Lamp Biomicroscopy to check the front of the eye
Additional diagnostic testing, including electroretinography (ERG), gonioscopy, or ocular ultrasound may be recommended if the ophthalmologist finds that your dog is at risk for glaucoma.
If your vet suspects a food allergy may be the culprit, further testing may be required to identify the food allergen.
How is blepharitis in dogs treated?
Based on the results of the physical examination and diagnostic tests, our team can create a custom treatment plan for your pet.
Treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s blepharitis. Your dog may need to wear an Elizabethan cone (collar) to prevent rubbing or scratching. Severe cases may require surgery and/or medication. If a food allergy has caused the symptoms, your vet will work to identify the food allergen, then help you eliminate it from your pet’s diet.
Note:The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.