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Help! Why are my dog's eyes red?

Help! Why are my dog's eyes red?

Much like your own eyes, your dog's eyes will become red if they are suffering from an infection, irritation due to a foreign object, dry eyes, or physical trauma. Our Greensboro Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist and team share the causes and treatments for red eyes in dogs.

How are my dog's eyes different from mine?

Our dogs' eyes work a lot like ours. They are active organs that are constantly adjusting themselves, working to transmit what your pooch sees to their brain. Their eyes differ from ours in that they have a third eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, that is located in the corner of their eye. 

As you have surely experienced with your own eyes, there are a whole host of things that may cause irritation and redness, from external irritants to excessive dryness and disease. A number of dog breeds are more susceptible to developing red, irritated eyes as well as associated health conditions.

Flat-faced breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus as well as breeds with long hair around their eyes like Sheepdogs, Maltese and Poodles can all be at greater risk of developing red eyes than other breeds. Older dogs often develop issues with their eyes causing them to become red more often, especially if they have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. 

What is causing my dog's red eyes? 

Noticeable redness in your dog's eyes generally indicates irritation and inflammation, which can be the result of many different eye health issues. The following are some of the most common health conditions that may be the reason your dog has red eyes.


  • Just like you may get watery eyes and a stuffed-up nose when allergy season rolls around, your dog can get red, weepy eyes and become uncomfortable from any number of allergies.  These may be seasonal to pollen or the like, or they may be to your pup's food. If you notice that your pooch has red eyes and is itchy or sneezing more often without seasonal patterns, bring them in to your veterinarian for allergy testing. 

Eye Injury or Trauma

  • This cause of red, irritated eyes can range from quite mild to very serious. Your dog may have a hair or piece of grass stuck in their eye that is irritating surface tissues and causing them to become red and inflamed.  Your pup may also have a scratch, cut or another more serious abrasion that is difficult to detect. If you think that your dog has had a serious physical injury to their eye that is causing one or both of their eyes to become red, bring them in to see your vet as soon as you can. 


  • This itchy inflammation of the eye is also called "pink eye" and is relatively common in people and dogs. It affects the tissues covering your dog's eyes and generally only affects one eye at a given time.  This infection can be caused by environmental irritants, viruses or bacteria. Because you likely don't know the case of your pet's pink eye, make sure you bring them in to see the vet for advice on how best to treat their irritated eyes. 

Dry Eye Syndrome

  • Also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, dry eyes in dogs are caused by a deficiency in the moist film of tears that generally covers a healthy eye. When this film is thinner, it allows your pup's eye to dry out and become inflamed.  One of the most common causes of this condition is immune-mediated disease in dogs that causes their tear gland to stop functioning properly. Other underlying conditions such as diabetes can also have an impact on your dog developing dry eyes. 

What Are Treatments For Red Eyes in Dogs?

If your dog has red eyes, never begin treatment at home without first consulting your veterinarian. Red eyes can be a symptom of a whole host of eye-related health issues, a quick and easy veterinary examination will help to determine the root cause of your pup's discomfort and the most appropriate treatment. Any attempts to treat your dog's condition without a proper diagnosis could lead to more severe symptoms.

That being said, some common treatments for health issues that lead to red eyes include medicinal, antibacterial or anti-inflammatory eye drops or ointments. Your vet will be sure to walk you through the best way to administer these treatments for your dog's red eyes so that these medications work quickly to relieve your pup's sore, irritated eyes. In more extreme cases, surgical intervention may be required, particularly for more complex issues such as cherry eye.  

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.

If your dog has red eyes and requires more advanced veterinary are that your family vet doesn't offer, speak to your vet about a referral to our Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro. Contact us for more information.

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