Health Symptoms & Solutions What Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs and How to Deal with It?

What Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs and How to Deal with It?

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One of the most common eye problems in dogs is conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the conjunctiva tissue. This condition is also common in humans.

In this article, we will explain in detail what conjunctivitis is, how to recognize clinical signs of the condition and what you can do to prevent and treat conjunctivitis in dogs.

What Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Conjunctivitis is also known as pink eye and it is one of the most common eye diseases in dogs. This condition is actually an inflammation of the conjunctiva tissue. A mucous membrane that covers and protects a dog’s eyeballs. It’s easy to confuse pink eye with cherry eye. Read our in depth-article to understand the differences and how to treat cherry eye in dogs.

Dogs also have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. Covered by conjunctiva, in the inner corner of the eye, you’ll find the third eyelid. When this membrane becomes inflamed, that is conjunctivitis.

What Causes Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Conjunctivitis in dogs can come in two types – infectious and non-infectious.

Viral or bacterial infections are the most common cause of the rare infectious conjunctivitis or pink eye. This type is contagious and it can be transmitted between dogs. If you suspect that your dog has a pink eye, keep him separated from other dogs.

Make sure you remember to wash your hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of infection to other animals. Additionally, make sure that the infected dog has its own food and water dishes, as well as his own bed.

Non-infections conjunctivitis is the more common type of conjunctivitis in dogs and it has a wide range of possible causes. Those include various allergies:

– Injury to the eye or presence of a foreign object in the eyes
– irritating substances that get in the eye
– congenital abnormalities,
-tear film deficiency (dry eye), and a few other eye diseases or even tumors.

In some rare cases, conjunctivitis in dogs can be caused by canine distemper or another serious underlying issue. This type is not contagious.

What Are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Healthy dogs have conjunctiva that is not clearly visible and has a pink color. When a dog is suffering from conjunctivitis, this protective membrane becomes swollen and red. This is true even if it is allergic conjunctivitis, a slightly different condition.

In addition to this, other common symptoms of conjunctivitis in dogs include eye discharge that can be cloudy, greenish, or yellow, watery eyes, eyelids that stick together, as well as excessive blinking or squinting.

While conjunctivitis often affects both eyes, in some situations only one eye can be affected.

How Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing conjunctivitis is a physical eye exam. During the exam, your vet will check for any foreign bodies and other potential issues in the eyes, eyelids and surrounding structures.

However, despite discharge from the eyes being a good indicator, this may not be enough and other diagnostic tests may follow.

For example, your vet may test the dog’s tear production with Schirmer tear strips. He may also use fluorescein, an orange dye that is spread on the surface of the eye to make scratches, foreign objects and ulcers visible under blue light.

Other potential tests include measuring the eye pressure, performing a stain test, or doing a bacterial culture, biopsy and allergy testing are also a good idea.

How Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs Treated?

The main goal of conjunctivitis treatment is to deal with the specific cause of the condition. This may include both topical and oral medications; especially topical eye drops that can reduce inflammation and fight the infection.

In some cases, eye drops can be prescribed to stimulate tear production and provide necessary lubrication. These eye drops may contain topical steroids, antibiotics, or agents that stimulate tear production.

You should note it can be difficult to get them into your dog’s eyes.

Some dogs may also receive medications with anti-inflammatory agents. If your dog has secondary conjunctivitis, he may also receive anti-inflammatory medications or oral antibiotics. Some dogs may refuse to take oral antibiotics, in which case you should mix them with his food in his food bowl.

If your dog’s conjunctivitis is caused by eyelash or eyelid abnormalities, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.

White dog lying on couch. Part of the "What Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs and How to Deal with It?" article.
Photo by Juan Gomez on Unsplash

What Is the Prognosis?

Once the proper diagnosis and treatment plan is devised, you need to follow your vet’s instructions and make sure that your pooch doesn’t scratch, paw or rub the affected area. In some situations, a cone may be necessary to prevent him from doing this.

Most dogs with conjunctivitis have an excellent prognosis. However, recurrent, chronic or severe conjunctivitis may come with a guarded prognosis since some conditions require lifelong therapy.


Conjunctivitis in dogs is a common health issue and, in most cases, it is not serious. It can be infectious and non-infectious, with the latter being the more common of the two.

If you suspect that your dog has conjunctivitis, take him to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.


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