What is Eye Infection (Newborns)?

The bacteria reproduce uncontrollably, causing swelling and a discharge from the eye. When the eye infection is caught early enough, it is treatable with antibiotics. Unfortunately, eye infections in newborn puppies that are not noticed early can cause impaired vision and health complications from the bacterial infection. Treatments need to be started immediately to ensure that the puppy makes a full recovery without damage being done to the eye. 

Many people do not perform daily physical examinations of their newborn puppies, but this is an essential part of responsible dog breeding. The puppies must be closely monitored to ensure that they are thriving and there are no health problems that need to be addressed.

Puppies are born with their eyes and ears sealed and they do not fully open until about three weeks of age. An eye infection in newborns will usually develop within the first few weeks of life. The most common age for developing an eye infection is about two weeks of age when their eyes are beginning to open and are more prone to getting bacteria in them. Their eyes are not fully open and bacteria can gather from their mother, causing an infection. In medical terms an eye infection in newborn puppies is called neonatal ophthalmia or neonatal conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of Eye Infection (Newborns) in Dogs

It is important that you conduct daily checks of your puppies from the time they are born. This includes picking them up and doing a close inspection of their eyes, ears, mouths and overall body condition. By inspecting them daily, your puppies are learning your scent and to trust you and you are able to detect any changes that need immediate attention. If you notice any problems with your puppies, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

Symptoms of an eye infection in newborn puppies include:

  • Eye that is bulging or swollen
  • Pus that is draining from the affected eye
  • Crusted eyelid
  • Watering of the affected eye
  • Failure to thrive
  • Unwilling to nurse
  • Scratching or rubbing the affected eye

Causes of Eye Infection (Newborns) in Dogs

Most eye infections in newborn puppies occur when the bacteria from the birth multiplies and invades the eye. The bacteria will not be flushed from the eye until the puppy’s eyes begin to open. This allows the bacteria to continue to grow into an infection. 

The mother cleaning her puppies can also transfer bacteria onto the puppies’ faces. Those bacteria can cause eye infections. Dirty bedding within the nesting box can cause bacteria to spread to your puppies. It is important that you clean their bedding often to prevent bacteria from growing uncontrollably.

Diagnosis of Eye Infection (Newborns) in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by examining your puppy, paying close attention to the eye swelling and any pus that may be discharging from the eye. A culture of the eye discharge may be taken to analyze for bacteria. Most veterinarians will not choose to draw blood from a newborn puppy unless they feel that there is a life-threatening condition that can be definitively diagnosed with a blood test. 

While your puppy is visiting your veterinarian, you may want to have a generally healthy puppy examination done to ensure that the only problem your puppy is experiencing is an eye infection. Most healthy puppy examinations do not take long and entail a hands-on physical examination and listening to the puppy’s heart and lungs.

Treatment of Eye Infection (Newborns) in Dogs

Your veterinarian will first open your puppy’s eyelid and then flush the eye with a saline solution. This will help to flush the bacteria from the eye. Puppies that are younger than a week old cannot have their eyelid opened without causing damage. Puppies older than a week can have the eyelid gently opened. 

Antibiotic eye drops or ophthalmic ointment will be prescribed. Generally, these drops or ointment need to be put into the affected eye twice a day. Some puppies may need to be given artificial tear eye drops to keep the cornea moist since young puppies cannot produce their own tears. 

Liquid oral antibiotics may be given to older puppies if the bacterial infection has begun to spread. Giving oral antibiotics to very young puppies is not advised.

Recovery of Eye Infection (Newborns) in Dogs

Most puppies that are diagnosed with an eye infection make a full recovery when quick treatment is given. If you do not treat the eye infection quickly, there is a chance that permanent damage can be done to the puppy’s vision.

When whelping a litter of puppies, it is important to gently wash each puppy after birth with warm water and then dry them thoroughly. Keep the puppies’ bedding clean so bacteria cannot grow and cause infections. Examine your puppies often, preferably daily, for any signs of illness or infection.

Eye Infection (Newborns) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Yorkshire Terrier
4 Days
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


4 day old Dorkie pup has swollen or bulging left eye? She is a premie that is being bottle feed because mom developed milk fever. The pup does not cry a lot and is eating from bottle good right now. I do not want any Vet bills because her life expectancy is not good. However, we are proving that wrong but this problem just popped up today? I have used warmed cotton balls and Major Liqui Tears. Should I continue this treatment. There is no sign of pus or any liquids around the eye?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
In these cases it is important to gently pry the eyes open to allow them to drain, wipe away any discharge with a warm cloth and apply an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment to the eye; it would be best to visit your Veterinarian if you want to give Honey the best chance but depending on where you live you may find a suitable product at a local pet shop. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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