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What is Neonatal Ophthalmia?

Eye infection with inflammation of the conjunctiva (also called pink eye or red eye) is a common condition in dogs. Newborn puppies are especially prone to developing conjunctivitis at about two weeks of age, shortly before or shortly after their eyes first open. Bacteria acquired from the mother during the birth process spread to the eye which is unable to properly flush itself at that age. As the bacteria reproduce and grow in numbers, the eye becomes infected and swollen, often exuding a thick purulent discharge. Most conditions are treatable if caught early, but delayed treatment can result in complications and vision loss.

Newborn dogs sometimes develop an eye infection during the first few weeks of life, before their eyes are fully open. Bacteria multiply behind the eyelid causing infection, swollen eyelids, and discharge of pus. In veterinary terms, this is called Neonatal Conjunctivitis or Neonatal Ophthalmia.

Neonatal Ophthalmia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $350

Average Cost

$220

Symptoms of Neonatal Ophthalmia in Dogs

It’s crucial to treat neonatal conjunctivitis early, so take your puppy to see a veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Eyes are swollen or bulging before they open
  • Discharge of mucus or pus as the eyes start to open
  • Eyelids crusted over with discharge
  • Eyelids glued together by discharge
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Generally poor health and failure to thrive
Types

Conjunctivitis in dogs is divided into several types. Most neonatal conjunctivitis falls into the category of purulent conjunctivitis. Occasionally other conditions can sometimes be mistaken for conjunctivitis.

  • Serious conjunctivitis

    - characterized by redness, itching or clear discharge; often caused by an allergic reaction or an infection from a foreign body.

  • Follicular (mucoid) conjunctivitis

    - characterized by rough patches on the eye and discharge of mucus; caused by inflammation of the mucosal follicles in response to an infection or a foreign body.

  • Purulent conjunctivitis

    - characterized by the discharge of pus, crusted eyelids and inflamed conjunctiva; usually related to a bacterial infection; common strains include streptococcus or staphylococcus. This type of conjunctivitis should always be treated by a veterinarian.

  • Chronic conjunctivitis

    - recurring conjunctivitis that does not respond to treatment.

  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

    - a serious condition in which the tear glands fail to produce sufficiently. Since it causes either dry or watery eyes, it can sometimes be confused with conjunctivitis.

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Causes of Neonatal Ophthalmia in Dogs

The vast majority of eye infections in newborn dogs are caused by bacteria from the mother with is acquired during the birth process. Since a puppy’s eyes normally take 10-14 days to open, the bacteria will not be immediately be flushed out of the eye and has ample opportunity to proliferate.

  • Ankyloblepharon, a condition in which the eyelids are partially fused together, can increase the likelihood of neonatal infection.
  • Puppies born in the same litter often develop similar infections.
  • More serious systemic bacterial infections or sepsis can sometimes cause or contribute to neonatal conjunctivitis.
  • Congenital eye conditions can occasionally lead to similar symptoms
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Diagnosis of Neonatal Ophthalmia in Dogs

Neonatal conjunctivitis can usually be diagnosed based on the symptoms and the time of onset. Describe the puppy’s symptoms to your veterinarian and arrange an office visit at the earliest possible time. The veterinarian will be able to analyze the condition by observing the symptoms and most likely prescribe treatment. If the condition is not responsive to treatment, a bacterial culture test may be required for further analysis.

Any obvious symptoms like eye swelling and discharge are crucial to making an accurate diagnosis. Additional factors like the age or the puppy, the degree to which its eyes are opened, and the health of other members of the litter can also be important. The overall health and demeanor of the puppy can also help to indicate if there is a problem.

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Treatment of Neonatal Ophthalmia in Dogs

The most important and immediate treatment will be to fully open the puppy’s eyelids and flush out the bacteria. With puppies at least a week old, the eyelids may be able to be gently pried apart. If the puppy is still very young, or if there is a genetic abnormality and the lids are partially fused, the veterinarian will need to use a surgical instrument to separate them.

Once the eyelids are open, the veterinarian will clean out the accumulated discharge and prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment. Most likely this medication will need to be applied daily. Young puppies do not produce adequate tears, so artificial tears may also need to be prescribed to prevent the cornea from drying out and causing further complications. Any medication containing corticosteroids is absolutely contraindicated as it will inhibit the eye’s natural ability to flush.

If the discharge continues and the eyelids become stuck together again, they will need to be re-separated and cleaned. Most infections will clear up with antibiotic treatment. If the infection fails to respond to treatment, another office visit, and further analyzation will be required.

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Recovery of Neonatal Ophthalmia in Dogs

Most puppies with neonatal eye infection make a complete recovery with no reoccurrence or complications. If treatment is delayed, however, or the condition is left untreated, it can damage the cornea and cause vision impairment or blindness and these conditions will need to be managed.

The overall health of the puppy can also be a contributing factor in recovery, so it’s important to maintain adequate feeding and nutrition. This may include hand feeding if the mother is absent, or ensuring that the puppy isn’t pushed aside by stronger siblings at feeding time. It’s also important to ensure that other siblings are treated if they exhibit any symptoms to prevent cross-infection.

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Neonatal Ophthalmia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $350

Average Cost

$220

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Neonatal Ophthalmia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chaweenie

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Three Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Discharge From Closed Eye

3 weeks old. Left eye has opened right eye hasn’t. There’s discharge coming from the closed eye. Not too much but it’s noticeable

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. If there is cream to green discharge coming from the eye then your puppy needs to see a veterinarian. They can assess what is going on and provide a treatment plan on how to help the eye heal. Without examining the eye it is difficult to say what is going on, but with noticeable discharge I suspect there is an infection. I hope your puppy heals quickly.

Aug. 4, 2020

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puppy

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Dachshund

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7 Days

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Swollen Eye

I have a 7 day old dachshund with both swollen eyes. Eyes have not started to open yet. There is no discharge coming from the eyes but if touched, the puppy cries and seems to be in pain.I keep the blankets very clean. Is there anything I can do to reduce swelling and pain?

April 14, 2018

puppy's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

If the eyes are swollen and it feels that there is some fluid behind the eyelids you should pry the eyes open carefully and flush them gently with sterile saline solution. If there is pus or other discharge present, you should speak with your Veterinarian about an ophthalmic ointment for the puppy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 15, 2018

i have 4day old puppy with swollen eyes and has fluid coming out. i tried to gently open and clean with eye solution but it will not open completely. what will i do?

May 13, 2018

Mike S.

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Azur

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Goldendoodle

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7 Days

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eye
Pus

I have a 7 day old goldendoodle and he has pus draining from his drainage angle of his right eye. And his eye is swollen. And when I press on it some pus leaks out. His eyes have not started to open. I am a breeder and try to keep everything as clean as possible. Is there a way for me to prevent this in the future?

April 10, 2018

Azur's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

This sometimes just occurs due to the eyelids being closed and the accumulation of pus; you can try to gently open the eyes and to flush them out with sterile saline but be very careful. You should also speak with your Veterinarian about an antimicrobial ointment to place on the eyes as well. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 11, 2018

i have 4day old puppy with swollen eyes and has fluid coming out. i tried to gently open and clean with eye solution but it will not open completely. what will i do?

May 13, 2018

Mike S.

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Cinn

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American bully

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6 Days

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

I have 5day old American Bully pup who I noticed eye was swollen. 30 min later I noticed yellowish dischargecoming out. After cleaning with a warm towel, I called the vet in the town I’m working in. Well needless to say they only have one doctor and they wouldn’t be able to see till next Thursday. The next closest vet is 2hrs out of our way. The eye looks normal now but I still want to flush it out with an eye solution. Please help what are my options?

Feb. 8, 2018

Cinn's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. If you aren't able to get Cinn in for a week to be seen, you can gently clean the eye with warm water and a soft cloth, multiple times daily if needed, to keep the discharge from building up and sealing her eye shut. As long as the eye is clear, not cloudy, and you are able to keep the discharge from building up, you should be okay to wait to be seen. If the eye becomes cloudy, or the lids are sealed and puffy again, she needs to be seen earlier, and you may need to go and wait until they can see you as an emergency. I hope that all goes well with Cinn.

Feb. 8, 2018

Eye my newborn came out with a red thing on her head and her eye was open, red, and swollen. She's been alive throughout the whole night and she is currently alive but she wasnt eating throughout the night nor the morning. I've been holding her to the nipped to eat and she's been eating. Do you know what I should do? And do you know what is on her head & why her eyeball is like that?

March 19, 2018

Jenna B.


My puppy is 9 days,eyes still closed and there is a drainage from the left eye help!! Don’t know what to treat it with since his eye is closed.

Feb. 25, 2018

Jada M.

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Daisy

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Jack Russell Terrier

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7 Weeks

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Puss

I have a 7 week old puppy and she has puss in her eyes since this morning every hour and we have been cleaning it, but it doesn't seem like it is getting better.What should we do?

Dec. 26, 2017

Daisy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

This isn’t something which will get better within a day; you should keep the eyes clean and free of puss, flushing the eye with sterile saline will help and applying an antibiotic ophthalmic ointment from your Veterinarian would also be required. It may take a week or so for you to treat this condition depending on the severity. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 26, 2017

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several

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Greyhound

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7 Days

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

I am a longtime Greyhound breeder and have been getting the occasional pup in different litters with eye infections over the last few years for the first time. One female consistantly has a couple in every litter. I have successfully treated them with flushing and antibiotics. This is clearly coming from their dams who are otherwise extremely healthy. Are they carrying a bacteria that we can treat them for before they whelp and so doing avoid the pups coming down with this?

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Peewee

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Redbone Coonhound mix

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2 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating ,Weak,Puss Eyes,Crying

Small redbone/blood hound mix puppy been feeding by hand to help gain weight I noticed today 11-12-18 at about 10:30 pm when I went to feed the puppies that the smallest one had green puss coming from both eyes so I googled it and it said to make sure the puppy wasn't in a dusty area (which it was ) so I took the puppy in the house and got a washcloth and warm water and got the crust off of it's eyes and wiped away the green puss and have the puppy in the house so I can keep a better watch on it .

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Miracle

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American bully

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1 Week

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Weakness
Severe Weakness T

I have a newborn puppy who experienced this. The vet said that the infection spread allover the body of my less than 2 weeks old puppy. Now, the puppy is crying and I don't know what to do. I already isolated the puppy and started force feeding him because he won't eat. I am dropping some eye solutions but I wanna know what else needs to be done. Will my puppy die?? What do I need to do. Please help me. He is very weak...Please reply ASAP because he might die already . :'(

Neonatal Ophthalmia Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $350

Average Cost

$220