Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) in Dogs

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) in Dogs | Wag!


Pink eye — also known as conjunctivitis — is just as common in dogs as it is in humans. Dogs can develop conjunctivitis, though not for all of the same reasons that people do; it’s usually a result of allergic reactions.

While it’s fairly easy to treat, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so you can get this checked out quickly and be sure it isn’t a sign of something more serious. 

In this guide to pink eye in dogs, you’ll discover: 

  • Pink eye is another term for conjunctivitis), an eye infection
  • It’s simple to treat but can be a sign of a more serious underlying issue
  • Common symptoms of dog pink eye include redness, swelling, rubbing
  • Some breeds are more prone to pink eye than others

My dog has pink eye. Is this normal?

Can dogs get pink eye? Yes. Conjunctivitis means inflammation of the conjunctiva - the tissue that lines the eye socket and eyelids. It gets the name pink eye because it causes the eye to become both inflamed and red. 

If your pet’s eye is red, swollen and has a watery or mucous discharge, conjunctivitis may be the culprit.

Dog pink eye is an itchy and mildly painful condition. It can occur on its own either as a result of infection or irritation. But it may also be a symptom of an underlying condition. 

Conjunctivitis in dogs can be exacerbated by physical defects or breed-specific problems of the eyes. If untreated, conjunctivitis can cause severe pain or even blindness. 

Although pink eye is relatively easy to treat, if it’s a sign of something more serious you could have some costly vet bills on your hands. Compare the best pet insurance plans and make sure you’re covered. 

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Symptoms of pink eye in dogs

If you’ve ever had conjunctivitis yourself then firstly you’ll know how uncomfortable it is but also, you’ll easily spot the symptoms of dog pink eye as they are very similar. 

Common symptoms of dog conjunctivitis, include: 

  • Redness and swelling of the eyes
  • Watery or mucous discharge from the eyes
  • Abnormal squinting
  • Frequent blinking
  • Pawing or rubbing of eyes
  • Excessive discharge from nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

Look out for the color of the discharge coming from their eyes. If it’s green or yellow then it’s probably a bacterial infection. A white or clear discharge is more likely to be caused by allergies. 

Pink eye in dogs will often affect both eyes but, depending on the cause, it may affect just one of them. If it’s infectious then it may start in one eye and move into the other. 

It’s important to see a vet as soon as you notice these symptoms - especially if it’s in just one eye. Although it should be easy to treat, it could be a sign of a more serious problem with their eyes.

Causes - why does my dog have pink eye?

You’re probably wondering, how do dogs get pink eye? Well, there are different types - bacterial and viral infections are the most common. 

Viral conjunctivitis

This type of conjunctivitis is particularly contagious. It’s caused by a virus such as canine distemper. It can take at least three weeks, sometimes four, to fully recover from. 

Bacterial conjunctivitis

This is also very contagious and can be caused by bacteria such as staphylococcus or streptococcus. This can take five to seven days to recover from. 

Allergic conjunctivitis

This type isn’t contagious as it’s caused by an allergic reaction. This can include mites, dust and pollen. Any dog can get this but particularly those with atopic dermatitis. This will continue until you discover the underlying allergen. 

Dog pink eye can also be caused by: 

  • Obstructed or inflamed tear ducts
  • Defect of the eyelash or eyelid 
  • Dry eye
  • Congenital or breed-specific ailments and abnormalities
  • Trauma to the eye 
  • Tumors of the eye or eyelid 

Although any dog can get conjunctivitis there are certain breeds that are more prone to it. These include pugs, poodles and pekingese. 

You’ll find the symptoms are often the same or very similar despite the cause. This is why it’s so important to see your vet to rule out any of the more serious underlying conditions such as tumors.

Can dogs get pink eye from humans?

You’ve probably heard conjunctivitis is very contagious – so if you’ve had it you might be wondering if you can give it to your dog. The short answers are – yes it is and yes you can. 

It’s easy to spread the bacteria among humans and if dogs come into contact with the discharge then they can get it too. 

If you or anyone in your family has conjunctivitis then it’s best to keep away from your dog.

Can humans get pink eye from a dog?

If they can get it from you, you might be wondering - can you get pink eye from a dog? It’s very unlikely. If they have viral conjunctivitis then this is not contagious to you at all.

It is possible to get bacterial conjunctivitis - which is spread by direct contact. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly both before and after touching your dog, just to be on the safe side.

Diagnosis of pink eye in dogs

If you suspect your dog has pink eye, begin by monitoring their eyes for redness and swelling. 

It could be that dust has blown into their eye or a swim in murky water has caused temporary irritation. If these symptoms don’t go away after a couple of hours, or there is mucous discharge present, see a veterinarian right away.

The symptoms alone are not enough for the vet to give a diagnosis of pink eye. Their aim will be to determine whether conjunctivitis is the only problem, or if it is indicative of an underlying condition. 

This will involve a detailed eye examination to check the eye itself as well as the tear ducts, eyelashes and eyelids. They will check to see if anything has got into the eye, if there is any damage or any medical problems. They may then take a swab of any discharge to determine the type of infection so they can prescribe a suitable medication.

If an underlying condition beyond infection is suspected then the vet might do a tear production test or a corneal stain test. They may also measure their eye pressure to make sure they don’t have a condition such as glaucoma.

Any physical abnormalities will also be assessed for surgical correction. This may include a biopsy, where a sample of tissue will be taken for laboratory testing to rule out malignancy.

When to worry about pink eye in dogs

Most of the time, pink eye is nothing to worry about. However, if the symptoms are due to an abnormality such as a tumor then your dog will likely need a surgical procedure. You’ll be pleased to hear that tumors of the eyelids and conjunctiva aren’t that common. But, it’s best to be seen by a vet as soon as possible so you can rule it out.

How to treat pink eye in dogs

If you’ve had conjunctivitis then you may have used eye drops to treat it. You’ll find there are eye drops for dog’s conjunctivitis too. Don’t worry – your vet will show you how best to apply them.

However, your dog’s pink eye treatment will be determined once the vet discovers what is causing the conjunctivitis. Once they know this, they can prescribe the most appropriate medicine.

Allergies (irritation) 

If your dog is prone to allergic or environmental irritation of the eyes, your vet may prescribe eye drops to lubricate the eye and flush out any irritants. Additionally, antihistamines may be prescribed in eye drop, pill or syrup form to ease discomfort from allergies as needed.

These are low-risk treatments easily administered at home. Allergies or irritation may be acute (temporary) or chronic conditions, but pose little threat to health if properly managed.

Bacterial or viral (infection) 

If they are found to have a bacterial infection, an appropriate antibiotic will be prescribed, such as oxytetracycline, tobramycin, or ciprofloxacin. These may come in eye drop, ointment or pill form, and are usually administered over a period of 1-3 weeks. For treatment to be effective, the entire course of antibiotics should be taken, even if symptoms improve before the last dose is reached. 

Antibiotics do carry some risk of side effects such as vomiting and gastrointestinal distress, but these are usually mild, especially if taken as directed. In the rare case of antibiotic-resistant infection, a multi-drug approach may be taken. 

Usually infections are rare and unlikely to reoccur, but frequent interaction with contaminated material (e.g. toilet water getting in eyes from drinking) may cause relapse. A clean and well-ventilated living space greatly reduces risk.

Dogs with viral conjunctivitis will be treated with oral antioxidants to boost the immune system often alongside antiviral medications. 

Underlying condition

Conjunctivitis is sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition, such as canine distemper virus or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also called dry eye. 

Congenital defects of the eye, such as those common among collies, may also increase susceptibility to conjunctivitis. In this case, the vet will treat your dog according to the underlying condition or defect, which may include treating for infection as described above. 

The treatment approach will vary based on the specific condition. Dogs discovered to have more serious conditions may require lifetime medication while those with an abnormality may need a surgical procedure. 

Can you use a dog pink eye home remedy?

Instead of going to the vet to get pink eye medicine for dogs, you could just use a home remedy, couldn’t you? 

No, not really. Home remedies can help with the discomfort. You can wash your dog’s eyes gently to remove the discharge and clean away any dust or debris. However, you won’t be able to treat the underlying medical issue. 

You shouldn’t use anything on your dog’s eyes without speaking to your vet and you should never try to use human eye drops. 

Rather than looking for home remedies you should get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. While some cases of dog conjunctivitis might clear up on its own, it may not be fully healed without medication. 

If it’s not treated more of the eye will become affected and this could result in a more serious condition for your dog.

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Recovery of pink eye in dogs

Your veterinarian will have helpful tips on managing symptoms and successfully administering medication. Follow the directions,  which may include giving it to your dog before or between meals. 

Keep your dog away from dusty, dry or especially dirty areas while recovering from conjunctivitis, and monitor their symptoms for changes. 

The time for irritant-based conjunctivitis is often a few hours to a few days. Infectious conjunctivitis usually clears in one to two weeks. Other types will depend on the root cause and the management of the underlying condition.

Your vet may also suggest that your dog wears an Elizabethan collar. This will prevent them from rubbing or scratching at their eye and causing any further damage while it is healing. 

It’s recommended that you visit the vet for checks to make sure it is healing. Follow-up appointments may also be needed if you are unsure whether the infection has cleared, or if any problem with the medication has emerged. They may need to change the treatment or refer you to a specialist if there is no improvement or it has worsened. 

How to prevent pink eye 

There are some causes of pink eye that you can’t do anything to prevent. 

However, you can try to prevent allergic conjunctivitis by knowing and avoiding the allergens. This might include making changes to their environment or trialing different food. 

Check out our friends at Dog Food Advisor where you’ll find advice on the
best food for dogs with allergies.

Bacteria and viral conjunctivitis are both very contagious. To help prevent this, make sure your dog is up to date on all their vaccines. 

Be careful with their eyes – don’t let a dog stick their head out of the window of a moving car, for example. There are several reasons for this but it also avoids debris or dirt flying into their eyes. 

If you do notice any symptoms then get your dog to a vet straight away to avoid it getting any worse. 

Don’t leave it until your dog has symptoms and you need to book a vet appointment. For peace of mind, compare pet insurance and browse wellness plans now. So, whether it’s pink eye or a more serious underlying condition, you’ll be covered for any eventuality.

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Pink Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






3 Years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

i don't know if my dog has a pink eye or not but she keeps squinting her eye and it looks very puffy and swollen she can barely open her eye. she keeps pawing at it so i put a cone on her just to be safe i also rinsed her eye in some much would it cost for treatment treatment and if it is too expensive is there any home remedies I can try to help my dog heal ?

July 22, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

3 Recommendations

There aren't any home remedies for eye injuries, as there are many causes for irritations and I don't know what is causing Panda's problem without seeing her. The initial cost of a veterinary visit would likely be the majority of the cost to see what is going on with her eye, and they may want to put a stain on her cornea to see if there is an ulcer. It should not be prohibitive to get treatment for her, and eye problems can worsen quickly. It would be best to have her seen today to see what is going on with her eye.

July 22, 2018

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9 Years


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Scratching Eyes
I have pink eye i been using dr prescribed eye drops for2 days i tried to be careful washing hands but my 4 lb chihuahua like to be up close to my face today i notice him rubbing his eyes more there is no swelling, discharge or cant see any rednss. Should wait n see or have him checked? Pink eye or not

April 15, 2018

1 Recommendations

Whilst dogs can get ‘pink eye’ it is unlikely to be transmitted from humans to dogs. If Gizmo is rubbing his eyes, keep an eye on him for the time being and see if any symptoms develop; if they do you can just an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 15, 2018

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