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What are Swollen Eyes?

A pet parent who calls the veterinary clinic with the statement, "my dog's eyes are swollen shut" will be asked to bring their dog in for a consultation right away. Swollen eyes in dogs may be caused by a variety of factors, most of which require an immediate visit to your veterinarian. While ocular swelling can be caused by allergies, insect stings, or an injury to the eyelid, it is important for the vet to observe your dog for additional symptoms in order to rule out certain conditions. Your dog may require treatment as minor as antibiotics or as intensive as surgery. A swollen eye can progress within a short period of time which can lead to permanent loss of vision. Reasons for this painful condition may include the following causes:

  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Glaucoma
  • Foreign object

Why Swollen Eyes Occurs in Dogs

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is a common condition which can be caused by either external irritants or eye infections. Conjunctivitis occurs when there is inflammation surrounding the tissue that covers the eye. Swollen eyes in dogs are a common symptom of conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis can affect either one eye or both eyes. A viral or bacterial infection will usually lead to both eyes being affected and swollen. Allergens may affect one eye or both if the irritant entered the eyes. Some signs to look out for to determine if it is conjunctivitis are:

  • Red or swollen eyes
  • Repetitive blinking
  • Squinting
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Redness to the eye membrane 
  • Behavioral changes such as withdrawal and inactivity 
  • Mucus or pus discharge from the eyes

There are different types of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is usually seasonal and not contagious to other dogs. It is usually caused by environmental irritants such as dust or pollen. Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection which can take up to a month to recover. It is highly contagious to other dogs. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and is also highly contagious. There are other causes of conjunctivitis such as dry eyes and entropion (malformation of the eyelid which causes the edges to roll inward). 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a medical condition where there is insufficient drainage of the aqueous fluid rather than the overproduction of fluid. There are two classifications of glaucoma known as primary glaucoma and secondary glaucoma. 

Primary glaucoma occurs when there is abnormal pressure in an otherwise healthy eye. Some breeds are susceptible to being exposed to glaucoma, including the Basset Hound, Beagle and Cocker Spaniel. Other dogs may develop underlying conditions such as inflammation, trauma, and changes in the eye which lead to fluid buildup. If there is disruption in normal drainage, the liquid begins to lead to increased eye pressure. The eye pressure can lead to permanent blindness if your dog is not taken to an emergency veterinarian to be treated.

Secondary glaucoma occurs when there is heightened intraocular pressure due to disease or previous injury to the eye area. Conditions like lens luxation can lead to glaucoma. Breeds susceptible to lens luxation (Terriers, Chinese Crested Dog, Shar-Pei) should be checked for glaucoma if the eyes become swollen. Uveitis and tumors can also be a cause.

Glaucoma can manifest in several ways such as:

  • Physical swelling
  • Bulging of eye
  • Watery discharge
  • Eye pain
  • Cloudy cornea
  • Blindness

If glaucoma has been a chronic condition in your dog’s life, the symptoms may develop slowly. With acute glaucoma, all of the symptoms may manifest at once. It is important to regularly monitor your dog for signs of pain. 

Foreign Object

Dogs can easily suffer damage to the cornea due to lacerations and ulcers, and infection to the eye when a foreign object, such as a grass awn, dust, grain of sand, or even a scratch to the eye causes irritation. Accompanying symptoms can be:

  • Watering of the eye
  • Redness 
  • Discharge
  • Excessive blinking
  • Rubbing at the eye

The vet will need to check your dog's eyes to see if there is a laceration or tear. This is done by placing a dye in the eye that will highlight if there is an injury. In the case of a simple scratch, for example, your vet can prescribe a collar to prevent your dog from causing further damage by digging at the eye.

Common causes of both irritation and conjunctivitis include bacterial infections, fungal infections, viral infections, trauma to the eyes, abnormalities to your dog’s eyes which can lead to irritation caused by lashes, foreign irritants in the eyes, and chemicals. Glaucoma can be inherited due to genes, can be passed down through breeds, or can develop as a result of a previous eye injury or inflammation of the eye.

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What to do if your Dog is Swollen Eyes

If your dog develops swollen eyes, it is critical for them to be assessed and treated immediately. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the medical condition and treat the symptoms appropriately. It is important to be able to provide your veterinarian with as much information as possible in regards to how long your dog has been experiencing swollen eyes. 

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your dog. Your veterinarian will proceed to administer a liquid anesthetic into the eye to numb the discomfort and to search for signs of an injury or conjunctivitis. A fluorescent stain might be used in order to detect injuries to the cornea. If a foreign object is present under the eyelid, the vet can remove it.

If the conjunctivitis is caused by allergies, your dog may be prescribed antihistamines in order to reduce the inflammation. If the condition is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, your dog may be administered oral antibiotics and eye drops to reduce the symptoms and eliminate the cause. An anti-fungal ointment may be prescribed if the conjunctivitis is caused by a fungal infection. If the condition is caused due to an abnormality, the option of corrective surgery may be offered in order to eliminate the issue. 

If your dog is experiencing swollen eyes due to glaucoma, timing may be of the essence. It is essential to reduce the pressure within the eye immediately to reduce the risk of blindness. Medications that may be prescribed are used to help decrease fluid production and encourage drainage in the eye. These medications are used to treat the heightened pressure in the eye to reduce the risk of damage. Analgesics are also prescribed to reduce the amount of discomfort and pain your dog may be experiencing. 

In severe cases, your veterinarian may offer surgery if your dog’s condition does not improve with standard medications. Surgery can assist if your dog has already developed blindness and other methods of treatment have not been successful. Removal of the eye could be an option your veterinarian will bring up in order to help relieve pain.

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Prevention of Swollen Eyes

To prevent having to call your vet with the concern, "my dog's eyes are swollen" you can take certain precautions. Regular checkups, which will include a basic ocular exam, are an essential part of pet parenting. Conjunctivitis and injury due to foreign objects are often preventable. You can assist your dog in reducing the risk of contracting irritation to the eye due to foreign objects and conjunctivitis by minimizing their exposure to airborne irritants such as chemicals, observing your dog while they play outside to reduce risk of injury to the eye, and maintaining your dog’s updated vaccinations. 

If the swollen eyes are caused by glaucoma, there may not be much that can be done in order to prevent the condition. However, you can maintain your dog’s health by making sure your companion has annual veterinarian visits and in between, reporting any abnormal symptoms you may observe. Early diagnosis of glaucoma will allow for timely treatment.

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Cost of Swollen Eyes

Treatment of swollen eyes in dogs varies on the condition your dog is diagnosed with. For instance, conjunctivitis can range anywhere from $200 to $1000. Glaucoma can range anywhere from $350 to $3500, depending on your location. Early diagnosis of a health condition is often helpful in reducing more costly treatment.

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Swollen Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bull

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3 months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Stung By Something

Face and eyes swollen eyelids are red and swollen also she keeps pawing at her face and eyes gave her Benadryl and flush her eyes out just in case of debris do I need to bring her to the vet

Sept. 17, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello- It appears that she is having an allergic reaction. If she has any trouble breathing or the itchiness and swelling doesn’t improve by the morning I would recommend getting her to your veterinarian for an appointment. If she develops any respiratory issues I would recommend taking her to an ER immediately otherwise you can wait and see if the Benadryl is helping her symptoms. Based on the severity of her reaction she will likely need to see a vet in the morning for potential steroids. I hope she feels better soon.

Sept. 17, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Six Years

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Squinting Swollen Eyes

My pit has swollen watery eyes and he is squinting as well. I have an appointment with him on Monday, and im curious if his vet needs to see him sooner

Sept. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is not feeling well. I always worry more when dogs are squinting and their eyes seem painful. It is possible that he has corneal ulcers or some other problem that requires more urgent care. I do think that I would probably have him seen before Monday, if there is a 24-hour or ER Clinic that you could take him to now I would probably do that. Eye problems can get worse quickly, and having an examination and appropriate medication will help to prevent any further problems. I hope that everything goes well for him and he is okay.

Sept. 17, 2020

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Pomsky

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Two Years

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling Just Under The Eye

My dog has some slight swelling directly underneath her left eye. She does not seem bothered by it at all (in fact, she’s okay fighting with her sister right now, rolling around on the floor). She is not blinking, does not seem to be squinting, her eye is not red and there is no discharge. There is no swelling above her eye. I left the dogs at home alone for about 90 minutes while we had dinner. Her eye was not swollen before. I suspect she got stung by something. Should I take her to an emergency vet or wait until the morning to see if the swelling has gone down on it’s own?

Sept. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question from your description, it does not sound like her eye is actually affected at all, just her eyelid underneath her eye. If that continues to be the case, and she is opening her I normally there is no redness or discharge, and she is not pawing at it or rubbing it on the furniture or carpet, then you should be fine to monitor it. If it was an insect bite, it will likely resolve overnight and be normal tomorrow morning. If it is still swollen tomorrow morning, then it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Sept. 12, 2020

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Chiweenie

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Three Years

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Swollen Eye

My dogs right eye seems to be swollen. When I try to look at it he squeezes it shut. We are traveling from my sisters house in Charleston to DC and are 5 hours from home. What should I do?

Sept. 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. When dogs squint or shut their eyes, it is important to have them seen as soon as possible by a veterinarian. He may have an infection, or a corneal ulcer, and those can worsen quickly. If you are able to have him seen in the morning by your veterinarian, that may be okay, unless he is crying, rubbing at the eye, or there is any discharge. If any of those things are occurring, it would be best to find a 24 hour clinic near you. If he seems comfortable as long as you aren't trying to look at it, you should be okay to have him seen right away in the morning when you are home. I hope that all goes well for him!

Sept. 9, 2020

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Labrador/Pitbull

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Six Years

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Swollen Eyes, Low Energy, Sleeping Too Much, Feels Hot

We think our black lab/pitbull got into a bag of snacks and ate it all, and that may be the reason he is feeling this way. He has been showing these symptoms since yesterday. He will still go for walks with us but hasn’t really been eating or drinking water.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without knowing what the snacks were, it is hard for me to say if they are causing these signs. If he is not eating or drinking, he probably does have a GI upset, and if he is lethargic and not feeling good it would probably be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, get more information on what he may have eaten, and see if there are any toxicities or ill effects that need to be treated. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 7, 2020

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George

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Boxer

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eye, Itching

Boxer dog one eye is swollen almost shut. This happen all of a sudden he is already on meds for allergies, now this! Seems really red at corner and eyelid area swollen I gave him 25 mg of benadryl 5 hrs ago did not really help alot but he is 64.5 lbs so may need to go to 2 of the 25 mg tablets. Dr. Callum Turner DVM that has gave great advice on here I have seen. Can you tell me if I should keep trying benadryl or what I can do. Times are hard now because of COVID-19 pandemic and be great if there is home remedy I could try or should I be running back to his vet like immediately! He has no other apparent symptoms

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Denzu

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eyes

My dog is suffering from diabetes and is on insulin for more than an year and also he is loosing his vision due to cataract. From the past one week his eyes has been swollen. when fist we saw we informed the veterinarian and he gave medicine and within a day he got recovered but now the same problem is aroused. I don't trust the doctors at all. They are minting money and too I am saying because his condition got worsened just because of doctors so I always check on internet.

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Penelope

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Yorkshire Terrier

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

“Cherry” Eye
“Cherry” Eye Swollen Eyelid

My dog has a “cherry” coming out of her eye which the vet said is her tear duct that popped out because of a possible injury. (She has not got injured in anyway that I know of. It just came out from one day to the next.) They did blood tests and said it was just that and they could surgically remove or tuck back in but there is no say if it will pop back out in the future if tucked in. It has been about 5 months now since this happened and she now has swelling on her eyelid. I try to message around her eye as vet recommended but it doesn’t much seem to have any benefits. The cherry is only getting worse and it hurts me to see her like this. The operation is over $400 which is pricey to me for just a tuck and no guaranty of it not coming back out. Has anyone else’s dog had this experience? I need to find a new vet that can help, it hurts me to see her like that even though she seems to not be in any pain.

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Leroy

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Boxer Mix

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6 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eye

My dog has a swollen eye. The white part of one eye is swollen but not the pupil. No change in food, treats or interaction. Have yet to visit the vet. Is this just an infection or something more serious. Looked as if the white part was swollen on just one side of the eye almost bulging out a little over the pupil. Advice???

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Cupcake

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Chihuahua

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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Swollen

My client has a dog who was hit in the eye by another one of his dogs. She had a black eye at first but then it has become swollen. I have part a cold and warm compress, there is no redness in the eye and no discharge, she only has trouble opening the eye or keeping it open

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