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What are Swollen Eyes?

Swollen eyes in dogs may be caused by a variety of factors, most of which require an immediate visit to your veterinarian. While swollen eyes can be caused by allergies or more serious medical conditions, it is important to observe your dog for additional symptoms in order to rule out certain conditions. Swollen eyes may require a 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. Swollen eyes in dogs may be caused by the following:

  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Glaucoma
  • Foreign object

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Why Swollen Eyes Occurs in Dogs


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 is a medical condition where there is an 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. 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. 

Glaucoma can manifest in several ways such as:

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

If the 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

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.

What to do if your Dog is Swollen Eyes

If your dog develops swollen eyes, it is important for him to be assessed and treated immediately. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the medical condition and treat his 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 his 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 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 or trauma due to a foreign object, 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 may be an option your veterinarian may bring up in order to help relieve pain.

Prevention of Swollen Eyes

Swollen eyes caused by conjunctivitis are usually preventable. You can assist your dog in reducing the risk of contracting irritation to the eye due to foreign objects and conjunctivitis by minimizing his exposure to airborne irritants, observing your dog regularly to reduce risk of injury to 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. Maintain your dog’s health by regularly attending your veterinarian and reporting any abnormal symptoms you may observe.

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. The average cost of treating conjunctivitis is $500. Glaucoma can range anywhere from $350 to $3500 depending on your location. The average cost of treating glaucoma in dogs is $900.

Swollen Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My dog has one swollen eye, and cuts around it.
He had fleas so I believe that's why he scratched that area and maybe that's why it's swollen. But his eye is swollen that I noticed he opens it after I get his eye a bit wet. But it has been getting harder to open. I don't believe he has glaucoma.
Is there anything I can use like eye drops for dogs, some home remedies that can help bring the swelling down and also help the cuts ? I don't have a lot of money to take him to a vet so I'm hoping there is something I can do in the meantime in order to at least bring the swelling down until I can afford a trip to the vet ? Thank you, I really want my dog to get better soon.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1397 Recommendations
Possible causes for his condition may be a bacterial infection, a foreign body, or a corneal ulcer. Eye injuries can worsen quite quickly, and should never be ignored or postponed. Without seeing him, there are no over the counter or home remedies that I can recommend, and he really does need to see a veterinarian and be examined. Many veterinarians offer a free first exam that you may be able to use to have Mushi examined.

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