Swollen Eyes in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog's eyes swollen shut?

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog's eyes swollen shut?

What are Swollen Eyes?

A pet parent who calls the veterinary clinic and says "my dog's eyes are swollen shut" will be asked to bring their pup 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:

Why Swollen Eyes Occurs in Dogs

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (swelling of the lining of the eyes) 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:

There are different types of conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is usually seasonal and not contagious to other dogs. It is typically 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 from. 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 too, 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 the 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 ocular pain such as squinting or eye rubbing. 

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:

The vet will need to check your dog's eyes to see if there is a laceration or ulcer. 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 rubbing 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 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. They 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

"My dog's eyes are swollen." To prevent having to call your vet with this concern, 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 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.

Swollen eyes can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has swollen eyes or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

(Want more info on pet health insurance? Check out our guide to pet insurance 101.)

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Cost of Swollen Eyes

Treatment of swollen eyes in dogs varies depending on the condition your dog is diagnosed with. For instance, treatment of conjunctivitis can range anywhere from $100 to $600. Glaucoma can range anywhere from $350 to $3500, depending on your location. Early diagnosis of a health condition is often helpful in reducing the likelihood of more costly treatment.

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Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

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Swollen Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Blue nose pit bull

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Six Years

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14 found helpful

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14 found helpful

Has Symptoms

White Part Of Her Eyes Are Swollen

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??

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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14 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Sometimes what you are describing can be caused by an allergic reaction of some type, especially if it is both eyes. Having her seen by your veterinarian would be a good idea, as she may need some medicated drops. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Goldendoodle

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Eight Weeks

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2 found helpful

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2 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Redness

She has a red/swollen eye its sensitives and she has restless sleep.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If her eye is red and swollen, and it is not getting better, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. She may have an infection, or a problem with her eyelid or eye, or something in her eye. They will be able to look more closely and see what's going on, and get any treatment that she needs. I hope all goes well for her.

Oct. 3, 2020

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