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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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Swollen Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sebastian
Beagle
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen eyes

Both of my dogs eyes are swollen and slightly pink. He also seems a bit lethargic. He is not showing any other symptoms. Could this be allergies? Should I take him to the vet? What could this be?

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Rue
Mastiff
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Lump
Redness
Swelling

Rue has redness in the corner of her left eye. This has also begun swelling today. It does not seem to irritate her, as she is still very playful. Unsure of what to do. I have some sterile solution which I will be applying to clean the eye. Any other tips to possibly assist with the healing, before taking her to the Veterinarian. Thanks

My Mastiff has the same problem but it doesn't bother her at all, did you figure out what the problem was?

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Bionnie
dauchsand
10
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

none

I have a 10 year old female dauchsand and 3 weeks ago she had a lump above her left eye and now the eye is swollen. The lump got bigger and is now hard.
I have been to my vet 2 times and they say: They don"t know until they do a test and this is expensive...they have drawn fluid from her lump and tested under microscope and said everything looked good.
Please advise or any suggestions.

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Cupcake
Chihuahua
7 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

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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Mushu
Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever
7 Years
Moderate condition
1 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
1611 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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Moose
Pit bull
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Picked up our dogs from boarder and one of the dogs has trauma to her eye. Apparently their collars got hooked together and I believe maybe one dog caught the other with his tooth in the corner of her eye. There is no tear and no scratch to the eyeball or lid. However, it is crusted shut this morning. She is very lethargic and won't get out of bed. I am planning on taking her to the vet but really need to know what to do now.

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Jeev
chihuahua rat terrier mix
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Licking
Sneezing
Tears
Puffy eyes
rubbing eyes
greenish mucus

Does my dog have allergies? Greenish mucus mostly from one eye, sneezing, rubbing eyes with paws every now and then, eyes looks a little puffy. Other than that, he's behaving normally, doesn't seem to be too bothered or in pain. Was at the vet a couple weeks ago and eye exam was good. In the morning he was just sneezing, after coming in from a walk, eyes looked puffier. Any at-home treatments I can try first?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
If there is some greenish mucus it may be indicating an infection, you should wipe away the mucus with a warm damp cloth and flush out the eyes gently with sterile saline, you may apply an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment to the eye and monitor for improvement. If there is no improvement you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Chewy
Morkie
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen eye lid
eye mucus
red eye lid

Medication Used

steroid oinment

Hi,

Both my dogs eyes have been more leaky/mucusy than normal but the one eye has a red swollen lid and under eye. (He is a morkie rescue). We went to the vet last week and they said to use a warm compress twice a day and prescribed an ointment (looks like a steroid cream). So far we are on day 4 of the treatment and I don't see any difference. He is a very sensitive little pup, gets skin rashes sometimes, is a picky eater - so im not sure if its an allergic reaction.....should i try benadryl? or keep at it with the ointment? He is acting normal, eating, going to the bathroom, and doesnt really seem bothered by his eye at all.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
You should continue with the ointment for another few days (minimum of seven) and monitor for improvement, if there was an allergy we would expect both eyes to be affected; whilst it wouldn’t hurt to give Benadryl at 1mg/lb two to three times per day I don’t think it would make any different to the eye and it is also important to do one treatment at a time so you’re sure which treatment was effective. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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