Can Dogs Get Conjunctivitis?

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Many people have experienced the discomfort of conjunctivitis: red, inflamed, itchy eyes, with discharge that dries to a crust while you sleep. It is an annoying, frustrating, and uncomfortable condition.

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of eye tissue that is often referred to in humans as “pink eye” or “red eye.” It is associated with the symptoms of ocular discharge and swelling around the eye. This condition is common amongst people, but what about dogs? Can they develop the same eye inflammation?

Can Dogs Get Conjunctivitis?

YES!

Dogs can develop conjunctivitis, but not for all of the same reasons that people do. Whereas human conjunctivitis tends to be contagious, conjunctivitis in dogs is often a result of allergic reactions. Unfortunately, it’s just as uncomfortable a condition for dogs as it is for people.

Read on to learn more about pink eye and its impact on dog’s and their eyes and check out  Pink Eye in Dogs .

Does My Dog Have Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva tissue lining the eyeball becomes irritated and inflamed. Conjunctiva also line all of a dog’s eyelids, including the third one. The symptoms of conjunctivitis in dogs are discharge from the eye (mucous or water), excessive blinking, redness or swelling around both eyes, and squinting.

Conjunctivitis often affects both eyes, but symptoms may only appear on one eye at a time. Other signs associated with conjunctivitis are sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

What causes conjunctivitis? In dogs, this condition can be caused by any of the following issues:

  • Genetic conditions

  • Eye trauma

  • Eye disorders (glaucoma, ulcerative keratitis, etc.)

  • Dry eye syndrome

  • Viral infections, such as canine distemper virus

  • Allergies, especially seasonal

  • Autoimmune disorders, such as pemphigus

  • Obstructed tear ducts

  • Eyelid abnormalities

  • Eye tumors (a rare condition)

How is conjunctivitis diagnosed in dogs? For veterinarians, the primary purpose is to determine the underlying factor or factors that have caused the situation in the first place. Those factors can range from allergic reactions to ocular damage to disease.

The veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your dog’s eye, including the surrounding eye structures such as the lids, tear ducts, and eyelashes. The exam will be followed up by a tear production test, a corneal stain test to ensure the cornea is undamaged, and an intra-ocular pressure test to look for eye disorders. Additional testing may be required, like allergy testing, biopsies, or visual culture and sensitivity testing.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Conjunctivitis?

Treatment of conjunctivitis is dependent upon what is causing the condition. Options for treatment include oral, systemic, or topical medications. Some of these medications may include anti-inflammatories, such as steroids like prednisolone.


If your dog has a secondary conjunctivitis infection, he may need to take antibiotics along with anti-inflammatory drugs. Conjunctivitis caused by some autoimmune disorders may require therapy for life.

How Is Conjunctivitis Similar in Dogs and Humans?

The biggest similarity between conjunctivitis in dogs and in people is that both canines and humans experience the same uncomfortable symptoms. The red or pink irritated eyes, the watery or thick discharge, and the swollen eyes are miseries that both people and dogs with conjunctivitis commonly share.

Treatment is also similar between both species, with topical and oral medications as the top solutions for overcoming the condition.

How Is Conjunctivitis Different in Dogs and Humans?

The underlying cause of the conjunctivitis is the difference between why dogs can develop this condition and why people can as well.

For human beings, conjunctivitis is usually the result of a viral or bacterial infection that is highly contagious. In dogs, this condition is more rooted in the main areas of genetics, allergies, or autoimmune disorders, and the condition is not generally contagious in dogs.

Case Study

A dog begins to blink excessively, has reddish-colored, teary eyes, with a thicker discharge coming from the corners of the eye. The veterinarian suspects conjunctivitis, but to best treat the condition, the vet needs to perform multiple tests on the dog to determine the underlying cause of the conjunctivitis.

After the tests are performed, and the cause is determined, the vet will decide which kind of treatment --- topical or oral --- is best and for how long the treatment should continue. Within a week, the conjunctivitis has cleared up, and the dog is back to enjoying daily life.