Can Dogs Get Styes in Their Eyes?

A stye, or hordeolum, in or around the eye is a painful, irritating condition. Styes are a common type of eye infection in human beings that develop rapidly over a few days’ time. This infection is primarily caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which is spread by direct contact, by inhaling the germ through droplets in the air, and also by touching something that carries the germ.

Staphylococcus aureus, if it gets into the skin, can cause styes as well as abscesses. The result is a contagious, uncomfortable infection that causes a small, pus-filled spot on or near the eyelid. Most styes will improve on their own once they come to a head, and do not always require medical treatment. Some will need a doctor's prescription.

This bacterium can also cause heart valve infections, pneumonia, and bone infections, although skin conditions leading to abscesses are the most common staphylococcus aureus-related infections seen in humans. The stye is a common eye infection among people, but what about dogs?

Can Dogs Get Styes in Their Eyes?

Dogs can develop styes just like humans do, both on the inner and outer side of the eyelid. The upper and lower eyelids are equally susceptible to infection. The inflammation in the glands at the eyelid base gives rise to a stye that can become extremely painful for your dog. The stye is caused by the same bacteria that affects humans but is not typically transmitted the same way. Changes to the immune system and trauma to the eye are often causes for ocular infection in canines. Overgrowth of normal bacteria found in the eye is another reason a stye may quickly appear.

Vets call redness of the eye blepharitis and this term encompasses a few disorders, including puffiness of the eyelid. An inflamed infection of the eyelid is not commonly referred to as a stye when we speak of canines. 

An external stye, called a hordeolum, appears on the edge of the eyelid because of the bacterial infection in the follicle, or root, of the eyelash. This type of stye starts out as a small, red, bump but gradually becomes a pus-filled abscess. The edge of the eyelid becomes swollen and red, and the lid itself is quite painful.

An internal lump is a less common infection that happens when the gland in the central part of the eyelid, referred to as the meibomian gland, becomes infected. This is called a chalazion and is not referred to as a stye. It forms on the inner surface of the eyelid and presses up against the eyeball. From the outside, only swelling appears, but inside, it can cause the sensation of a lump. Usually, the lump continues to grow but there is no pain present.

What Are The Symptoms of a Stye?

A stye (hordeolum) may present with the following symptoms:

  • Inflammation on the inside or outside of the eyelid

  • Eye swelling

  • Redness in the eye

  • Broken abscess with pus

Your veterinarian can determine if your dog has a stye as opposed to other more serious eye ailments, like swelling that can appear on the eye with parasitic or bacterial blepharitis, discoid lupus erythematosus, or squamous cell carcinoma. Because these invasive skin and eyelid diseases can have lasting repercussions like blindness or loss of an eye, any redness or swelling of your companion's eye or lid that persists beyond a day or two should be checked by the vet. 

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Stye?

Chamomile is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. When a stye first appears, you can use a brewed chamomile teabag as a gentle compress. Hold the teabag on your dog's eye for 3 to 5 minutes a few times a day. If your dog resists the application, do not force it. There may be pain and discomfort. If your furry buddy does allow the compress to be used, give them a treat afterward for their patience and willingness to cooperate.

The stye may heal on its own with warm compresses and no further medical treatment. However, consulting the vet for treatment can eliminate the pain your dog experiences and hasten the stye’s disappearance. Additionally, any type of eye irritation that does not resolve in a day or two should be checked to rule out a more serious condition. Your pup's eyesight and comfort level are worth the effort.

At the clinic, your veterinarian may want to do a bacterial culture and will perform an ophthalmic exam to verify the eyelid involvement. They may flush the eye. A prescription for topical antibiotics may be in order and it's possible a systemic antibiotic will be required as well. The condition should clear up in about two weeks.

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