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Safe and Effective Administration of Eye Medication for Your Dog


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Administering eye medication to your dog is sometimes necessary if they have an infection or inflammation of the eye. Unfortunately, your dog may not cooperate with this necessity. With him having no idea why you would want to drop ointment or liquid into his already uncomfortable eye, and with no way of explaining it to him, a little patience and technique on your part will be required to successfully instill medication into your dog's eye! There are several steps you can take to ensure effective and safe administration of eye medication for your pet.

Keep Clean

Because the eye is a delicate structure that can be easily subject to injury, and because you want to avoid contamination of the eye area, efforts to maintain a sterile site when administering eye medication is important. Always wash your hands before and after eye medication is administered, and ensure that the applicator tip does not come in contact with your dog's eye during the procedure. Also, make sure the applicator tip, and the cap do not touch any other surfaces and become contaminated--put the cap on a clean cloth when the applicator is being used. If the tip does become contaminated, wipe it off with a clean cloth, and wash with sterile solution. Prior to administering medication, wipe your dog's eye area with a damp, clean cloth to remove debris and discharge.

Stay Still

You will need to position your dog so that you can instill eye medication, and so that your dog will not move during the procedure. Moving can result in misplaced medication and possibly the applicator touching the eye surface and become contaminated, or worse, causing injury to the eye. Sometimes, it is useful to have an assistant help hold your dog while administering eye medication, if someone is available. 

To position your dog and administer eye medication:

  • Tilt your pet's head so they are looking up by placing your hand under their chin to support it.
  • With the same hand, pull their eyelid down with your finger to form a pouch.
  • Rest your other hand on their brow or top of their head to stabilize it.
  • With the hand on the head, usually your dominant hand, hold the medication tube, away from the eye, about 1 inch, to prevent the applicator touching the eye.
  • Dispense ointment along the inner edge of the lower eyelid, or dispense drops into the corner of the eye.
  • If using ointment, when you have finished dispensing, rotate the tube to break off the flow of ointment before removing the applicator, to prevent pulling the dispensed bead of ointment away when you remove the dispenser. Allow your pet to blink and gently massage the closed eyelid to distribute the medication over the entire eyeball.
  • If instilling drops, keep the head tilted up for a moment, to allow drops to distribute.
  • If required, repeat the procedure for the other eye.

If your dog struggles or moves during the application procedure, there are several steps that may help immobilize and relax him to allow easier eye medication application.

  • Place the dog's hindquarters against a barrier, so they can not back away, like a wall or large piece of furniture.
  • Engage a helper to put their arm around the chest and shoulders and minimize movement.
  • Wrap a small dog firmly with a towel so they feel secure and cannot move their legs as easily
  • Reward your dog after a successful application with lots of praise and treats. Do not reward them if you could not successfully instill medication as this will reinforce uncooperative behavior.

Other things to remember:

  • Prevent your dog from scratching or rubbing their eye after medication is instilled.
  • If you are giving more than one type of medication, wait at least 5 minutes between applications, so that one medication is not flushed out by another.
  • Read instructions on medication thoroughly, so that you understand special instructions and dosage prior to use.
  • Keep eye medicine out of reach of children and pets.
  • If you miss a dose, give it as soon as you remember, unless it is close to the next dose’s scheduled time, then wait, and administered at the next scheduled time.

Be Patient

Although giving eye medication to your dog can be daunting at first, a little practice and patience with your dog will result in successful treatment. Make sure you are not rushed, and are able to take the time to position your dog. Have a planned technique to support your dog's head in the correct position and administer the eye drops so that all the medication ends up in the eye, and no contamination occurs. A helper can be very useful, as sometimes two hands are just not enough. Keep your dog secure, and keep the area sterile. Remember to praise your dog for cooperative behavior so successive treatment will be easier as you get more practice, and your dog knows what is expected.

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