When Your Dog Needs Antibiotic with Steroid Eye Medication

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When your dog's eye becomes infected by bacteria, he needs antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection. Because bacterial infection can also cause inflammation in the eye, which is painful and can be damaging to delicate eye structures, an anti inflammatory such as a steroid may also be necessary. Several topical, commercial eye medications contain both antibiotics and steroids for this reason.

If your dog has an inflammation of the eye, such as conjunctivitis (inflammation of the thin membranes on the surface of the eye) or pannus (inflammation and infection of the sclera tissues of the eye), your veterinarian may prescribe medication containing both antibiotics and steroids.

So now, how do you convince your dog to let you put topical eye medication in his already sensitive and painful eyes? Is there anything, as a pet owner, you should be concerned about before administering medication with both antibiotic and steroids to your dog? Read on for more information on how to safely administer eye medication and what you should be concerned about.

Why Both Antibiotics and Steroids?

Administering topical eye medication to your dog or cat can be a bit of a challenge, as nobody, including your pet, likes having things dropped into their eye, especially if their eye is hurting them. A little patience and technique will be helpful in getting the job done successfully.

To administer eye drops or ointment:

  • Wash your hands before and after to prevent contamination to and from your pet. 
  • Tilt your pet's head so they are looking up by placing your hand under their chin
  • With the same hand, pull their eyelid down with your finger
  • Rest your other hand on their brow or top of their head
  • With the hand on the head, hold the medication tube, about 1 inch from the eyeball
  • Dispense ointment along the inner edge of the lower eyelid or dispense drops into the corner of the eye
  • With ointment, when you have finished dispensing, rotate the tube to break off the flow of ointment before removing, 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.
  • With drops, keep the head tilted up for a moment for drops to distribute.
  • If required, repeat the procedure for the other eye.

By holding the medication dispenser away from the eye, you prevent the risk that it will touch and contaminate or injure the eye if your pet suddenly moves. Avoid touching the tip of the medication dispenser to anything that could contaminate it.

If your dog is uncooperative and refuses to hold still for the procedure, you can try wrapping them in a towel or engage an assistant to immobilize them. Sometimes, just one person simply does not have enough hands to hold a distressed pet, position their head, and safely dispense drops!

Concerns and Precautions

There are some side effects pet owners should be aware of when using eye medication with antibiotic and steroids, and situations where this medication is not appropriate.

Steroidal medication should not be used if your dog has corneal ulcers. Also, do not use prescription eye medication on other pets without first consulting with your veterinarian.  Antibiotic/steroid eye medication is not appropriate for fungal or viral infections; for example, cats often get an eye infection from herpes virus and steroids can complicate this condition rather than resolve it. So if your kitty is showing similar symptoms as your dog, do not assume you can give Fido's eye dedication to Fluffy! 

Your dog may experience stinging in the eye when the medication is administered-- if they react violently you should contact your veterinarian as another condition may be present that is causing discomfort. Increased thirst and urination due to the steroid content of eye medication sometimes occurs. Less frequently, gastrointestinal symptoms are also seen. When administering a new medication to your dog, or cat, always be on the lookout for signs of allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face or itching. Discontinue use and consult your veterinarian if you suspect an allergic reaction. In large doses, this medication can be toxic, and you should not allow your pet to ingest it.

Eye medications with both antibiotics and steroids are not uncommon, as bacterial infections of the eye require both antibiotics to fight bacterial infection, and steroids to reduce inflammation of the eye, which is painful and can be damaging to your pet’s eye. Although administering eye medication can be challenging, keeping the area clean and uncontaminated and positioning your pet for easy instillation of medication, will be helpful in ensuring medication is effective in resolving the condition. A little practice and patience may be required on the part of both you and your pet! If you require help, sometimes an extra set of hands makes all the difference.