Why are my dog's eyes red?

Why are my dog's eyes red?

Dogs' eyes are sensitive and vulnerable to injuries, irritation, diseases, and allergies.

Red or swollen eyes may result from minor and quickly remedied at-home causes, but a vet must first examine your pet as some may have serious underlying issues and need extra care.

Read further on the causes of your dog's red eye, symptoms, treatments, and possible home remedies.

What is wrong with my dog's eyes?

A dog's eyes are active body organs that constantly adjust themselves to transmit things the dog sees to its brain.

When blood vessels infiltrate small, irritated, or general parts of the dog's eye, it becomes decolorized.

Red eyes can signify underlying health conditions like distemper, tumours, hyperthyroidism, or some types of cancer. 

Many dog breeds are more prone to red, irritated eyes and related health issues.

These breeds include:

  • Flat-faced breeds such as Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Pugs
  • Breeds with long hair all over their eyes like Maltese, Poodles, and Sheepdogs
  • Species with droopy, loose skin, such as Newfoundlands and Bloodhounds

Bloodshot eyes result from many causes ranging from minor to major serious issues that need immediate medical attention.

Older dogs are often culprits of red eye issues, mainly if they have pre-existing problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Look out for one or two of the following common red eye signs and symptoms:

  • Pawing at the eye
  • Redness of the eye or around the eye
  • Blinking and squinting
  • Swelling around eye
  • Thick, smelly discharge
  • Holding eye closed
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery discharge or tearing

Ensure to continuously monitor your dog for redness on the whites or in its eyes. If you notice any slight discolorations, it is time to visit a vet's office for a checkup.

Why is the white in my dog's eye red?

For several reasons, a dog's eye can swell, be red, or weepy. Let us look at some of the common causes:

Eye injury or Trauma

Eye irritations can result from dirt, grass, hair, sticks, accidents during playtime with other pets, perfumes, cleaning sprays, and some small objects. 

These foreign objects cause inflammation and influx of blood vessels making the dog's eye red from irritation. Minor irritations can be home remedied, but major ones need a vet's care.


  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness
  • Visible foreign object in the eye
  • Tears or watery discharge
  • Itchy eyes (dog pawing or rubbing their face excessively)
  • Excessive tearing


Allergens make a dog's eyes itchy, swollen, and sometimes watery.

Environmental irritants and allergens (such as pollen, dirt, cigarette smoke, mould, and dust) irritate dogs' eyes, especially in the spring and summer. Food allergies also cause bloodshot eyes in dogs.

When these irritants get into the dog's eye, they affect the mucous membrane surrounding the eye, inflaming and making them red and watery.


  • Redness around the outside of the eye
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Itchiness and discomfort
  • Licking and scratching
  • Tears or watery discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Hair loss

Its symptoms can be remedied at home, but a vet may make medical prescriptions or vouchers for a special diet.


Also called pink eye, conjunctivitis is in two forms: infectious and non-infectious.

The infectious type is caused by a bacterial infection or a virus, while the non-infectious form is caused by injuries, congenital conditions, irritations, or allergies. 

Conjunctivitis is swelling of the mucous membrane that coats inner eyelids and white of the eye margins, occasionally affecting one eye but quickly spreading to the other.

It is primarily secondary to a dog's underlying medical problems like tick-borne or parasitic infection.


  • Redness or inflammation of the eyelid lining (conjunctiva)
  • Itchy eyes
  • Eye discharge (sticky, yellow, or greenish)
  • Excessive squinting or blinking
  • Excessive blinking or squinting

Home remedies can be administered to relieve discomfort but should be treated by a vet to avoid further eye damage or illnesses.


It is characterised by fluid build-up that increases pressure in the eye and, if ignored, causes blindness. Glaucoma is a grave cause of eye redness.

Increased intraocular pressure may be sudden or develop for several weeks or even years. In addition, it affects one eye and proceeds to the next with time. The initially affected eye becomes larger than the unaffected one.


  • Receding eyeballs
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Red, painful and inflamed eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Squinting
  • Poor vision
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Bluish discolouration of the cornea
  • Dilated and unresponsive pupils

Acute glaucoma is very painful for dogs and must be attended to immediately by a vet.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a common word for keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). If your dog's tear film is deficient in its water component, they develop a dry eye as tear film serves nutrients and moisture to the outer part of its eyes. 

This means their tear ducts don't produce enough tears. Eventually, the cornea dries out, making the eye eligible for corneal ulcers. A dry eye is red, very painful, and majorly inherited.

Dog breeds such as Schnauzers, American Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos are more prone to this condition than other breeds. 


  • Eye redness and inflammation
  • Itchy, painful eyes
  • Thick discharge
  • Mucus or eye gunk

Only veterinarians can handle dry eye and if you see any of the above symptoms, consult a vet immediately.


This is a painful inflammation of the middle eye layers collectively called the uvea. Severe inflammation makes blood vessels influx onto the eye or blood collection in the eye's interiors.

It's a secondary issue including tick-borne disease, inflammatory conditions, Trauma, cataracts, immune-based diseases, and cancers within the eye.


  • Intense redness and swelling of the eye
  • Severe pain
  • Excessive tearing
  • Constricted, uneven pupils
  • Light sensitivity
  • Discharge
  • Cloudy or dull eye

There are some uveitis home remedies for some symptoms, but treatment will need a vet to determine the primary condition that caused it.

Corneal Abrasion or Ulcer

The cornea allows light in the eye; when injured, the eye becomes red and painful and may be infected. 

Corneal ulceration results from severe eye inflammation caused when the dog's body releases blood vessels containing essential nutrients to the outer eye margins to help relieve the ulcer.

It is typically caused by secondary bacterial infections, untreated dry eye, dust irritations, and eyelash or eyelid disorders.


  • Red and inflamed eye
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive rubbing
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased playfulness
  • Squinting or keeping eyes closed
  • Discharge from the eye 

Keep monitoring your dog for these signs, and if any, ensure examination by a vet immediately. If ignored, the ulcer may rapture, causing excessive pain and blindness.

Can you buy dog eye drops over the counter?

At the first signs of a dog's itchy or red eyes, wait a few hours for it to tone down, but if symptoms persist, check their eyes and around the eyelids closely for anything suspicious.

Minor irritations may be relieved by cleaning around the eyelids using lukewarm wet paper towels. If the red eyes don't clear up, contact your vet. 

Provide the vet with the dog's medical history, recent activity details, and daily habits. The vet will conduct an eye exam and maybe draw the dog's blood to confirm the presence of any underlying issues.

  • An ophthalmologic exam involves using an ophthalmoscope to look inside the dog's eye and see its structure.
  • Schirmer tear test to see if there is proper lubrication in the dog's eyes using small paper strips held in the lower eyelid.
  • Internal pressure test using a tonometer
  • Fluorescein stain test that helps the vet see invisible eye scratches using a harmless dye.

Specific treatments include:

Eye Injury/ Trauma Treatment:

Do an overall checkup on the dog's eye for foreign objects, and if any, use a saline solution, lukewarm water, or eye wash to flush it out.

An Elizabethan collar may come in handy to stop the dog's pawing and to scratch. If you doubt removing the object, take the dog to your vet.

Allergies Treatment:

If your dog's red eye cause is determined as allergies, the vet will likely consent to an over-the-counter antihistamine or topical medications.

Removing offending items from the dog's reach, and changing the dog's diet, preferably an elimination diet, is also recommended.

Keep the dog's food bowl and beddings clean, and ensure to wipe them down after outdoor walks or wash them up with allergy shampoos.

Conjunctivitis Treatment:

This condition is vital, and vets know the best treatments your dog must have and the pink eye type so strive to contact a vet immediately at the first signs.

Vets may prescribe inflammation medications, antifungals, antibiotics, or antibacterial for bacterial infections. In case of tear duct problems, the vet may need to remove the blockage through surgery.

Glaucoma Treatment:

For glaucoma signs, contact a vet immediately, and if it is in its early stages, laser surgery or topical medicines may be effective.

Surgery may help relieve fluid pressure and build-up pain in more complex situations. The vet may also administer pain medication and eye drops.

Dry Eye Treatment:

The typical prescription by vets for this condition is antibiotic eye drops or immunosuppressants to help keep the eyes moist. Regular cleaning of the dog's eyes is also key.

Dry eye mostly clears up on its own, but it can be chronic and demand lifelong treatments. 

Uveitis Treatment:

Vets will prescribe topical eye medication, oral medications, and antibiotic ointments for the dog's eyes. Although rare, the dog's eye may be removed.

Corneal Abrasion Treatment:

Minor cases will see the vet prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments and recommend Elizabeth's collar to prevent scratching and pawing at the eye. 

In significant cases, the dog may need a corneal transplant or eye surgery and wear a soft contact lens over the cornea until it heals.

How can I treat my dog's red eye at home?

Home remedies are great alternatives to a dog's eye therapy. However, critical issues need a vet's intervention and advanced treatments.

  1. Saline Eye Drops: These drops flush out irritants from a dog's eye safely and offer a period of relief. Squirt the solution directly into the dog's eye at a distance to avoid scratching the already delicate eye tissues.
  2. E-Collar: This doesn't treat the problem but prevents further damage to the eye from the dog's constant pawing. It should ideally reach two inches past the dog's nose for effectiveness.
  3. Cold Compress: It provides relief from inflammation. Apply the compress to the dog's closed eye using a wet washcloth on the itchy, red eye for comfort for several minutes many times a day.
  4. Artificial Tears: They have safe lubricants that help provide moisture for a dog's dry eye. They are not made with medications for treating causative problems but offer temporary relief and should be applied sparingly.

Sometimes, there can be nothing to be done to prevent a dog's red eye, but there is a number:

  • Keep the hair around the eyes of long-haired breeds clean and trimmed
  • Clean the dog's eye gunk effectively using a soft cloth
  • Keep a lookout for your dog's excessive pawing and scratching
  • Keep your home dog-proof to avoid eye injuries
  • Ensure regular veterinary checkups

Final Thought

A dog's red eye, swelling, or excessive pawing in the face is not normal, and immediate examination by a vet is needed.

Mild problems may easily be fixed, but severe conditions may require multiple medications and tests. Ensure always to pay keen attention to your pup's eyes.

Dogs are exquisite, and so is their eye and overall health!