Blepharitis in Dogs

Blepharitis in dogs is a condition that causes the outer tissues of the eye to become inflamed. Conjunctivitis can sometimes occur as a secondary condition to blepharitis. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatments of blepharitis in dogs.

Causes of Canine Blepharitis

Blepharitis in dogs can have a number of causes. Congenital deformations of the eye can cause blepharitis. Some dogs may be born with congenital deformities that make them unable to completely close their eyes, or that cause the eyelids to fold abnormally inward or outward. Other dogs may experience inward growth of the eyelids.

Any congenital condition that causes irritation of the eye can lead to blepharitis. Dogs who feel eye irritation are more likely to rub at the eyes, causing the surrounding tissue to swell, and increasing their chances of secondary infection. Breeds particularly prone to congenital eye deformities include:

  • Shih Tzu
  • Pug
  • English Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Poodle

Any brachycephalic breed, with a flattened snout, may be more vulnerable to congenital eye problems.

Allergies, cancers, injuries and infections can cause blepharitis in dogs with no congenital deformities. Allergies to food, fleas, medications and environmental irritants have been implicated in canine blepharitis, as have autoimmune conditions such as lupus. Bacterial and viral infections of the eye, injuries to the eye, and tumors of the eye can cause swelling around the eye. Sometimes, blepharitis strikes dogs with no apparent cause; vets refer to this as idiopathic blepharitis.

Symptoms of Blepharitis in Dogs

Symptoms of canine blepharitis can include:

  • Scaling or flaking of skin around the eye
  • Itchiness in the skin around the eye
  • Hair loss
  • Unusual, watery or thick eye discharge
  • Changes in skin color around the eye
  • Inflammation of the eyelids, cornea and conjunctiva
  • Papules
  • Pustules

Diagnosing Blepharitis in Dogs

Because blepharitis in dogs can have so many causes, your vet will need as much information about your dog's medical history as you can give him. Let your dog know about any eye problems, injuries, allergies or infections your dog has suffered recently. Your vet will also need a thorough physical examination, as well as blood tests and urinalysis, to determine the cause of your dog's blepharitis. Determining the cause of blepharitis can be a complicated process, especially if allergies are to blame.

Treating Blepharitis in Dogs

Your dog's blepharitis will depend on the cause of his disease. In the case of congenital eye deformities, your vet will probably be able to surgically repair the dysfunction. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, and antifungal drugs can help clear up fungal infections of the eye. Viral infections may be harder to treat, but your vet can offer supportive care as your dog recovers on his own.

If your dog suffers from an allergy that is causing his blepharitis, then you may need to change his diet and even make adjustments to eliminate allergens from his environment. Common canine allergens can include dust, pollen, mold and cigarette smoke. As your dog recovers from blepharitis, he'll need to wear an Elizabethan collar in order to keep him from injuring the eye further by rubbing or scratching at it.

Most dogs recover from blepharitis, but your dog's prognosis will depend largely on the cause of his disease. Follow your vet's dietary instructions and administer all medication as directed.