Eye Swelling in Dogs

Eye swelling in dogs can be caused by any number of conditions. Some require simple treatment, while others, if not treated, can leave your dog blind in one or both eyes. Swelling of the eye is a condition that should be seen immediately, preferably by a veterinary ophthalmologist, in order to preserve your dog’s vision. Some of the most critical conditions can progress in a matter of hours, causing permanent vision loss, so time is of the essence. If your dog’s eye or eyes are red, inflamed and appear to have gotten larger, it's time to visit the veterinarian.

Causes of Eye Swelling in Dogs

  • Allergies can cause redness and swelling in the canine eye. Environmental irritants can cause the eye to become inflamed and swollen. Seasonal pollens or chemical irritants in the air may prompt your veterinarian to prescribe antihistamines in order to provide relief for your dog.
  • Blood in the anterior chamber of the eye can cause the eye to swell or develop glaucoma. The bleeding can be caused by inflammation, injury or other conditions.
  • Exophthalmos is an inflammation of the area behind the eye, pushing the eye forward and causing it to protrude from the socket. While the actual eye isn’t swollen, this condition may increase the chances of injury to the eye.
  • Glaucoma is an increase in your dog’s internal eye pressure. This is one of the most serious of conditions, because if the pressure remains high for a period of time, even just a few hours, it can damage the various eye structures and cause a permanent loss of vision. Depending upon the cause of the glaucoma, it can be a life-long disease requiring eyedrops or surgery, or it may be a temporary condition, also requiring drops, but for a shorter period of time.
  • Infection can often cause your dog’s eye to swell. The infection causes irritation, and the eye reacts with inflammation and swelling. Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection and is typically treated with antibiotic drops or ointment.
  • Injury to the eye or the area surrounding the eye can cause it to swell. Injury can cause an increase in internal eye pressure, abrasions to the eye’s surface or cornea or any number of other problems. A general practice veterinarian typically does not have the specialized equipment necessary to perform a complete examination in order to determine the extent of damage, so it would be best to consult with a veterinary ophthalmologist.  
  • Scleritis is a condition where the white of the eye has areas that become swollen and lumpy, red and immovable. Often caused by an underlying parasitic condition such as toxoplasmosis, scleritis usually only affects one eye, but if not treated, can result in the loss of the eye.

No matter the cause, it's important to get your dog to a vet or veterinary ophthalmologist if you notice that his eyes are swollen. Some of the causes of swollen eyes can potentially cause a loss of some, if not all vision. Protecting your dog’s eyesight through proper care and treatment can help him return to a healthy, comfortable quality of life.