Eye Symptoms in Dogs

Eye symptoms in dogs will depend on what is causing the problem and can range from mild symptoms to serious health issues that must be addressed by a vet as soon as possible. Recognizing the problems and addressing them early can help prevent further health complications and relieve irritating eye symptoms in dogs.

Eye Symptoms in Dogs

Signs that your dog may be experiencing painful or irritating eye problems include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Discharge, which is often discolored or pus-like
  • Frequent scratching or pawing at the face and head
  • Rubbing eyes or face against the ground or furniture
  • Blinking or squinting
  • Cloudy cornea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Redness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Vision loss
  • Sensitivity to light

Causes of Eye Symptoms in Dogs

Glaucoma: This disease is common in dogs and must be caught early in order to avoid permanent damage to the eye. Glaucoma occurs when fluid in the eye builds up and causes pressure in the eyeball. Within 48 hours, this pressure can cause vision loss and permanent damage. Symptoms of glaucoma usually appear in only one eye initially, and may cause squinting and blinking, a dilated pupil, clouded cornea or bloodshot eyes. These signs must be addressed immediately by a veterinarian.

Cataracts: When the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, cataracts may be to blame. Cataracts are often an inherited disease and can affect young and older dogs, developing rapidly or over a long period of time in one or both eyes. Dogs with diabetes mellitus are also more susceptible to cataracts. Once a dog has developed cataracts, surgery is often recommended and can be very successful. 

Debris or injury: If a foreign object or debris is lodged in your dog's eye there should be mild symptoms such as watery discharge, pawing or itching at the eye and squinting. Often gently washing your dog's eye with a canine eye wash can release the debris and relieve symptoms. If cleaning the eye does not help after a few hours, take the dog to the vet to rule out any serious underlying causes of eye symptoms.  If your dog's eye has been scratched or injured, bring him to the veterinarian in order to prevent further injury or inflammation of the eye. Your dog may need a cone collar to stop him from further injuring the eye.

Conjunctivitis: Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a common eye problem. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria or a virus, allergies, an inflamed tear sac, herpes, Lyme disease and other illnesses. Redness or a pink coloring of the eye, discharge and pawing at the eye are common symptoms, and after a proper diagnosis your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic and/or eye drops to relieve symptoms and clear up in the infection.

Preventing Eye Problems

Some breeds of dog are more likely to develop eye problems than others, including the Cocker Spaniel, Boston Terrier and German Shepherd, to name only a few. Reputable breeders should have a Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) certification, which certifies that their dogs are free of inherited eye disorders. Genetic testing may also be done for some inherited eye diseases.

Know how to inspect and, if necessary, clean your dog's eyes to check for infection or injury.