Canine Conjunctivitis

Overview

Conjunctivitis is quite a common eye problem for dogs. Conjunctivitis refers to the swelling of the Conjunctiva, which is the tissue that coats the eye and also the lining of the eyelids. Usually the Conjunctiva is moist and glistening with tiny blood vessels running through the semi-lucent tissue. It serves as a defensive barrier for the eye by trapping debris and helping to avoid invasion of viruses and/or bacteria.

Causes
  • Allergies.
  • Bacterial eye infections.
  • Certain parasites of the Conjunctiva or eyelids.
  • Viral infections that affect the eye, such as canine distemper.
  • Disorders of the tear ducts or of tear production.
  • Eyelid infections or abnormalities.
  • Exposure to foreign material such as plant matter, fibres, sand and chemicals.
  • Trauma.
  • Idiopathic, meaning that no cause is ever defined.
  • Corneal diseases.
  • Other illnesses, such as skin diseases, that can affect the eyelids and Conjunctiva.

What to look out for
  • Redness of the eyes.
  • Eye discharge.
  • Squinting or excessive blinking.
  • Swelling of the Conjunctiva.
  • Occasional pawing or rubbing at the eyes.

Treatment involves symptomatic therapy for the Conjunctivitis, and specific therapy for any underlying causes.
  • Foreign material should be removed.
  • The eye may be thoroughly irrigated to remove any irritating substance.
  • Eyelid infections and abnormalities may require either medication or surgery.
  • Since secondary bacterial infections are a common concern, antibacterial eye ointment is frequently prescribed.
  • Tear production abnormalities are treated with medication.
  • In many cases, anti-inflammatory eye medications are also required.

Home Care and Prevention

If you believe that your dog has foreign matter in their eye, flushing with sterile eye irrigation solution can help remove the debris. If flushing the eye is not possible or successful, then prompt examination by a vet would be recommended.

Once diagnosed and started on medications, the eyes should be checked frequently for improvement. Most cases of canine Conjunctivitis improve within 24 to 48 hours after medication has begun. If you notice that your dog has not improved, consult your vet.

Sadly, many causes of canine Conjunctivitis are not avoidable, but veterinary examination and treatment usually resolves the disease rapidly and maintains your dog's eyes and vision. To avoid Conjunctivitis due to foreign matter in your dog’s eye(s), try to avert exposure to potentially damaging items. Also be careful when bathing your dog to avoid getting shampoo in their eyes.