Can Dogs Get Pink Eye? Exploring Conjunctivitis in Dogs
Category_Dog Knowledge

Can Dogs Get Pink Eye? Exploring Conjunctivitis in Dogs

by Wes Chang
You've probably heard of pink eye before, and you may have even suffered from it yourself or know someone who has dealt with the problem. It's a relatively common ailment among humans, but did you know that your dog can suffer from pink eye as well? Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is diagnosed in our canine companions quite often. Conjunctivitis gets its nickname of "pink eye" thanks to the redness and inflammation seen in an affected dog's eyes. It's no fun for your pup to deal with, but can the problem be easily treated? Even more importantly, is it possible for a dog to transmit conjunctivitis to other pets in the house, or to human pet parents?

What Is Pink Eye?

The word "conjunctivitis" means inflammation of the conjunctiva. Conjunctiva is a term used to describe the various tissues lining your dog's eyes, eyelids, and the third eyelid (known medically as the nictitating membrane). Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva becomes irritated and inflamed. Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing pink eye than others. Brachycephalic breeds — those with bulging, watery eyes and short noses like the pug, Boston terrier, and Pekingese — are at a high risk. So are dogs that suffer from allergies or are prone to skin infections.

Causes of Pink Eye

It's important to understand that pink eye can either be a symptom of another disease, or it can occur entirely on its own. If conjunctivitis occurs on its own, it's called a primary condition. When it occurs as a result of other diseases or health problems, such as dry eye or a viral infection, it's considered a secondary condition. The most common causes of conjunctivitis are bacterial or viral in nature. For instance, a bacteria may be introduced to your dog's eye while they're exploring outdoors, or a viral infection like canine distemper may cause conjunctivitis as a secondary symptom. There are many other possible causes of conjunctivitis, including:
  • Tear duct inflammation
  • Foreign bodies in the eye, like dust, dirt, or debris
  • Allergies (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Ulcerative keratitis (inflamed cornea)
  • Glaucoma
  • Tumors or lesions of the eye or eyelid
  • Trauma to the eye
  • Entropion (abnormal eyelids)
  • Distichia (abnormal eyelashes)
Dogs can experience pink eye in one or both eyes. It most often occurs in both at the same time, but certain causes like foreign objects in the eye, dry eye, or inflammation of the tear duct can lead to pink eye in only one eye.

Can Dogs Get Pink Eye From Humans, or Vice Versa?

Pink eye is spread rather easily between people. But can your dog get pink eye if you have conjunctivitis? Can your dog transmit it to you? In both cases, yes, although it isn't particularly common. Bacterial conjunctivitis is the most easily spread, since all it takes is physical contact to transmit the bacteria from your dog to you, or vice versa. If you have pink eye, avoid touching your eyes and then handling your dog. If your dog has pink eye, don't touch him or her and then touch any part of your own body before washing your hands thoroughly. Basic hygiene precautions will make the risk of transmitting conjunctivitis between dogs and humans very minimal.

Is Pink Eye Contagious to Other Pets?

Yes, dogs can transmit pink eye to other dogs or to other pets like cats. Non-contagious cases of conjunctivitis, like those caused by foreign material in the eye, allergies, or an eye injury, are nothing to worry about since there is no way of your dog transmitting the conjunctivitis to another animal. Contagious conjunctivitis, on the other hand, can be transmitted easily through physical contact. Once again, bacterial conjunctivitis is the usual culprit, although viral conjunctivitis can sometimes be transmitted from dog to dog as well. If your dog has a contagious form of pink eye, it's important to take precautions so that he or she doesn't transmit the illness to another pet. Physical contact should be restricted, and a dog with conjunctivitis should be kept away from kennels, dog parks, and other areas where pets gather.

The Signs of Pink Eye

One good thing about pink eye is that it isn't difficult for a dog parent to know when their canine companion is suffering from it. Physically, conjunctivitis presents itself in obvious ways.

Pink Eye Symptoms

The most common symptoms of pink eye in dogs include:
  • Inflamed, red eyes and eyelids
  • Frequent squinting or excessive blinking
  • Eye discharge (either watery, mucous-like, or yellow or green pus-like discharge)
  • Pawing at the eyes
  • Watery eyes or increased tear production
If your dog's conjunctivitis is a secondary condition, other symptoms related to the underlying cause could be seen as well. Sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and intense scratching are a few possibilities.

What If Pink Eye Isn't Treated?

If a dog suffering from pink eye isn't treated, they'll experience severe eye pain, potentially leading to complete blindness. An untreated case of bacterial conjunctivitis could cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body, and a viral infection like canine distemper that's causing secondary conjunctivitis could lead to serious illness or even death. If you suspect that your pooch has pink eye, set up an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

Diagnosing and Treating Pink Eye

cute beagle in the grass

Luckily, diagnosing pink eye in dogs isn't particularly difficult, and treatment has a high success rate.

What to Do If You Think Your Dog Has Pink Eye

Have you noticed redness, inflammation, or swelling around your dog's eyes? Is your pup pawing at his or her eyes and obviously uncomfortable? Set up an appointment to have your pet examined at the vet's office.

Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will start by determining if the case of conjunctivitis is primary, or if it's secondary to some other health concern. A full eye exam is the first order of business. A stain test may be administered, which involves using eye drops to look for damage on the cornea, and eye pressure may be measured to test for conditions like glaucoma. Schirmer tear strips may be used to measure your dog's tear production. The course of treatment for your dog's case of pink eye will depend on what is causing it. For instance, conjunctivitis caused by bacterial infection will probably be treated with antibiotic eye drops or a topical ointment. It's likely that anti-inflammatory medications will be prescribed to lessen the inflammation and redness around your dog's eyes and eyelids. If a foreign body of some kind is irritating your dog's eyes, it will need to be removed. If a tumor or cyst is the cause, surgery may be necessary.

Preventing Pink Eye at Home

While it's not always possible to prevent pink eye in dogs, you can take steps to make it less likely. First, supervise your dog closely to avoid eye trauma and prevent foreign bodies from entering the eyes. Don't let Fido wander off outdoors, where he or she could be scratched by a wild animal or get dirt or dust in the eyes. Keep your dog up-to-date on essential vaccinations, since canine distemper is one of the possible viral causes of conjunctivitis. If your pooch suffers from allergies, talk to your veterinarian about allergy medications that can help your pet feel more comfortable. Do your best to keep your canine companion away from materials like pollen or mold that may trigger allergies and possibly lead to a case of pink eye.

Protect Your Pup From Pink Eye

Pink eye is a relatively common ailment among our canine companions, and it's definitely uncomfortable for our beloved fur kids. Thankfully, most cases of pink eye can be easily resolved with the help of your veterinarian. That's why it's important to let your vet know as soon as you suspect your dog might have pink eye.

Let's Stay Connected