What to Do When Something Is Clearly Wrong With Your Dog’s Eyes

As most dog owners already know, dogs are prone to developing a range of different eye problems. Some are age-related, but others can be brought on by illness, trauma, and other factors. The most important thing is for the eye problem to be identified and examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is because some conditions in dogs can be severe enough that they can result in blindness, or the physical loss of an eye.

Here are nine of the most common eye problems that affect dogs, and what you can do if your canine buddy displays the signs and symptoms of any one.


Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” is an inflammatory condition that affects the conjunctiva (mucous membrane) of the eye. If your dog has conjunctivitis, her eye will appear red and swollen, and the affected eye will have discharge.

Conjunctivitis is not an independently occurring condition; instead, it is usually a symptom of another disease or problem. It can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, allergic reactions, and physical irritation, such as from long eyelashes scratching the eye or dust getting into the eye.

If you think your dog has pink eye, you should take her to the vet as soon as you can, because it could be caused by an infection. The most common treatment for conjunctivitis in dogs includes antibiotic ointment or eye drops.


Cataracts are a common age-related condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded and opaque. They can dramatically reduce a dog’s vision because cataracts prevent light from reaching the back of the eye. When severe enough, they can eliminate the dog’s ability to see out of the affected eye.

Cataracts aren’t painful, and in most cases, a dog can become accustomed to their reduced sight relatively easily. However, surgery is an option if your dog is unable to adjust.


Glaucoma is a painful eye condition that develops due to liquid building up inside the eye, which increases the pressure in the eye. In severe cases, glaucoma causes the dog’s eye to appear enlarged because the liquid is unable to drain like it would in a healthy eye. Early symptoms can include redness, a cloudy cornea, excessive tear production, a visible third eyelid, and a dilated pupil.

If you think your dog has glaucoma, then it is important to get her to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Glaucoma can progress to the point that the dog’s eye may be blinded or even ruptured. Treatment for glaucoma typically involves anti-inflammatory oral and topical medications and drugs designed to help improve the drainage of fluid from the eye.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Of all the eye conditions a dog can have, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is the hardest to identify. In most cases, a dog’s eyes look healthy, yet she is gradually losing her sight. As a result, the most common sign that a dog might have PRA is difficulty seeing in darker environments.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a painless condition and there is no cure for it. But, because the loss of sight usually occurs gradually, a dog will usually adapt well to it.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) is also known as “dry eye” because this is a condition in which the dog’s tear glands do not produce enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. When a dog has KCS, it places her at risk of developing other, more serious eye problems, like corneal ulcers. The most common signs of dry eye in a dog include pain and excessive drainage of mucous from the eyes.

Treatment for keratoconjunctivitis sicca depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, artificial tear solution will help make your pet more comfortable, and cyclosporine is often prescribed to stimulate the tear glands. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to redirect a duct, so saliva can be used to keep the eye lubricated.

Cherry Eye

A dog’s third eyelid rests unseen below the inner corner of the eye when it is healthy. Within the third eyelid is a tear gland that can pop out, giving the dog a cherry-like protrusion in the corner of her eye. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to cherry eye and in such cases, the ligaments that hold it in place weaken, allowing the gland to pop out.

Treatment for cherry eye typically involves surgery to reattach the gland back into position.


Epiphora is another name for excessive tear production. Epiphora is not an independent problem, but rather a symptom of another condition, the most common of which is a blockage in the (lacrimal) tear duct. Signs of this condition include dampness or wetness under the eye, skin irritation, odor, and brown stains under the affected eye.

Treatment for epiphora depends on the cause. When the root cause is treated, this usually clears up. If the lacrimal duct is blocked, then a small instrument is used to flush out the obstruction. If after the flushing, the duct still doesn’t open, then surgery may be required to repair the duct.


Ectropion is a condition where a dog’s lower eyelid droops. It is usually a genetic issue found in breeds with loose skin, like Bassett Hounds, Bloodhounds, Great Danes, St. Bernards, Bullmastiffs, and others, but it can also be caused by a traumatic injury. The drooping eyelids can be accompanied by conjunctivitis and excessive tearing. Dogs with ectropion are higher at risk of developing eye infections.

Ectropion is managed by using eye drops to help reduce the risk of inflammation and infection. In very severe instances, surgery is an option to help reduce the drooping.


Entropion is another genetic eye condition, but it can also be caused by secondary factors. The condition is identified when a portion of the dog’s eyelid is inverted or folded inward. If not fixed, entropion can cause inflammation and injury to the eye, especially in cases where the dog’s eyelashes rub against the cornea.

This can result in corneal ulcers forming or the eye being perforated, both of which can cause scar tissue to build up over the cornea to the point that the dog is rendered blind in the affected eye.

Treatment for entropion depends on the severity of the case and cause. In mild cases, lubricating eye drops can help along with antibiotic ointments (if the eye isn’t ulcerated or perforated). Surgery is another option and in very severe cases, reconstructive face surgery may even be required.

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Author: Giano Panzarella