Canine Conjunctivitis

by Nancy Boland

Conjunctivitis, also known as red eye or pink eye, refers to inflammation of the membrane called the conjunctiva that lines the eyelids and covers the outer surface of the eyeballs. It is extremely sensitive and has a rich blood supply; when the conjunctiva becomes irritated, it gets red and hurts.

Symptoms and causes

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye disorders in dogs. Symptoms include swollen sticky eyelids, excessive tearing, pawing at the eyes, squinting and pronounced eye redness. It can happen in one or both eyes and often is accompanied by abnormal discharge.

Many things can contribute to conjunctivitis, including trauma, allergies, foreign bodies, infection, cancer and immune system problems.

Conjunctivitis dogs

Treatment and Prognosis

The goals of treating conjunctivitis are to resolve the underlying cause, eliminate any bacterial, viral or fungal infection and eliminate ocular pain associated with the condition. A thorough ophthalmic examination must be done, including assessment of all conjunctival surfaces, taking samples for bacterial and fungal cultures, examination of conjunctival cells microscopically for infection.

In most cases, topical, eye drops will resolve conjunctivitis caused by bacterial infection in dogs. These drops also sooth and wash over the eyes, promoting healing. Topical steroid eye drops may be added to the protocol to reduce inflammation.

If eye drops are not effective and a more chronic condition develops, further investigation into the cause of the condition is necessary. Normally, this will include referral to a specialized veterinary ophthalmologist for advanced diagnostic testing. If a foreign object or parasitic infection is found, surgical removal may be necessary. If a virus is detected, anti-viral eye drops may be prescribed.

Dogs experiencing chronic conjunctivitis due to seasonal allergies can be given prescription eye drops, especially during the seasons in which the condition is worse.

Prognosis

While chronic conjunctivitis can be frustrating for owners and dogs alike, it usually can be treated effectively once the cause is determined. In most cases, it is best to consult with a veterinarian who has advanced training in ophthalmology in order to resolve chronic eye conditions.

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