Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs
Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs

Conjunctivitis is a relatively common eye condition characterized by redness, irritation, or discharge in one or both eyes. It can affect dogs of any breed or age. While allergic conjunctivitis in dogs is not usually a significant ailment in and of itself, it may represent symptoms of a more serious underlying condition, or it may cause pain or complications such as eye injury if left untreated. We’ll go over what you need to know about allergic conjunctivitis in dogs, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What is Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva, like the lining of the mouth and nose, is a mucous membrane. This membrane, which is made up of epithelial cells that secrete mucus, covers the eyeball and lines the eyelids.

In the inner corner of the eye, dogs have a third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, which is likewise covered by the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva of the eyelids is not visible in a healthy dog and is a pale, pink color. Conjunctivitis causes the conjunctival membranes to turn red and puffy.

Allergic Conjunctivitis in Dogs and Cats

Cloudy, yellow, or greenish discharge from the eyes, a lot of blinking or squinting, and redness and swelling around the eyes are all symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs and cats. Clear, white, or brown discharge in cats is more likely to be caused by allergies or a small amount of material in the eye.

Allergies usually affect both eyes. However, this is not always the case. Other symptoms include itching, hair loss around the eyes, discharge from the nose, sneezing, and coughing.

The term “pink eye” is more commonly used. This is, in reality, a kind of conjunctivitis in humans. The illness can be caused by a variety of factors, including germs, the herpes virus, or allergies.

Any breed of dog or cat can develop allergic conjunctivitis. All breeds that are prone to allergies are also prone to allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is most common in young people, but it can affect anyone at any age.

The following are common contributors to this allergic condition:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Dust
  • Food intolerance
  • Mold and dust in the home

Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs Symptoms

Allergic conjunctivitis in dogs manifests itself in a variety of symptoms. The following are typical indications and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs:

  • Both eyes are red.
  • Itching and burning of the eye as well as the surrounding tissues.
  • Watery discharge, frequently accompanied by severe discomfort in strong sunshine (photophobia).
  • The conjunctiva itself may become highly puffy and appear pale purple, impairing visual clarity.

An allergic reaction to the eyelids can also cause swelling of the loose tissues of the lid and drooping of the eyelid. When the lids cannot open due to extreme swelling, the gap between the upper and lower lids becomes slit-like.

It should be noted that blurred vision or corneal haze necessitates an immediate referral to an eye doctor.

Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs include:

  • Year-round (due to dust mites, animal dander, indoor and outdoor mold spores, and occasionally foods or food additives).
  • Seasonal due to allergens in the air, such as pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds. Pollen allergy symptoms change with the weather, easing in damp weather and worsening on hot, windy days or after thunderstorms. Some airborne mold spores have seasonal changes, which may produce seasonal symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs.

What Causes Allergic Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

Conjunctivitis is not usually caused by a bacterial infection, contrary to popular assumption. Even though germs are often involved, allergic conjunctivitis in dogs is usually caused by another illness in the first place. Among the possible causes of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs are:

  • Dry eye (reduced tear production in the eye) Is a common cause of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs.
  • Allergies – Skin allergies are a prevalent issue in dogs, resulting in itchy skin, ears, and eyes. Dust, pollen, and grass are all common allergies.
  • Irritating or scratching the eye, such as smoke, strong wind, dust, sand, or even a lump in/around the eye.
  • A foreign body, such as a grass seed or dirt particle lodged beneath the third eyelid.
  • Corneal ulcer (a wound on the front of the eye) – ulcers are frequently caused by cat scratching, foreign materials, or collapsing.
  • Entropion and ectropion of the eyelids.
  • Ectopic cilia, trichiasis, and distichia of the eyelashes
  • Glaucoma (increased pressure inside the eyeball).
  • Uveitis (inflammation inside the eyeball).

How Do Dogs Get Allergic Conjunctivitis?

The most common causes of allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye) in dogs are bacterial and viral diseases. Allergic conjunctivitis (seasonal and not contagious), viral conjunctivitis (caused by a virus that spreads quickly), and bacterial conjunctivitis are the three most common causes of conjunctivitis in dogs (infections caused by bacteria can spread to other dogs easily).

Other potential causes include loosened grass seed, grit, or other things in the eye, an injury to the eye, bites in the eye area, eye disorders such as glaucoma, parasites such as eye worms, dust mites, pollen, mildew, medications or cosmetics, and perfumes, Sean explains.

Is Conjunctivitis Contagious in Dogs?

If your dog’s conjunctivitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, it has the potential to spread from one dog to another. Although allergic conjunctivitis is unlikely to spread to humans or other dogs in most situations, it is still vital to see your veterinarian about your dog’s symptoms and how cautious you should be until the illness clears up.

“To protect yourself and other dogs, take precautions such as washing your hands after treating your dog’s eye and keeping your dog’s bedding and living area as clean as possible,” Sean says.

How is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed?

The major purpose of diagnosis is to discover whether conjunctivitis is a primary or secondary problem, if there is extra disease or injury to the eye, if the condition is allergic, or if it includes the eye’s tissues (sclera). Many of these disorders must be distinguished by a thorough and extensive ocular examination.

A thorough examination of the surrounding eye structures (eyelids, eyelashes, tear ducts, third eyelid, etc.), tear production tests (Schirmer tear production tests), corneal stain tests to ensure that the cornea is not damaged, and intraocular pressure measurement to rule out glaucoma or uveitis will be performed.

Nasolacrimal duct flushing, bacterial culture and sensitivity tests, conjunctival cytology or biopsy, and allergy testing are some of the other tests and treatments that may be performed.

Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs Treatment

Most of the time, allergic conjunctivitis is treated with eyedrops or ointments that contain corticosteroids, like dexamethasone or hydrocortisone. Your veterinarian may first use a yellow dye called fluorescein to check for a scratch on the cornea (called a corneal ulcer). If the eye is scratched, medicine without steroids is administered since steroids can cause the scratch to heal slowly.

Oral corticosteroids and/or antihistamines could also help, especially for pets with skin problems. Topical antihistamines that you can buy over the counter may help, especially for dogs that are itching, but you should talk to your vet to find out which one is best for your pet. However, the therapeutic efficacy of topical mast cell stabilizers and antihistamines varies.

Once or twice a day, a sterile saline eye wash can be used to clean the eyes and eliminate any accumulated discharge. By washing dirt, dust, debris, and pollen away from the eyes, saline may also alleviate surface irritation.

It is critical to avoid eye damage since pets with allergic conjunctivitis may scratch their eyes with their paws or rub their faces on furniture. This rubbing can cause a corneal ulcer, as well as pain and damage to the eye. Your vet may suggest that you use an Elizabethan collar to stop your dog from scratching.

This is especially true for short-faced species like pugs and Shih-Tzus, which are prone to eye damage. Following treatment, your veterinarian may recommend a recheck evaluation. If your pet’s symptoms do not improve, your veterinarian may refer him or her to a veterinary dermatologist or ophthalmologist for a work-up or suggest allergen testing to establish what your pet is allergic to. This is often designated for dogs or cats who have severe allergies.


Allergies cause allergic conjunctivitis, so the best method to avoid it in the future is to eliminate whatever your pet is allergic to from your home, if feasible. Even if you can identify the allergen to which they are responding and remove or deal with it, you may not be able to eliminate it. If dust is proven to be a contributing factor, reduce household dust and consider utilizing an air purifier to filter out dust.

To determine the cause of the inflammation, allergic skin testing or dietary trials may be required. In some circumstances, you may be able to establish whether your dog or cat is reacting to anything as simple as dust or a food ingredient.

In many cases, allergic conjunctivitis cannot be cured, but it may be treated and your pet made more comfortable with the help of your veterinarian (and potentially a few home remedies).

What Dog Allergy Eye Drops Are Available?

Allergy eye drops for dogs are used to treat allergic conjunctivitis symptoms. Steroid eye medications alleviate redness and swelling, making your dog feel more at ease. They can also keep your dog’s eyes from responding to allergens. The signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis in dogs can also be treated with eye drops that contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Eye infections in dogs with allergies can be treated with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops that treat both the infection and the swelling.

Lubricants and fluids for the eyes can protect your dog’s eyes from irritants and may help lessen allergic reactions. Lubricants can help dogs with eye allergies who have dry or sticky eyes. But you should always talk to your vet before making your own remedies or buying over-the-counter eye drops for your dog.

Recovery of Allergic Conjunctivitis In Dogs

In the case of allergies or fungal infections, recovery time is usually only a few days. However, some viral or bacterial infections might take up to three weeks to resolve. The eyedrops or antibiotics listed will help your dog feel better right away, but it may take a few tries to find the best way to put the drops in the eye.

Staying cool and encouraging your dog to relax will assist. If you are unsure, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper technique before leaving the clinic. To avoid reinfection, keep your dog’s eyes clean by cleaning away any discharge with a sterile sponge or cloth and changing bedding frequently. If you have other pets, keep your dog separate from them for a few days to allow the virus to be removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does allergic conjunctivitis last in dogs?

Bacterial conjunctivitis normally clears up in 5 to 7 days with proper treatment. Full recovery from viral conjunctivitis can take up to 3 to 4 weeks. Allergic conjunctivitis will last until the underlying allergen is identified and removed.

Will allergic conjunctivitis go away itself in dogs?

Call your veterinarian at the first sign of any obvious eye problem. Conjunctivitis can permanently damage the cornea if it becomes severe. This is not a problem that will resolve on its own, so medical treatment is required.

How do you fix allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis treatment options include:

  1. Apply a cold compress.
  2. manufactured tears
  3. Antihistamine eye drops or oral drugs (over-the-counter or prescription).
  4. Immunotherapy for allergies.

What happens if conjunctivitis goes untreated in dogs?

If your dog has conjunctivitis, even if the symptoms are mild, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis can cause permanent eye damage if left untreated.

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