If you notice your pet’s eyes looking red or irritated, you probably will want to know what is causing it. Goldorado Animal Hospital knows it can be hard for pet owners to know when to worry about these things, and we are here to help. Red eyes in dogs is never normal, and it’s always a good idea to call us whenever you notice a problem with your pet’s eyes.

Why Red Eyes in Dogs Happen

There are quite a few things that can contribute to red eyes in dogs. While pulling an all-nighter is not a likely culprit, we do see a varied number of causes from serious to totally benign. 

Causes of eye redness can include:

Irritation — When a pet’s (or person’s) eyes are irritated by wind, chemicals, or allergens, the white part (sclera) can become reddened. This can also happen if the eye becomes dry due to inadequate tear production or increased pressure within the eye itself. 

Conjunctivitis — When the tissues around the eye become infected or otherwise irritated, they often swell. This can cause overall redness around the eye, often accompanied by discharge.

Hyphema/flare — The eye contains two fluid-filled chambers. Sometimes redness in the form of blood or other inflammatory cells will appear inside the eye secondary to trauma or disease. 

Corneal damage — When the cornea (surface of the eye) is damaged, the body often tries to put a band-aid over it. Blood vessels may try to grow to bring healing materials to the damaged area and sometimes a patch of granulation tissue will form over the area.

Nictitating membrane — Dogs (and cats) have a third eyelid, also called the nictitating membrane in the corner of their eye. When the eye is irritated, we often see this eyelid come up to cover it. Occasionally the tear-producing gland that lives on this eyelid will pop up and become visible. This condition is commonly known as cherry eye.

When Red Eyes in Dogs are Worrisome

In the veterinary field we commonly say that eye problems are always a pet emergency. This is because so many ocular issues appear similarly and it can be hard to tell the minor ones from those that can go downhill very quickly. 

The eye is a very sensitive organ. In general we recommend scheduling an appointment ASAP for ocular issues. It is especially important that we see your pet right away if:

  • Your pet is pawing/rubbing at one or both eyes
  • The eye(s) is unable to open fully
  • There is discharge or excessive tearing 
  • The third eyelid is elevated
  • There appears to be swelling
  • Your pet’s vision seems to be affected
  • Your pet appears to be in pain

Eye problems are well known to go from bad to worse in a very short time span. A thorough ophthalmic assessment is needed in order to properly diagnose what is happening so that the appropriate treatment can be started. 

The eyes are the window to the soul, and their care is so important to your pet’s health. Red eyes in dogs aren’t necessarily cause for panic, but quick action to have the problem evaluated is key to keeping your pup happy and comfortable