You may have woken up one morning and noticed that your pup's eye was a little swollen and red. Maybe you caught him scratching his face. He may even be visibly stressed and not sit down long enough to let you have a good look. This all could signal that your canine has an eye infection — but dog eye infection treatment can be tricky.
Eye infections always require a vet visit because there are so many different causes. In fact, common so-called infections like conjunctivitis may not even be caused by an actual infection at all. Nonetheless, you have to know the underlying cause in order to cure it.
In the best-case scenario, your pup's eye infection may clear up with a simple home remedy and some time. Unfortunately, that's not the typical case. Most eye infections require medical intervention, whether it's in the form of drops, ointment, or a course of antibiotics. Here's what you need to know about treating your dog's eye infection at home. Can home remedies ever work?
The anatomy of an eye infection
The first thing that typically comes to mind when anyone mentions an eye infection is pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis. This is one of the most common eye infections found in humans and dogs alike and occurs when the conjunctiva tissue of the eye becomes inflamed. This tissue — or more specifically, mucous membrane — covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids.
Dogs may also experience uveitis, an infection of the interior portion of the eye. This is caused by inflammation in the iris and the ciliary body and choroid tissue (which are located behind the iris). Additionally, your pup could have inflammation in the cornea or abnormalities in his eyelids and tear glands.
Overall, inflammation makes the eye appear red and swollen. There may also be discharge that's cloudy, yellow, or greenish. If left untreated, infections could lead to vision loss or spread to other parts of the body.
Identifying the infection's cause
Eye infections and inflammation have a lot of potential causes, which require different dog eye infection treatments. It could be a viral or bacterial infection or an allergic reaction (think: the red, itchy eyes you may get during allergy season). Your dog could also have a tear film deficiency caused by dry eye, an eyelid abnormality, a breed-associated condition like nodular episcleritis (commonly found in Collies and Collie mixes), an eye disorder, or an eye abnormality. Additionally, conjunctivitis can be caused by trauma or irritation to the eye (like a scratch or smoke irritation) or obstructed tear ducts.
Since there are so many causes, an eye infection requires a vet diagnosis. They'll look at whether conjunctivitis is the primary or secondary problem, and the process is similar to that of a human eye exam. Depending on the cause, typical home remedies for dog conjunctivitis may not be suitable. Your pup may need a prescription like antibiotics. If not, you can talk to your vet about the following home remedies.
Dog eyewash, homemade or prescription
One of the simplest home remedies for dog conjunctivitis or another form of eye irritation is a saline solution rinse. While it can't clear an infection on its own, it can help you gently remove discharge from your dog's eye and keep the area clean. It can also treat the underlying issue if your dog's symptoms are caused by dry eyes or irritation from a foreign object (like hair, dust, or pollen).
To try this method, you can get a saline solution from your vet or mix a teaspoon of saltwater in a cup of warm water. After consulting your vet, administer the recommended dose into the corner of your dog's eye. Dip a cotton ball in the solution and wipe the area around the eye to clear away discharge. You can repeat this several times a day to keep your dog's eye clean and free of discharge.
Sooth with a warm compress
Warm compresses aren't a sure-fire dog eye infection remedy, but they do help ease your pup's symptoms and make them more comfortable. In order to use this method, soak a clean cloth in warm water. Ring it out until it's no longer dripping, but still damp. Hold the cloth on your dog's eyes for five minutes.
You can use this method for both eyes, but make sure to either wash the cloth or use a new cloth for subsequent treatments. Using the same cloth on both eyes can cause an infection to spread.
Try herbal remedies
There's not a ton of proven evidence that herbal or homeopathic remedies work as an effective dog eye infection treatment, but you may still want to try an herbal eyewash under the guidance of your vet. According to Natural Dog Health Remedies, you can make an eyewash using non-alcohol herbal tinctures that have anti-inflammatory properties. This includes:
- Red Clover
- St. John's Wort
To make the eye rise, mix 10 drops of herbal tincture and a quarter teaspoon of salt into one cup of filtered or distilled water. Use an eyedropper or pipette to rinse the infected eye two to three times a day.
Vitamins can give a health boost
Vitamins are essential for proper immune system function, but they can also reduce inflammation, which causes the itchy redness in your dog's eye as they heal from their infection. Ask your vet about vitamin C and E supplements. The typical dose is five to 10 mg per pound, but it can vary from dog to dog. Not every pup is a good candidate, so proceed with caution.
Additionally, vitamin A is thought to stimulate corneal healing. Research has shown that, at the very least, it can improve eye function in dogs. After consulting your vet, you may want to switch to fortified dog food or give your pup some treats that have high levels of vitamin A, including fish liver oil, egg yolks, carrots, or sweet potatoes. Be careful to follow recommended dosages to avoid vitamin A toxicity.
Dog eye infection warning
There's not much scientific evidence that homeopathic remedies are effective cures for eye infections in dogs. Some people swear by them, but others see little difference. It's very important to consult your vet because untreated eye infections can spread causing vision loss. Alternatively, a vet has to rule out other medical conditions like glaucoma or cancer, which may present similar symptoms.
If your dog is lethargic, lacks an appetite, has yellow pus or blood oozing from the infected eye, keeps the eye shut, or acquired the infection from trauma, seek a veterinarian's assistance for treatment immediately.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Natural Dog Health Remedies: Dog Pink Eye (Dog Conjunctivitis)
- VCA: Conjunctivitis in Dogs
- American Kennel Club: Dog Eye Infections: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment
- Wag: Clean a Dog's Eye Infection
- National Animal Supplement Council: Vitamin A Deficiency in Dogs
- Journal of Nutritional Science: Antioxidant supplementation increases retinal responses and decreases refractive error changes in dogs