If you've ever had a pimple — and if you're over 12, it's virtually inevitable — you know that you aren't supposed to pop it. Now, the number of people who have never popped a zit is probably negligible, but doing so can cause more bacteria to go into the skin and make the situation worse. If your dog develops a sty on her eye, it is somewhat analogous to a pimple. However, while you don't head to the dermatologist every time you have a breakout, it is imperative that you take your dog to the vet for a definite diagnosis if you suspect she has a sty.
Chalazion and hordeolum
Your dog's growth may be either a chalazion or a hordeolum. The latter is vet-speak for a sty. A chalazion is inflamed, but not infected, while a sty is usually caused by a staph infection, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Chalazions are much like pimples, as they are oil gland enlargements. Sties tend toward infected eyelash follicles, but a chalazion can turn into a sty.
The chalazion causes discomfort, along with eyelid swelling. A sty starts out at the eyelid's edge and is red and tender. After a few days, a chalazion no longer hurts the dog, and what remains is painless swelling that may continue to grow for a week or so. The dog may have a red or gray spot on the underside of his eyelid.
A sty eventually becomes a round, swollen area, but the entire eyelid may puff up. To the dog, it feels like there's a foreign item in her eye. The sty remains painful, so take care when trying to examine your dog. A spot, much like the head of a pimple, will develop at the edge of the eyelid.
This spot, which is an abscess, will rupture within a few days, and the sty is effectively finished. When the sty ruptures, try cleaning away the discharge with saline solution.
Other eyelid growths
While chalazion and sties are more irritating than harmful to your pet, that's not the case with some other eyelid growths that you may mistake for the more benign versions. Some of these growths are malignant tumors, and the even worse news is that their appearance may mean cancer elsewhere in your dog's body has metastasized to the eyelid, as per Pet Helpful. Other growths, such as a squamous papilloma, are benign. Because of the possibility of a tumor, it is crucial to take your dog to the vet if the growth doesn't disappear within a week.
Apply hot compresses
Both chalazions and sties may disappear or come to a head if hot compresses are applied to them several times daily. It's much the same principle as drawing a pimple to a head, but as with a pimple, you must not squeeze the growth when a head appears. The chalazion should go away on its own, and the sty will rupture spontaneously. Your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics for your dog if a sty is diagnosed, since the growth is caused by an infection.
The vet may also apply topical antibiotics to the sty. If the sty does not rupture, your vet can drain it. If the chalazion does not go away after days of hot compress therapy, the vet may either drain it or inject it with a steroid medication.
In the meantime
If your dog is irritated by the growth and scratching or rubbing it, put an Elizabethan collar on her until she goes to the vet. She won't like the "cone of shame," but it will prevent her from further harming her eye.