Why Do Dogs Need Eye Drops?
Eye drops are used for dogs to treat the same type of eye conditions humans develop. Common eye conditions dogs suffer from that might need treatment include:
- Eye infections
- Conjuntivitis (pink eye)
Dog owners should check their pet’s eyes once a week to ensure eye problems are caught early.
Types and Signs of Eye Problems in Dogs
While dogs typically suffer from allergies of the skin (atopic dermatitis) or gastrointestinal tract, eye allergies (allergic conjunctivitis) can also be a problem for your dog.
Allergic conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the transparent protective layer that covers the inner eyelid and white of the eye.
Common triggers of allergic conjunctivitis include:
- Environmental pollutants
- Certain foods
Dogs who develop atopic dermatitis are more likely to suffer from eye allergies.
Signs and symptoms of eye allergies in dogs typically occur in both eyes and include:
- Redness/bloodshot eyes
- Pawing at the face
- Frequent squinting or blinking
Eye infections in dogs can be uncomfortable and painful. Eye infections can be caused by several environmental pathogens, including:
- Bacteria, viruses, fungi
- Foreign matter or objects that get into the eye
- Eye injury or trauma
- Scratched cornea
Signs and symptoms of eye infection for dogs include:
- Swelling around the eye
- Watery discharge
- Light sensitivity
- Holding eyes closed
- Excessive blinking or squinting
- Pawing or rubbing the eye
Eye infections share similar signs and symptoms with other more serious eye conditions, including glaucoma and structural problems.
It is essential to seek medical attention if your dog shows eye discomfort.
Similar to humans, dogs can develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is the imbalance of fluid production and drainage in the eye. It leads to an increase in intraocular pressure and is a medical emergency.
Early signs of glaucoma are subtle and may be missed by pet owners. It is essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if your dog expresses the following symptoms:
- Sluggish or dilated pupils
- Bulging or swelling of the eye
- Redness covering the whites of the eye
- Cloudy cornea
- Eye pain
- Watery discharge
- Light sensitivity
Tear Gland Issues
When the eye’s tear ducts or glands are not working correctly, it can lead to excessively watery or dry eyes.
Some dogs may be born with tear gland issues caused by infection, trauma, or a foreign object in the eye. Common types of tear duct issues include:
- Cherry eye (swollen red mass next to the lower eyelid)
- Inflammation of the tear sac (clogging or obstruction of the tear duct)
- Dry eye (inadequate tear production)
Signs and symptoms of issues with tear ducts and glands include:
- Excessive watering of the eyes
- Reddish-colored tear staining on the face
- Cloudy discharge from the eyes or nose
- Dry eye discomfort
A cataract is when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, blocking light from getting in. Cataracts are more common in older dogs and may also be inherited. Other causes include diabetes, trauma, and inflammation.
Signs and symptoms of cataracts in dogs include:
- Cloudy pupils
- Change in eye color
- Difficulty seeing
- Reluctance to climb or jump
- Pawing or scratching the eyes
- Bumping into furniture
- Not recognizing familiar people
- Watery eyes
Types of Eye Drops for Dogs
There are two types of eye drops for dogs: medicated and unmedicated.
A veterinarian prescribes medicated eye drops to treat more severe eye conditions such as infection, glaucoma, and allergies.
Types of medicated eye drops for dogs include:
- Antibiotic eye drops (for bacterial infections, including pink eye)
- Steroid eye drops (reduces swelling and inflammation)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops (prevent and treat inflammation)
- Combined eye drops (includes both antibiotic and steroid)
- Glaucoma eye drops (help reduce intraocular pressure)
- Eye drops to stimulate tear production in dry eyes (cyclosporine, tacrolimus)
Non-medicated eye drops for dogs can be purchased over the counter (OTC) without needing a prescription. They are typically used to rinse out a dog’s eyes to remove debris and soothe irritated eyes.
Types of non-medicated eye drops for dogs include saline eye drops, which rinse debris and keep the eyes hydrated.
While OTC eye drops can be effective for keeping your dog comfortable, it’s important to seek medical attention if they show continued signs and symptoms of a lingering eye condition.
Are Human Eye Drops Safe for Dogs?
Medication developed for humans should never be given to dogs, including eye drops. This is because dogs' eyes are different than human eyes.
They have a nictitating membrane, also called a third eye, that offers extra protection from environmental risk factors.
Consult a veterinarian before giving your pet any medication.
5 Best Eye Drops for Dogs
1. Best Saline: Burt’s Bees Eye Wash with Saline Solution for Dogs
Burt’s Bees Eye Wash with Saline Solution for Dogs is a highly rated option for gently flushing debris from your dog’s eyes.
It is made with all-natural ingredients, including saline. It comes in a four ounce bottle and is suitable for all dogs and puppies.
2. Best for Infections: Tera Pet Eye Health Ointment Eye Drops for Dogs
Tera Pet Eye Health Ointment Eye Drops for Dogs contain terramycin, which helps treat eye infections in dogs and other pets. It comes in a 0.125-oz tube and is easy to use.
If you suspect your dog has an eye infection, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian before administering any eye drops or medications.
3. Best Lubricating: I-DROP VET PLUS Lubricating Eye Drops for Pets
I-DROP VET PLUS lubricating eye drops are a safe OTC product to help moisturize and relieve seasonal allergies and dry eyes.
It comes in a 10-ml eye drop bottle.
4. Best for Allergies: Nutri-Vet Eye Rinse for Dogs
Nutri-Vet Eye Rinse for Dogs uses boric acid to help soothe irritated eyes and prevent tear stains.
It comes in a four-ounce eye drop bottle.
5. Best for Cataracts: Can-C Dog Eye Drops
Can-C Dog Eye Drops utilize n-acetylcarnosine to normalize cataract impairment in dogs. It also helps to relieve allergies, dry eyes, and scratch and wound care.
It’s sold in 5ml-eye drop bottles.
Note: N-acetylcarnosine is a controversial ingredient that isn't FDA approved for treatment of canine cataracts and has very limited studies on efficacy. This is also why it's not approved for human consumption.
How to Apply Dog Eye Drops
Applying eye drops correctly in your dog’s eyes is important for safety and effectiveness.
Read the application instructions on the medication beforehand. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.
Essential steps to administering eye drops for dogs include:
- Wash your hands.
- Keep the medication bottle tip clean and away from any surface, including your dog’s eyes.
- Gently clean away debris using a warm washcloth.
- Hold the bottle with your thumb and index finger.
- Pull down the lower eyelid, careful not to touch the eye directly.
- Squeeze the prescribed number of eye drops directly on the center of your dog’s eyeball.
- Release your dog’s head, allowing them to blink and spread the medication over the eye.
Precautions to consider when giving your dog eye drops include risk of contamination, infection, and eye injury.
To reduce these risks, it is advised to:
- Make sure your hands are clean
- Don’t allow the tip of the bottle to touch any surface
- Don’t touch your dog’s eyeball
- Don’t use eye drops designed for humans
Choosing the Right Eye Drops for Your Dog
If you suspect your dog needs eye drops, check with a veterinarian to rule out an underlying eye condition.
Other tips for choosing the right eye drops for your dog include:
- Buying products from a trusted source
- Reading reviews before purchasing
- Making sure the eye drops are unopened, and packaging has not been tampered with
- Only using eye drops as directed by the manufacturer and your dog’s medical team
- Purchasing eye drops that treat the specific eye condition your dog has
When are Prescription Eye Drops Necessary?
A prescription for a medicated eye drop is necessary if your dog has an eye condition or disease that needs to be treated with medication.
Eye conditions that typically need medicated eye drops include:
- Eye infection
- Clogged tear duct
- Severe allergies
How to Keep Your Dog’s Eyes Healthy
Keeping an eye on your dog’s health is key to catching medical issues early and ensuring your dog lives a long, stress-free life.
Tips for keeping your dog’s eyes healthy include:
- Check your dog’s eyes weekly for redness, discharge, and excessive tearing
- Frequently clean the eyes using a warm washcloth
- Keep the eyes clear of mucus
- Trim hair away from the eyes
- Apply eye lubricant before a bath or trips to the groomer
- Consider using goggles designed for active dogs
- Watch for signs of sensitivity to light, discoloration, behavioral changes, and clouding of the eye
- If you notice any changes to your dog’s health, consult your vet right away
Eye drops for dogs may be necessary to treat certain eye conditions, including allergies, eye infections, glaucoma, and cataracts. Pet owners should not use medications designed for humans on their dogs, including eye drops.
While more severe eye conditions require a prescribed medicated eye drop, over-the-counter saline eye drops can wash out debris, clean wounds, and relieve irritated eyes.
Contact your pet's veterinarian if you notice excessive tearing, redness, swelling, or behavioral changes, as it could signify a severe eye condition.
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