Evaluation and Diagnosis of a Red Eye in Dogs

Image of a dog with red eyes.

Dogs occasionally develop a red eye. The redness may be in the white of the eye, in the clear part of the eye called the cornea, or within the eyeball. There are many causes of a red eye, but all ocular diseases should always be considered an urgent matter, and be checked immediately by a veterinarian.

Evaluation

A dog owner will typically be asked to describe the pet’s medical history, symptoms, and if there were any pertinent events prior to the development of the red eye, such as injury or illness. The veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on any dog that has a red eye to look for any other abnormalities that may give a hint as to their cause. The veterinarian will then concentrate on the eyes. There are three basic ophthalmic tests: a Schirmer test, tonometry, and fluorescein staining.

A Schirmer test measures tear production. Special paper strips are placed in each eye and it is noted how many millimeters of wetness the tears can form in 60 seconds. Too little tear production is called keratoconjuntivitis sicca (KCS) or "dry eye" is the common name. Tonometry is used to measure the pressure inside the dog’s eyes; increased pressure indicates glaucoma. Fluorescein staining checks for any scratch or interruption of the outside covering of the cornea. A positive stain indicates a corneal ulcer.

There are other tests that may be performed. The veterinarian may swab any pus draining from the dog’s eyes and send it to the laboratory for testing. Lab work, including a chemistry panel, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis may be performed to check for underlying diseases. An ultrasound of an eye may be done to check for a detached retina or masses within the eye or between the eye and the bony eye socket.

Diagnosis

A veterinarian diagnoses the cause of a dog’s red eye by assessing symptoms, medical history, physical examination, and laboratory testing. The most common causes of a red eye are a corneal ulcer, glaucoma, and conjunctivitis.

Corneal ulcers usually result from trauma such as running into a bush, fighting with other pets, or rubbing their eye. Ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics, and checked with fluorescein stain every few days until healed.

Glaucoma can occur in any dog, is sometimes related to other conditions such as cataracts, but is genetic in some breeds. Cocker Spaniels, terriers, Poodles, Basset Hounds, and Beagles are especially prone to this disease. Glaucoma can be very serious, it often leads to blindness. There are topical medications used to reduce the increased pressure.

Conjunctivitis can have many causes. Dry eye causes a conjunctivitis; this is treated with a topical medication that increases the amount of tears produced. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by bacterial infections, viral infections, or other irritants.

There are many other causes of a red eye: uveitis, orbital disease, bleeding disorders, trauma, luxated lens, etc. Your veterinarian can sort through all the possibilities and determine the appropriate treatment.

Sources:

American Kennel Club, Canine Health Foundation. "Canine Eye Health." November 2013.

Barfield Laminack, Elizabeth, DVM; Myrna, Kathern, DVM, MS; Moore, Phillip Anthony, DVM, Diplomate ACVO. “Clinical Approach to Canine Red Eye.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, May/June 2013.

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:30 am

6:00 pm

Tuesday:

7:30 am

6:00 pm

Wednesday:

7:30 am

6:00 pm

Thursday:

7:30 am

6:00 pm

Friday:

7:30 am

6:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00 am

2:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Friendly/knowledgeable staff & doctors, reasonable prices. I drive from west Nashville just to go see them! Worth it."
    Jenny Williams
  • "Been going here for years. Always compassionate and professional."
    Joan Polk
  • "Animal Care Center of Brentwood has provided compassionate, expert care for our cats for over 20 years. I highly recommend Dr. Sullivan and Dr. O'Neill!"
    Tambi Swiney
  • "Awesome Vets! Welcoming receptionists .Great care ."
    Tricia Jones
  • "I am very pleased with the veterinary care received from ACC of Brentwood. They are genuinely concerned about the well being of animals . Their staff is the Best"
    Nick Taras
  • "Amazing folks. They get to know you and your pet and treat you like family. I have never had a better vet!"
    Jackie Dryden
  • "Friendly and very caring staff. I feel confident in their care of our Golden Retriever."
    Cheryl Morris
  • "Great loving care for my sweet fur baby. Always greeted with kindness and smiles."
    Lynne Mullins
  • "We recently moved back to Nashville and sought out Animal Care Center and Dr. O’Neill. Our cat loves the team and we couldn’t be happier with the care. Two months into treatment and our cat is healing better then she had in a year with our previous vet. I couldn’t recommend Animal Care Center more."
    Kate Rogers