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Conjunctivitis in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Conjunctivitis is usually diagnosed based on physical exam findings. Your veterinarian will probably perform the following tests:

  • Fluorescein staining to detect superficial abrasions or ulcers on the cornea
  • Schirmer tear test to determine if your dog is producing sufficient tears
  • Thorough exam of the conjunctiva, external eyelids and the third eyelid

    In some situations, additional tests may be recommended, such as:

  • Bacterial cultures
  • Tests for distemper virus
  • Tonometry, which measures eye pressure (glaucoma test)
  • Conjunctival scrapings to evaluate the cells of the conjunctiva
  • Conjunctival biopsy (rarely performed)
  • Certain blood tests if the animal is also ill


    Treatment involves symptomatic therapy for the conjunctivitis and specific therapy for any underlying causes.

  • The eye may be thoroughly irrigated to remove any irritating substance.
  • Foreign material should be removed.
  • Tear production abnormalities are treated with medication.
  • Eyelid infections and abnormalities may require either medication or surgery.
  • Since secondary bacterial infections are a common concern, antibacterial eye ointment is frequently prescribed.
  • In many cases, anti-inflammatory eye medications are also indicated.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If you suspect that your dog has foreign matter in the eye, flushing with sterile eye irrigation solution can help dislodge the offending material. If flushing the eye is not possible or effective, prompt examination by a veterinarian is recommended.

    Once diagnosed and started on medications, the eyes should be checked frequently for improvement. Most cases of conjunctivitis improve within 24 to 48 hours after medication is begun. If you notice that your dog is not improving, consult your veterinarian.

    Unfortunately, many causes of conjunctivitis are not preventable, but veterinary examination and treatment usually resolves the disease rapidly and maintains your dog's eyes and vision. To prevent conjunctivitis due to foreign matter in the eye, try to prevent exposure to potentially damaging items. Be very careful when bathing your dog to prevent shampoo from getting in the eyes.

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