A Guide to Eye Care for Dogs: Understand Your Dog’s Eye Health

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Almost 40 percent of American households include at least one dog. For many people, dogs are an integral part of the family, and their health is important. Of all the issues that could impact a canine, eye problems are the most common.

Some dog eye issues are genetically based, meaning those issues aren’t always avoidable. But many others can be prevented with proper at-home care and a few prevention steps.

If you think your dog has an eye problem, contact your veterinarian right away. Some ocular problems worsen quickly, so getting help is crucial.

8 Common Eye Problems in Dogs

People submit thousands of pet health insurance claims each year for dog eye issues. Some problems are relatively inexpensive, but others can be costly. These are just a few of the most common ocular problems seen in dogs.

1. Cataracts

Just like humans, dogs change with age. The clear lens in front of the eye can turn cloudy, and you may notice that your dog struggles to see in low light. Look into your dog’s eyes, and you may see a white film right in the center of the pupil.

Cataracts in dogs aren’t painful, but pups who can’t see can bump into sharp objects and may get cuts and scratches.

2. Cherry Eye

Tear ducts should stay below your dog’s lids, where you can’t see them. But some dogs develop an unusual tear duct structure, and the gland pops up into the globe of the eye. You may see a little piece of pink tissue in the corner of your dog’s eye.

Some dogs squint or scratch at the tissue, and the eye may seem red or uncomfortable. Surgery can fix the problem.

3. Corneal Ulcers

Dogs can scrape and scratch their eyes as they run, jump, and chase prey. A too-enthusiastic play session could also turn painful if a dog encounters a friend’s teeth or claws. If a scratch gets infected, an ulcer can develop.

Corneal ulcers are painful, and most dogs will squint or keep their injured eye closed. You may also notice excess watery discharge, and your dog may pull away when you lean in to get a closer look.

4. Conjunctivitis

Each blink coats your dog’s eye with helpful tears. That fluid should wash away bacterial and irritating agents. But some dogs develop irritations and infections in the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the front of the eye and the eyelids.

Redness and itching are common in dogs with conjunctivitis. The infection typically clears up quickly with antibiotic drops.

5. Dry Eye

Some dogs don’t produce enough tears to keep their eyes lubricated. Others have eyelid abnormalities that keep them from blinking properly. And still others have protruding eyes that their eyelids can’t cover.

Any or all of these issues could lead to dry eye.

A dog with dry eyes may scratch, and some may rub their eyes on the carpet or your furniture. Lubricating eye drops can help, but some dogs need surgery to correct anatomical problems.

6. Entropion

Eyelashes keep foreign bodies out of your dog’s eyes. But dogs with entropion have lids that curl inward, putting hair in direct contact with sensitive eye structures. Each blink is uncomfortable, and the scraping can damage the eye.

Entropion requires surgery. Doctors remove the ingrown hairs, and they correct the length and placement of the eyelids to ensure your dog’s blinks don’t hurt.

7. Foreign Bodies

Your dog could get almost anything stuck in their eyes, but common culprits include the following:

  • Organic materials like leaves or grass
  • Sand
  • Metal
  • Glass

Your dog may squint, dig at the eye, and tear up. If the item is big enough, you could pluck it out or rinse it away. Otherwise, you’ll need emergency medical care.

8. Glaucoma

Dog breeds including the cocker spaniel, chow, and basset hound often develop glaucoma, but other dogs do too. This condition causes fluid buildup inside the eye, and while it’s painful, it’s also devastating to your dog’s sight.

Symptoms including squinting, excessive tearing, and swelling are all crucial signs of glaucoma. Emergency care, including drops or surgery, can reduce the risk of blindness.

Signs of Eye Problems in Dogs

Every eye condition is different and causes diverse symptoms, but some cause few noticeable changes at all.

These are common issues to look for:

  • Squinting
  • Quick or frequent blinking
  • Excessive tears
  • Pink or red eyes
  • Pawing at the eye or face
  • Cloudy eyes

Don’t use vision loss as a marker. Dogs need to lose at least 80 percent of their vision before they display signs like running into objects or misidentifying the people they love.

What to Do About Eye Problems in Dogs

If you notice eye symptoms, contact your dog’s veterinarian right away. It’s hard for the average person to know if an eye problem is mild, moderate, or severe. A doctor can help you make sense of the changes.

While you wait for an appointment or the doctor to call back, try using an over-the-counter eyewash to remove any irritants or foreign bodies. Your dog might find this step soothing, but if your pup resists, step back and wait to hear from your doctor.

If you can’t get in touch with your doctor and your dog seems intensely painful, head to an animal emergency clinic. Some dog eye issues, including glaucoma, progress quickly and can cause vision loss within days. When in doubt, get care as soon as you can.

Preventing Eye Problems in Dogs

Researchers have identified 29 mutations in dogs leading to eye disease. If your dog has one of these genetic issues, eye problems may appear despite your care and attention. But these steps could help you ensure your dog stays safe and healthy:

Get Regular Medical Care

A veterinarian should perform routine eye exams to check your pup for genetic conditions or other hidden problems. Many dog health issues are hard to detect until they’re harder to treat. An exam could help you catch things early.

If your doctor recommends eye drops, supplements, or protective surgery, listen closely. These steps could help you protect your dog’s vision later, even if they seem unnecessary right now.

Use Protective Eyewear

If your dog is prone to injuries due to breed, genetic issues, or general temperament, consider using eyewear like Doggles. These devices cover the eye’s delicate structure during dangerous activities like hunting or romping with friends.

Some dogs need training to accept these devices, but they can be very helpful in preventing injuries.

Groom Your Dog Regularly

A small study suggests the average man’s beard has more pathogens than a dog’s fur. But even the nicest-looking pup can have eye problems due to dirty fur.

A groomer can wash away irritants, chemicals, and dirt. And long-haired breeds may benefit from snipping fur away from the eyes.

Routine Eye Care for Dogs

Protective dog owners take steps to keep their pets healthy and happy. Including a few eye-specific steps could help you prevent problems down the line.

Start by performing your own at-home dog eye exam. You can do the following:

  • Find a baseline. Take close-up photos of both your dog’s eyes. Keep those snaps handy, so you can compare new symptoms as needed.
  • Check pupils. They should be dark and of the same size.
  • Assess health. Your dog’s eyes should be bright and shiny, with no excess squinting or tears.

About 30 percent of pet owners bathe their dogs every month. If you’re one of them, use this time to look closely at your dog’s eyes for changes.

While your dog is playing, eating, or walking with you, assess vision. Can your dog see clearly? Can your dog follow a moving item (like a ball you throw)? If you notice any changes, talk to your veterinarian right away.

Some dog owners use eye wash and eye drops routinely to keep foreign bodies away and lubricate the eye. If you’re concerned about your dog, ask about these products. And if you’re not sure how to use them, ask the doctor for a demonstration.

These extra steps could be incredibly useful if your dog is genetically or behaviorally prone to eye problems.

4 Products to Protect Your Dog’s Eyes

Dog owners spend an average of $109 on supplies (not food) for their pets. About half of all dog owners say that having a pet is more expensive than they anticipated.

While you’re not required to buy supplies for your dog’s eyes unless your veterinarian tells you to do so, a small expense now could save you money later. These are four products that could help you keep your dog’s eyes bright and clear:

1. Doggles

Dogs love to stick their faces into everything, and sometimes, they press their snouts into dangerous spaces, like thorny bushes. Doggles can help. These products look a little like human goggles, and they offer crucial protection for pups on the go. Buy them online.

2. Eye Wash

A quick rinse after a long walk could help you remove irritants before they scrape and scratch your dog’s eyes. And using eye wash regularly could be recommended by your veterinarian if your dog is prone to some hereditary eye diseases. Buy a version online.

3. Tear Stain Cleanser

Tear stains appear when eye fluids mix with surface dirt. The spots aren’t just unsightly. Sometimes, the stained fur is stiff enough to scrape the eye. A tear stain cleanser keeps the fur soft and pliant. Buy a product like this online.

4. Eye Supplements

A healthy, vitamin-packed diet gives your dog everything needed to keep eyes healthy. Supplements aren’t always necessary, but they may be helpful for some dogs. Versions made with vision in mind may be particularly useful. Find them online.


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  2. Top Eye Problems for Dogs. ASPCA.
  3. Corneal Foreign Bodies in Animals. (March 2020). Merck Veterinary Manual.
  4. Glaucoma in Animals. (March 2020). Merck Veterinary Manual.
  5. Keeping Your Dog’s Eyes Healthy. (February 2022). Animal Wellness.
  6. Canine Eye Health. (November 2013). American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.
  7. The Genetics of Eye Disorders in the Dog. (April 2014). Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.
  8. Men’s Beards Contain More Harmful Bacteria Than Dogs’ Fur, Small Study Suggests. (April 2019). Live Science.
  9. Pet Owners Aren’t Bathing Their Dogs Enough, Survey Finds. (May 2021). Pet Product News.
  10. Structure of the Canine Eye. (August 2004). Whole Dog Journal.
  11. High Visual Acuity Revealed in Dogs. (December 2017). PLOS ONE.

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