How to treat pink eye in dogs

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is common in humans, but dogs can also contract it. Know the symptoms, and how it can be treated.

Pink eye is something mothers of young children are familiar with, especially as it spreads quickly through schools. But dog parents should know that this condition, also called conjunctivitis, is common in canines as well.

While the signature “red eye” known by medical professionals as conjunctival hyperemia looks the same in both humans and dogs, canine conjunctivitis is often stimulated by non-infectious antigens like allergies, while human conjunctivitis is often contagious. However, it can be just as uncomfortable. All you need to do is watch your dog rub his eye along the carpet or couch to understand his discomfort. In this article, we’ll look at common causes, symptoms and integrative treatments for conjunctivitis in dogs – as well as signs to watch for that could signal more serious issues, some of which can lead to blindness if left untreated.

Causes of conjunctivitis

The conjunctiva lines the inside of the eyelids along with the white part of the eye. “It’s made up of non-keratinized squamous epithelium, and an inner layer of connective tissue,” says veterinarian Dr. Cindy Kneebone. She adds that pink eye occurs when the conjunctiva reacts to any insult. “The result is chemosis (swelling and edema), hyperemia, or cellular exudation (secretions from the eye that vary in color from clear to yellow or brown).”

Does your dog have pink eye?

Common symptoms are ocular discharge, a red eye, and swelling of the conjunctiva, also known as conjunctival edema. While conjunctivitis does not typically cause severe pain, it may cause some mild discomfort and secondary itchiness.

It is important to always monitor your dog carefully when he or she is demonstrating any signs of pink eye. “Conjunctivitis can be a secondary finding from a number of systemic illnesses such as leptospirosis, listeria, myeloma, thymoma and many other inflammatory conditions that always have other signs such as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea or jaundice,” says Dr. Kneebone. Additional signs that could indicate a more severe issue include a squinty eye, corneal edema/aqueous flare (cloudy eye) and resistance to touch.

Get prompt treatment

“Your dog will need some treatment to cure/control the conjunctivitis,” says veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Chang, adding that it won’t simply go away on its own. “Any medication should give a rapid response within two to three days, with complete resolution of signs within two weeks,” continues Dr. Kneebone. “Response depends on the cause. Tumors carry a poorer prognosis and many eyes are removed because of growths.”

Integrative remedies are equally as effective as conventional approaches in the treatment of conjunctivitis. “Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis respond well to oral lysine,” says Dr. Kneebone. “Topical isopathic drops are natural antibiotics. Sodium hyaluronate lubricates dry eyes, Euphrasia [eyebright] is a topical herbal antibiotic, and complex homeopathic drops can be used for general red eye and even use the patient’s own serum, which contains healing properties for the eye.” Warm green tea bags or Euphrasia tea bags, both of which contain antioxidants and tannins, can be applied topically to the eye to soothe the irritation.

“Topical nutriceuticals like B complex and amino acids like carnosine help nourish the eye and keep the ocular immunity healthy,” Dr. Kneebone goes on. “Lycium can help moisten the eye and White Chrysanthemum helps reduce redness.” Both can be administered as a tea to be taken orally. Acupuncture is another known means of treating conjunctivitis; the eye is aligned with the liver, heart, and kidneys in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

Conjunctivitis in dogs is often a secondary response to a non-infectious or infectious invader, as opposed to something that is contracted from another dog. With that in mind, it is crucial to treat the primary condition stimulating the pink eye, whether it’s as simple as removing an irritant, preventing dry eye with an irrigation solution, or annihilating the distemper virus with more complex treatment.

Healthy eyes are vital to good vision, so taking care of conjunctivitis as soon as it occurs in your dog is a wise course of action, whatever might be causing it.


Amberly Scott Hindler owns and operates Lux Dog Daycare, Inc. in West Los Angeles, ( She worked in client services at high-traffic veterinary hospitals in Los Angeles for many years after graduating from the University of Southern California. Amberly is the recipient of a Gold Circle Award for Journalists from Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association.