How To Figure Out Why Your Dog’s Eyes Are Irritated And Watery

If your dog develops an irritated, watery eye or eyes, you should be a bit concerned. The eyes are pretty sensitive and necessary, and in most cases, treatment will be required to restore them to good health. Determining what treatment is necessary begins with determining the cause for the eye irritation. Follow these three steps to figure out what's causing your dog's eye symptoms, and how to treat them.

Step 1: Assess for corneal abrasions and other injuries.

A corneal abrasion is essentially a scratch or scrape on the outer surface of the eye. They can occur when dogs play too roughly, accidentally rub against a tree branch, or scratch their eyes too aggressively with their paws. Other injuries that your dog's eye may incur include lacerations (cuts) of the eyelid and punctures of the cornea with sharp items such as thorns.

To look for signs of abrasions and other injuries, you will want to get a close look at your dog's eye. If the eye is open, take a look at the eyeball. If the eye is being held shut, see if the dog will let you gently open the eyelids. Signs of an eye injury include:

  • Presence of a cloudy or white area on the surface of the eye
  • Refusal to open the eye
  • Excessive swelling around the eye, which prevents the dog from opening the eye
  • Blood coming from the eye or the area around it
  • Presence of a cloudy or white scratch-like mark on the surface of the eye
  • Presence of a foreign object, such as a thorn, in the eye

Treatment: Injuries to the eye are considered emergency situations, so call your vet (or an emergency vet if it is after-hours) right away. Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotic creams to prevent the injured eye from becoming infected, and pain relievers can be used to keep the dog comfortable. If the eyelid itself is injured, stitches will likely be required.

Step 2: Look for signs of infection.

If your dog's eye does not appear to be injured, you'll want to look for signs of infection. Dogs can develop both bacterial and viral infections of the eye. They can lead to corneal ulcers and sometimes even blindness if left untreated. Signs of an infection include:

  • White, yellow, or green cloudy discharge from the eye
  • Redness in the membranes surrounding the eye
  • Slight swelling in the eyelids and tissues surrounding the eye
  • Frequent blinking and rubbing at the eyes

Treatment: Call the vet for more info if you think your dog has an eye infection. This is likely not an emergency situation, but your vet will want to see your dog soon, so the proper antibiotics can be prescribed. Your dog may also need to wear a cone around its head to keep it from scratching at the eye and causing abrasions. While you're awaiting your vet appointment, you can soothe your dog's itchiness by gently wiping over the outside of the eye with a cotton ball dipped in saline solution.

Step 3: Consider the possibility of allergies.

If your dog's eyes do not appear to be injured, and do not have the redness, swelling, or cloudy discharge associated with an infection, they may be watering because your dog has allergies. Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to substances in their environment, including pollen, mold spores and chemical residues from cleaning solutions. If your pet has any of the following symptoms in addition to watery eyes, allergies are especially likely:

Treatment: You can initially try treating your dog's allergies at home before contacting a vet, as long as you're confident the eyes are not injured or infected. Vacuum, clean your ducts, and keep the doors closed to remove pollen from the home. Stop using chemical cleaners, and use pet-safe, green cleaners instead. If you have mold or moisture in your home, have it cleaned up. If your dog's symptoms don't subside, your vet can prescribe a medication to keep your dog's allergy symptoms in check.

If your dog's eyes seem irritated, don't just stand by and hope the problem gets better on its own. Whether caused by injury, infection, or allergies, eye problems require treatment to ensure they don't get worse.