My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: June 8, 2022
My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes

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In most cases, any appearance of bleeding is cause for concern. When we see blood appearing in our dog's eye, it is particularly worrying. While there may be some relatively benign explanations as to the cause of red eyes in dogs, it will always warrant both our attention and quick action. Some causes might be life threatening. If your dog has bloodshot eyes, you will want to look at some of the other symptoms to help determine the cause.

Knowing the cause is the only way to find the right course of treatment. This is why AnimalWised recommends you take your dog to the vet immediately if you see they have blood in their eyes as they are the only ones able to provide an accurate diagnosis.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Has Green Eye Discharge

Causes of red eye in dogs

There are many different reasons why your dog has bloodshot eyes. To help determine this cause, it is important to know if the eye itself is bloodshot or if the eye itself is bleeding. The former is usually a sign of inflammation and/or infection. If the eye is weeping blood, there may be a laceration or an infection has grown severe. Immediate action in the latter case is required, especially since fast treatment might prevent blindness.

There are some general causes of red eye in dogs we can take a look at. We start with some possible physical traumatisms:

  • Physical trauma: whether your dog has run into a low table or been hit by something, a physical blow can cause their eye to become bloodshot. If they have been run over by a car, emergency treatment will be required to determine if any life-threatening internal injuries are present.
  • Scratch: if your dog is outside, they can often be overzealous due to excitement. Running into shrubbery or similar areas can lead to scratching of the cornea. The result is a bloodshot eye, inflammation and irritation.
  • Fighting: if a dog is fighting with another dog or an animal of a different species, it is possible they will sustain a scratch to the eye. This may not even be a vicious fight, but can occur when play fighting becomes too rough.
  • Foreign body: even small particles floating in the air can land on your dog's eye and cause irritation. You need to be careful if you are doing something such as chipping wood when your dog is present.
  • Chemical: chemicals can get into your dog's eye for various reasons, possibly due to a spill or if they roll in something on the ground. The more caustic the chemical, the worse the prognosis will be for the eye.

There are other reasons why a dog might have bloodshot or swollen red eyes which don't involve getting something in the eye directly. These may include:

  • Allergies: an allergic reaction can cause a dog's eye to swell or turn bloodshot as their immune system tries to fight the symptoms. The allergy could be due to something they have eaten or something they have come in contact with. The latter can also have other symptoms such skin swelling, which can be seen in atopic dermatitis in dogs.
  • Conjunctivitis: conjunctivitis is the general term for inflammation which affects the conjunctiva, i.e. the tissue lining the eyelids. It is sometimes known as pink eye and its causes are varied. They include viral or bacterial infections.
  • Corneal ulcers: also known as ulcerative keratitis, corneal ulcers have various causes, but the result is damage to the corneal layer. Brachycephalic dogs such as the Pug and the Boxer are more likely to develop this condition[1]. They can result in dogs with bloodshot eyes.
  • Glaucoma: a range of diseases stemming from damage to the optic nerve and resulting in blurred vision and redness in the eye. The dog's eyes will also look cloudy and the disease can vary in acuteness. Glaucoma causes can be genetic, as well as due to underlying pathologies and even poor diet.
  • Uveitis: this is another inflammation, this time affecting the uvea which is the pigmented (colored) part of the dog's eye. While infections are a common known cause of this disease in dogs, in the majority of cases, the cause is difficult to determine[2].

Examining a dog's red eyes

If we observe our dog has blood in their eye, redness in the eye or bloodshot eyes, the first thing we need to do is remain calm. We need to examine the eye or eyes. Hold the dog's head gently, but firmly and look at the eye. Hold their eyelids gently with the thumb of each hand and open up the eye. We need to ensure our hands are clean so as not to further contaminate the eye. If the dog is very nervous, we need to be extra careful as sudden movements can aggravate the injury. You may need another person to restrain them, but remember the importance of remaining calm.

Looking into the eye, we need to see if there is physical trauma or the eyes are bloodshot for a different reason. If we see foreign objects moving in the fluid of the eye, we can wash the dog's eye out with distilled water or saline solution. If the foreign body is not moving, do not try to remove it with your hand or something else which can scratch the eye. You should take them to a veterinary health professional.

Observing a laceration or similar wound could be the cause of the redness in the dog's eye. The eye might not be bloodshot as when there is an inflammation, but the blood is coming directly from the cut. We cannot heal or dress this wound, but we can ensure we keep it clean. Our main concern after we decide to take the dog to the vet is making it worse. The dog may do this on their own by trying to scratch their eyes. An Elizabethan collar (sometimes called an E-collar) can be placed around their neck to prevent the dog reaching their eyes.

My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes - Examining a dog's red eyes

Dislocated eyeball in dogs

In severe cases, an injury can lead to more than redness in the eye. A globe prolapse may occur, another term for a dog's eyeball popping out of its socket. This is when the eye exits the socket and it presents a serious condition for the dog. The injury may be a trauma, but some dogs are more prone to it than others. Selective crossing has lead to some breeds to have the desired characteristic of bulging eyes. This protrusion makes them more vulnerable to many eye conditions[3]. It is sometimes known as canine proptosis or exophthalmos.

You should not try to put the eye back into their eye socket yourself. You can damage the eye further and may even blind the dog. Their eye is also much more vulnerable to infection at this stage. Most proptosis or eye dislocation will still have the eye in the socket, but sometimes it can fall out completely. In these cases, you need to ensure the dog does not try to eat it or break the optic nerve.

The longer it takes to reach assistance, the worse the prognosis for the dog. Around 40% of eyes which are dislocated from the socket in this way will regain vision[4]. However, many cases will result in the eye never regaining proper function and leaving the dog blind in the affected eye. Some severe cases will also result in surgical removal of the eye.

My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes - Dislocated eyeball in dogs

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes, we recommend you visit our Eye problems category.


1. O'Neill, D. G., Lee, M. M., Brodbelt, D. C., Church, D. B., & Sanchez, R. F. (2017). Corneal ulcerative disease in dogs under primary veterinary care in England: epidemiology and clinical management. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, 4(5).

2. Massa, K. L., Gilger, B. C., Miller, T. L., & Davidson, M. G. (2002). Causes of uveitis in dogs: 102 cases (1989-2000). Veterinary ophthalmology, 5(2), 93–98.

3. Packer, R. M., Hendricks, A., & Burn, C. C. (2015). Impact of facial conformation on canine health: corneal ulceration. PloS one, 10(5), e0123827.

4. Gelatt, K. (2002). Treatment of Orbital Diseases in Small Animals. Retrieved from:

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Margaret King
I found helpful information for my dogs.
Administrador AnimalWised
We are glad we could help!
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