My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes

My Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes

In most cases, blood appearing outside of its designated location of vessels and veins is cause for concern. When we see blood appearing in our dog's eye, it is particularly concerning. 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 of the 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 your 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.

Causes of red eye in dogs

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

However, there are some general causes of red eye in dogs. We start with some possible physical traumatisms:

  • 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, then emergency treatment will be required to determine if there are life threatening internal injuries.
  • Scratch: if your dog is outside, they can often be overzealous due to excitement. Running into shrubbery or similar can lead to scratching of the cornea. The result is a bloodshot eye, inflammation and irritation.
  • Fighting: if a dog is fighting with another animal, such as a cat or another dog, then it is possible they will sustain a scratch to the eye. This may not even be a vicious fight, but can occur when ply fighting gets 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 on the eye.

However, 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 inflame or turn red 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.
  • Conjunctivitis: conjunctivitis is the general term for inflammation which affects the outermost port of the eye where the conjunctiva are present. 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 the corneal layer being damaged. Brachycephalic dogs such as the Pug and the Boxer are more likely to develop this condition[1].
  • Glaucoma: a range of disease stemming from damage to the optic nerve and resulting in blurred vision and redness in the eye. The eye will also look cloudy and will vary in acuteness. Glaucoma causes include genetic reasons, 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].

The severity of eye injuries in dogs

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. If we are agitated it will only further a possibly already agitated canine. We need to examine the eye or eyes. Hold their head gently, but firmly and look at the eye. Hold their eyelids gently with our thumbs 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 t 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 in the dog's eye, we can wash it 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 to the eye can 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 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 simply E-collar) can be placed around their neck to prevent the dog reaching their 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 dislocated eyeball. 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 breed has lead to some breeds to have the desired characteristic of bulging eyes. However, such 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 ear 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. Some severe cases will also result in surgical removal of the eye.

Treatment for redness in a dog's eye

The treatment required for redness in a dog's eye will depend on the cause. If it is an infection, then the eye will need to be cleaned and antibiotics will likely be administered. If there is a cut, then the lesion will be cleaned. Eyeballs heal more quickly than other parts of the outer body, but some lacerations may need surgery to fix. If this is the case, the veterinarian will refer them to a veterinary surgery. If the problem is chronic such as glaucoma, then the treatment will be more focused on reducing the effects of the symptoms.

Preventing redness in a dog's eye is not always easy. We need to take them outside to get exercise and many of the foreign objects will enter their eye due to an unavoidable accident. However, you can:

  • Take care with brachycephalic dog breeds as they are more prone to eye problems.
  • Keep eyes clean and wash your dog if they get dirty as the dirt can transport to the eye.
  • Keep your dog away from brambles and other prickly shrubbery.
  • Keep all of your irritating substances out of harm's way.
  • Walk with a leash in areas where injuries are more likely to occur.
  • Keep your dog away when working at something where foreign objects are likely to travel (e.g. anything which requires you to wear goggles).

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.