Eye problems

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes?

Ameera Mills
By Ameera Mills. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes?

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Eye problems in our dogs can be difficult to notice or examine because it is normal for a dog to close their eyes when we want to look at them, making it difficult for us to spot the problem. Therefore if if you notice excess scratching, discharge or any other discomfort it is very important to take your dog to a veterinarian. In this AimalWised article we will explain why your dog is scratching its eyes.

You may also be interested in: Common Eye Problems In Dogs
  1. My Dog has swollen eyes and is scratching a lot: causes
  2. Itching due to foreign bodies or injuries
  3. Itching due to conjunctivitis
  4. Itching in the eyes of the dog due to a corneal ulcer
  5. Itchy eyes due to keratitis

My Dog has swollen eyes and is scratching a lot: causes

Inflammation of the eyelids is known as blepharitis. In bacterial blepharitis, eyelids increase in thickness, become red, swollen and can also present scabs. Blepharitis can be associated with various diseases (demodectic mange, hypothyroidism, etc.), and cause great discomfort for our dog. If you notice any symptoms of excessive scratching or swollen eyes in your dog, we suggest going to your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine if there is an underlying disease and how to treat it.

Blepharitis is treated with antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. Before applying any medication to the eyes we must clean them, what we can do with a gauze or a cotton swab dipped in saline. Long-term medication may be required. Sometimes the eyelids suddenly become inflamed, usually by insect bites or even by allergic reaction to something consumed. These cases also require veterinary assistance and may be another reason explaining why your dog is scratching its eyes.

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes? - My Dog has swollen eyes and is scratching a lot: causes
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Itching due to foreign bodies or injuries

Foreign bodies such as as seeds or various plant fragments can easily enter our dogs eyes. This bodies often attach to the surface of the eye or behind the eyelids. This happens quite commonly with dogs that travel by car, from sticking their heads out car windows. Walks through dense vegetation also pose as another risky activity. The presence of a foreign body in the eye can explain why a dog scratches it. Other signs that indicate possible foreign bodies in the dogs eyes are excessive tearing, blinking or discharge. The third eyelid may also become inflamed and visible in an attempt to protect the eye. This eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, is located in the inner corner of the eye and is usually only seen on certain occasions, such as this one.

Unless the foreign body can be easily removed by using water we suggest going to your veterinarian as soon as possible in order to avoid increased infection. Keep in mind that elements such as brambles or splinters can pierce the cornea (the transparent part of the eye).

Splashes of chemical agents in the eyes can also explain why our dog is scratching its eyes a lot. Acids and also soaps, shampoos or insecticides can cause itching and tearing in your dogs eyes. The affected eye or eyes should be washed immediately with cold water or saline and your dog should be taken to your vet.

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes? - Itching due to foreign bodies or injuries

Itching due to conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis in dogs is a relatively common condition and consists of inflammation of the conjunctiva membrane that covers part of the eyelids and the eyeball. In addition to noticing excessive rubbing, we may see redness and serous, mucoid or purulent discharge in the dogs eyes. Depending on the type of discharge, it can indicate which conjunctivitis your dog is suffering from. Conjunctivitis presents itself in these 3 different forms:

  • Serous conjunctivitis: the inflammation is mild and the secretion is transparent. This conjunctivitis is caused by agents such as wind or dust, as well as allergens.
  • Mucoid conjunctivitis: the nictitating membrane or third eyelid has small glands on its inner side. When they react to an irritating substance or an infection they end up producing a mucoid secretion that triggers conjunctivitis.
  • Purulent conjunctivitis: is a serous conjunctivitis that is infected by the presence of different bacteria. There are thick secretions that form crusts on the eyelids.

As we have said, if the dog has red eyes and is suffering from discharge, the veterinarian will look for the underlying cause that has caused the conjunctivitis and, depending on which it is, will prescribe the appropriate treatment. This medication may include eye drops, ointments or even some ophthalmological intervention if there are any serious complications. As always, before applying any medication we must clean the eye well with saline and a gauze or cotton. If our dog has dry scabs we can heat the serum to eliminate them more easily.

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes? - Itching due to conjunctivitis

Itching in the eyes of the dog due to a corneal ulcer

A corneal ulcer can be defined as a wound in the cornea, which can be caused by trauma or diseases such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or Addison's disease. Corneal ulcers are painful, which explains why our dog scratches his eyes or the affected eye. They also produce considerable tearing and photophobia (intolerance to light), which also explains that the dog has closed eyes and rheum.

This veterinary attention, since, without treatment, it is possible the dog can lose its eye. Some ulcers can be seen as a matt, dull area on the eye. The veterinarian can confirm its presence by putting a few drops of fluorescein in the eye, since this substance stains them. They are usually treated with antibiotics and / or surgery.

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes? - Itching in the eyes of the dog due to a corneal ulcer

Itchy eyes due to keratitis

Keratitis is another condition that can affect the cornea. In this case it produces an inflammation that causes it to cloud and causes intense lacrimation, intolerance to light (photophobia), protrusion of the third eyelid and explains why a dog scratches its eyes so much. There are several types of this condition and they are all considered serious as they can lead to blindness.:

  • Ulcerative keratitis: this inflammation of the cornea as a consequence of other conditions, such as corneal ulcer. The cornea begins to appear dull until it becomes cloudy and ends up acquiring a white color.
  • Infectious keratitis: occurs when a bacterial infection complicates another disorder such as corneal ulcer or ulcerative keratitis. It causes a purulent discharge and the eyelids appear swollen. Fungi could also complicate this condition (fungal keratitis).
  • Interstitial keratitis: also known as "blue eye", as a film is formed on the eye of a blue-white tone. Hepatitis is the main cause of this condition.
  • Vascular keratitis: blood vessels and connective tissue grow into the interior of the eye. This process can sometimes be associated with pigmentary keratitis, in which there is a deposit of the melanin pigment in the cornea.

All of these infections require veterinary treatment and need to be treated accordingly.

Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes? - Itchy eyes due to keratitis

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 Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes?, we recommend you visit our Eye problems category.

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Why Does My Dog Scratch Its Eyes?