Pink eye in dogs, or what vets call conjunctivitis, can make your dog's eyes look sore and can be either no big deal or something more serious. We consulted the work and research of two eye doctors (veterinary ophthalmologists) for dogs, Dr. Maria Teresa Peña and Dr. Christine Heinrich, to learn all about dog pink eye. They shared tips on how to spot it, what causes it, and how to help your dog feel better.

Most importantly, we are going to look at if you can treat your dog’s pink eye at home.

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  1. Signs of Pink Eye in Dogs
  2. What Causes Conjunctivitis in Dogs
  3. Is Conjunctivitis Contagious in Dogs
  4. Is Dog Conjunctivitis Contagious to Humans
  5. Preventing the Spread of Conjunctivitis In Dogs
  6. Conjunctivitis in Dogs Treatment
  7. The Dangers of Human Eye Drops For Dogs
  8. FAQs
  9. Conclusion

Signs of Pink Eye in Dogs

Pink eye in dogs, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the eye's outer membrane. It can make a dog's eye red, itchy, and uncomfortable. Causes range from allergies to infections, requiring different treatments based on the underlying issue.

If your dog has pink eye, you might notice their eye looks red, they're blinking a lot, or there's goop coming from their eye. Sometimes, they might act like it hurts and not want to open their eye much or they may squint. Here are some common signs and symptoms of canine conjunctivitis:

  • Redness in the eye
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Excessive blinking or squinting
  • Clear or pus-like discharge
  • Rubbing or scratching at the eye
  • Squinting or keeping the eye partially closed
  • Visible discomfort or aversion to light
  • Eyelids sticking together

Dr. Christine Heinrich says, "Even though the eye looks really sore, most times, dogs aren't too bothered by it." This means even if your dog doesn't seem too upset, they might still need some help with their eye.

Puppies can get a special kind of pink eye when they're very young called neonatal conjunctivitis, and it's important to check with a vet if you see this because it can get bad quickly. It can be caused by a number of things, including viruses and studies even show a link to diet and puppy pink eye. Dr. Christine notes that it is possible that puppies can have conjunctivitis passed to them from their mothers during birth.

Watching your dog closely is a good way to catch pink eye early. A cool tool to help you do this, even when you're not around, is the Petcube Cam. It lets you see what your dog is up to from anywhere and notice if they start having eye trouble. This way, you can help them out right away.

What Causes Conjunctivitis in Dogs

To know how to treat this issue, we first need to understand what it is and what causes it. Conjunctivitis in dogs, commonly known as pink eye, occurs when the eye's outer layer, or conjunctiva, becomes inflamed or irritated. There are several causes, each requiring its own approach to treatment.

1. Allergic Conjunctivitis

Dogs can suffer from allergies to pollen, dust, or certain foods, leading to itchy, watery, and red eyes. This type of conjunctivitis is quite common among dogs, making searches like "allergic conjunctivitis in dogs" highly frequent. Minimizing exposure to allergens and maintaining clean living conditions can help manage symptoms.

2. Bacterial Conjunctivitis

This is an infection caused by bacteria, characterized by redness, swelling, and a thick, pus-like discharge from the eye. Though less common than allergic conjunctivitis, it requires prompt treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications.

3. Viral Conjunctivitis

Viruses, often associated with respiratory infections or diseases like canine distemper, can also lead to conjunctivitis. Symptoms may include eye redness and discharge, accompanied by respiratory issues like coughing or a runny nose.

4. Foreign Bodies

Objects such as dirt, sand, or eyelashes getting into the eye can irritate and lead to conjunctivitis if not promptly addressed.

5. Structural Problems

Some breeds are predisposed to conditions like entropion (eyelids rolling inward) or abnormal eyelash growth, causing constant irritation that can result in conjunctivitis.

6. Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, KCS)

A lack of adequate tear production leads to dry, irritated eyes, making them prone to conjunctivitis. Treatment typically involves medications to stimulate tear production and lubricate the eye.

7. Follicular Conjunctivitis

Often seen in young, large-breed dogs, this condition is marked by the presence of small, raised bumps (follicles) on the eyelid's inner surface. It's thought to be a reaction to chronic irritation or antigenic stimulation. Mild cases may resolve on their own, while more severe instances could require topical treatments.

8. Autoimmune-Mediated Conjunctivitis

In some cases, a dog's immune system may mistakenly attack its own eye tissues, leading to conditions like pannus (lymphoplasmacytic infiltration of the third eyelid). This type of conjunctivitis typically requires lifelong management with medications like topical steroids or cyclosporin to control inflammation and immune response.

Identifying the specific cause of your dog's conjunctivitis is key to effectively treating it. Veterinary consultation is essential for a correct diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan tailored to your dog's needs, ensuring a swift return to comfort and health.

Is Conjunctivitis Contagious in Dogs

One of the most common questions pet owners have about conjunctivitis, or pink eye in dogs, is whether it's contagious. The answer depends on the underlying cause of the conjunctivitis.

1. Viral and Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Yes, these types can be contagious. If the conjunctivitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, it can spread from one dog to another through direct contact or shared items like bedding and toys. It's important to isolate a dog with infectious conjunctivitis from other pets to prevent the disease from spreading.

2. Allergic and Autoimmune Conjunctivitis

No, these types are not contagious. When conjunctivitis is caused by allergies or autoimmune responses, there's no risk of it spreading to other dogs. These conditions are related to the individual dog's immune system and environmental factors, not an infection that can be transmitted.

Is Dog Conjunctivitis Contagious to Humans

While it's relatively rare, certain types of bacterial conjunctivitis can be transmitted from dogs to humans. Good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands after handling a dog with conjunctivitis and avoiding touching your face, can significantly reduce the risk of transmission.

Preventing the Spread of Conjunctivitis In Dogs

If your dog has contagious conjunctivitis, here are some steps to prevent it from spreading:

Isolate the Affected Dog

Keep them away from other pets and clean their living area regularly.

Practice Good Hygiene

Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the affected dog or any of their belongings.

Avoid Sharing

Don't let pets share water bowls, toys, or bedding if one of them is sick.

Clean and Disinfect

Regularly clean surfaces and items your dog comes into contact with using pet-safe disinfectants.

Monitoring your dog's health and whereabouts can also play a crucial role in preventing conjunctivitis, especially if it's related to environmental factors or allergens. A tool like the Petcube GPS Tracker can be invaluable in keeping tabs on your dog's movements. By understanding where they go, you can better manage their exposure to potential irritants or infectious agents, keeping them healthier and reducing the risk of conditions like conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis in Dogs Treatment

Treating conjunctivitis in dogs depends on the cause. While some treatments can be started at home or with natural remedies, it's crucial to consult a vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, especially to avoid using human medications that might not be safe for your dog.

Remember, some causes of pink eye in dogs can be very serious, such as distemper, so it’s best not to rely on simple home remedies if you don’t know the underlying cause.

1. At-Home Care

For mild cases, keeping the eye clean and free from discharge can help. A gentle saline solution can be used to carefully wipe away any buildup around the eye. However, avoid using human eye drops or ointments without vet approval.

2. Eye Drops for Dogs

Specific eye drops designed for dogs with conjunctivitis might be prescribed by your vet. These can include antibiotic drops for bacterial infections or steroid drops to reduce inflammation. Always use as directed by your veterinarian.

3. Over-the-Counter Treatments

While some over-the-counter eye drops and washes are available for dogs, it's important to use them cautiously. Not all "dog-safe" products are suitable for every type of conjunctivitis. Discuss any OTC products with your vet before use. In fact, research shows that many OTC remedies for dogs, like human eye drops for canine pink eye, can be very dangerous.

For example, in cases where allergies are the root cause of conjunctivitis, you might wonder about using human allergy eye drops like Visine, which contains tetrahydrozoline. This ingredient works by constricting blood vessels to reduce redness and discomfort in humans.

However, it's crucial to note that such products are not FDA-approved for dogs and can lead to permanent eye damage if used inappropriately. The difference in physiology between humans and dogs means what's safe for us isn't always safe for them. Always consult your vet before using any human medication, including eye drops, on your dog to ensure their safety and well-being.

4. Medication for Allergic Conjunctivitis

If allergies are to blame, your vet might prescribe antihistamine medication or suggest specific eye drops to help manage symptoms.

5. Home Remedies

Some mild conjunctivitis cases might benefit from home remedies like a warm, damp cloth applied to the eye area to help soothe irritation. Remember, these should not replace veterinary care, especially if symptoms persist.

6. Advanced Treatments

For more severe cases, especially those caused by structural issues or dry eye, your vet might recommend surgery or specialized treatments.

The Dangers of Human Eye Drops For Dogs

Caution should be exercised with human eye drops, including antibiotics and steroids. These can sometimes do more harm than good without a vet's guidance. Saline solutions are generally safe for flushing the eye, but always check with your vet first.

When dealing with conjunctivitis, early veterinary intervention is key to preventing complications and ensuring the best outcome for your dog. For emergency situations or immediate veterinary advice, consider using the Petcube Emergency Fund, which offers coverage for emergency vet bills and 24/7 access to online vets. Blog readers can enjoy a special discount by visiting this link. This service ensures you're prepared for unexpected health issues, offering peace of mind and the best care for your pup.


Is dog conjunctivitis an emergency?

Whether dog conjunctivitis is an emergency largely depends on the severity and underlying cause. If your dog seems to be in pain, is excessively rubbing their eyes, or if there's a sudden onset of symptoms, it's best to consult a vet immediately.

How long does conjunctivitis last in dogs?

The duration of conjunctivitis in dogs can vary. With proper treatment, you might see improvement within a few days, but some cases can last longer, especially if underlying issues need to be addressed.

Will conjunctivitis go away by itself in dogs?

Some mild cases of conjunctivitis may resolve on their own, but it's important not to leave it to chance. Without proper treatment, conjunctivitis can lead to more serious problems. Always consult with a vet for the best course of action.

Can you use human eye drops on dogs for conjunctivitis?

It's not safe to use human eye drops on dogs without veterinary guidance. Many human eye drops, including those for allergies like Visine, can cause serious harm to your dog's eyes.


Conjunctivitis in dogs is a condition that can vary in severity and cause, requiring different approaches for treatment. While some home remedies and treatments can offer relief, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian to ensure the safety and health of your pet, especially before using any human medications. Understanding the signs and potential causes of conjunctivitis can help you take swift action, preventing discomfort for your dog and avoiding more serious complications.

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