Your dog’s swollen eyes are also known as blepharitis, a condition that refers to inflammation in the eyes, eyelids, and the tissues around the eye.
Though it isn’t an immediate medical emergency, swollen eyes are a common symptom of many different medical conditions, so it’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms and check in with your vet to keep your dog feeling their best.
This article will guide you through common causes of eye swelling in dogs, as well as potential treatment options to help your dog feel better soon.
Symptoms of Blepharitis in Dogs
Because blepharitis is a symptom of other underlying causes, it’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms to better help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis.
One or both of your dog’s eyes may swell and become itchy. The itchiness often causes dogs to paw at their eyes, leading to a secondary infection or inflammation.
In addition to swollen eyes, your dog may also experience:
- Repetitive blinking
- Discharge from the eye
- Sneezing or coughing
- Withdrawing or hiding
- Redness of the sclera (white part of the eye)
- Flaky, scaly skin around the eye
6 Causes of Swollen Eyes in Dogs
Blepharitis, or swollen eyes, can be caused by many things, but in some cases, the true cause remains unknown. This is a diagnosis that your vet will refer to as idiopathic blepharitis.
In most cases, however, the swollen eyes are caused by one of these common conditions:
Just like people, dogs can experience allergic reactions to food or their environment. These allergies, whether seasonal or chronic, are the most common cause for your dog’s eyes to swell.
Allergic reactions can cause swelling in your dog’s eyes, as well as other parts of the face and even the throat, so they should always be taken seriously.
Common causes of allergies in dogs include:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Insect bites
- Insect stings
- Ingredients in their food, commonly beef, dairy, wheat, and chicken
If your dog has a tumor on their face, in their mouth, or inside their skull, it can put pressure on the tissues around their eyes, causing them to swell. A tumor is often paired with other symptoms in your dog, such as weight loss, discharge, and lethargy.
The tumor may not always be visible on the outside, so your vet may need to do an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to get a better look at the area and make a diagnosis.
There are a variety of infections that can lead to swelling in your dog’s eyes, from bacterial to parasitic. A staph infection is a common cause, as well as conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye in humans).
Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dry eye is a condition in which your dog’s eyes do not get enough hydration, usually because of tear duct-related issues.
If your dog’s tear glands cannot produce enough moisture, they won’t be able to hydrate and protect the eye. This dryness leads to uncomfortable eye irritation, potentially painful swelling, and can also cause a thick, yellow discharge in the eye.
Dry eye is especially common in Cocker spaniels, bulldogs, miniature schnauzers, Shih Tzus, and West Highland white terriers.
If your dog has been scratched, bruised, or otherwise wounded near their eyes, the inflammation can cause the eye, as well as areas near the eye, to swell.
Common causes of eye-related injuries include rough play, insect bites, dogfights, tree branch scratches, or sharp object injuries.
Some dogs are born with abnormalities in their eye area that can predispose them to irritation and blepharitis. Dogs with entropion, a condition in which their eyelid edges turn inward, as well as distichiasis and trichiasis, conditions that involve eyelash abnormalities, can lead to swollen eyes.
Some dog breeds are also more prone to eye swelling because of their facial structures, including facial folds, long and narrow muzzles, and flat faces.
Breeds that are predisposed to blepharitis include:
- Shih Tzus
- English bulldogs
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Shar Pei
- Chow Chows
Treatment Options for Swollen Eyes in Dogs
Because there are so many different causes of swollen eyes in your dog, their treatment will depend on your vet’s diagnosis. In many cases, your vet will advise at-home treatments to help manage your dog’s swelling and other symptoms.
A common at-home treatment for swollen eyes is warm compresses applied to the area for up to 15 minutes multiple times per day until the swelling goes down. Your vet may also recommend a saline eye rinse, or prescribe antibiotic eye drops to relieve pain and infection.
Your vet may perform a Schirmer Tear Test to measure your dog’s tear production, as well as perform blood tests and urinalysis to test the overall health of your pup.
If your vet suspects that allergies are the underlying cause, they may recommend Benadryl or another non-drowsy antihistamine to relieve your dog’s itchiness and swelling. They may suggest a few more tests to narrow down what allergen is causing your dog’s reactions.
If food allergies are suspected, your vet may recommend a change in your dog’s diet to help prevent any swelling in the future.
If a tumor is suspected, the most likely treatment option is surgery to fully remove the tumor. In many cases, your dog’s tumor will be benign, and your dog will make a full recovery once the tumor is out of their body.
Surgery is also the typical treatment option to correct eyelid abnormalities that are causing your dog’s eyes to swell.
Should You Contact Your Vet About Your Dog’s Swollen Eye?
While the causes of your dog’s swollen eyes can vary, they should all be taken seriously. If your dog is experiencing any eye discomfort or if their eye is swollen, contact your vet immediately to book a check-up appointment.
Your vet will make recommendations on the best way to treat your dog’s swollen eyes, as well as evaluate what the most likely underlying cause is. Treatment is always easier the sooner you can diagnose an issue.
If your dog’s eye is swollen, our licensed veterinarians are available to virtually evaluate your dog, answer all of your questions, and provide you with the next steps for treatment options.
Book an appointment today to get your pup back to feeling happy and healthy.