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Evaluation and Diagnosis of a Red Eye in Dogs

Canine Eyes and Red Eye
Can My Dog Go Blind from Red Eye?

Prompt evaluation and diagnosis, along with effective treatment, reduces the risk that a red eye will develop into a blind eye. Your veterinarian offers a full range of testing and diagnostic tools to assess your dog’s condition.  Schedule an appointment with your veterinary clinic if you notice that your dog develops a red eye.

Dogs occasionally develop a red eye. The redness may be in the white of the eye, in the clear part of the eye called the cornea, or within the eyeball. There are many causes of a red eye, but all ocular diseases should always be considered an urgent matter, and be checked immediately by a veterinarian.

Evaluation

A dog owner will typically be asked to describe the pet’s medical history, symptoms, and if there were any pertinent events prior to the development of the red eye, such as injury or illness. The veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on any dog that has a red eye to look for any other abnormalities that may give a hint as to their cause. The veterinarian will then concentrate on the eyes. There are three basic ophthalmic tests: a Schirmer test, tonometry, and fluorescein staining.   

A Schirmer test measures tear production. Special paper strips are placed in each eye and it is noted how many millimeters of wetness the tears can form in 60 seconds. Too little tear production is called keratoconjuntivitis sicca (KCS) or "dry eye" is the common name.  Tonometry is used to measure the pressure inside the dog’s eyes; increased pressure indicates glaucoma. Fluorescein staining checks for any scratch or interruption of the outside covering of the cornea. A positive stain indicates a corneal ulcer.

There are other tests that may be performed. The veterinarian may swab any pus draining from the dog’s eyes and send it to the laboratory for testing. Lab work, including a chemistry panel, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis may be performed to check for underlying diseases. An ultrasound of an eye may be done to check for a detached retina or masses within the eye or between the eye and the bony eye socket.  

Diagnosis

A veterinarian diagnoses the cause of a dog’s red eye by assessing symptoms, medical history, physical examination, and laboratory testing. The most common causes of a red eye are a corneal ulcer, glaucoma, and conjunctivitis.

Corneal ulcers usually result from trauma such as running into a bush, fighting with other pets, or rubbing their eye. Ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics, and checked with fluorescein stain every few days until healed.

Glaucoma can occur in any dog, is sometimes related to other conditions such as cataracts, but is genetic in some breeds. Cocker Spaniels, terriers, Poodles, Basset Hounds, and Beagles are especially prone to this disease. Glaucoma can be very serious, it often leads to blindness. There are topical medications used to reduce the increased pressure.  

Conjunctivitis can have many causes. Dry eye causes a conjunctivitis; this is treated with a topical medication that increases the amount of tears produced. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by bacterial infections, viral infections, or other irritants.

There are many other causes of a red eye: uveitis, orbital disease, bleeding disorders, trauma, luxated lens, etc. Your veterinarian can sort through all the possibilities and determine the appropriate treatment.

Sources:

American Kennel Club, Canine Health Foundation. "Canine Eye Health." November 2013.

Barfield Laminack, Elizabeth, DVM; Myrna, Kathern, DVM, MS; Moore, Phillip Anthony, DVM, Diplomate ACVO. “Clinical Approach to Canine Red Eye.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, May/June 2013.

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Testimonials

  •           8/29/2017

    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

    Unfortunately, this year I’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. The compassion the staff showed to both my pet and I made these unbearable times tolerable. I am indebted to both Dr. Del Rosso and (the wonderful) Dr. Ravn for their kindness, compassion and dedication.

    If you are new to the area or just looking for a new vet, please give Balboa pet Hospital a call!

  •           6/5/2017

    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

  •           6/5/2017

    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

  •           4/28/2017

    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

  •           5 of 5

    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

  •           5 of 5

    I have been a patron of Balboa Pet Hospital for almost 500 years now (wink). I love Everybody there and feel they are have always been a great resource and the BEST support system for everything pertaining to my pets.

  •          

    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.
     

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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