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Key takeaways

Red eyes is a symptom in which the conjunctiva (tissue around the eye) and/or sclera (the white part of the eye), are red and inflamed.

  • Red eyes are very common in dogs and have a wide variety of potential causes including conjunctivitis, keratitis, uveitis, injury, irritant exposure, eyelash/eyelid disorders, allergies, and upper respiratory infection
  • Diagnostics vary depending on associated symptoms but can include physical examination, ophthalmic examination, intraocular pressure testing, tear production testing, fluorescein stain, blood work, diagnostic imaging, and infectious disease testing
  • Treatment is similarly varied and ranges from topical treatments to surgery to palliative care depending on the cause
  • Swelling of the eyelids, scratching, discharge from the eyes, and changes in pupil appearance can be seen alongside red eyes
  • Urgency of red eyes varies significantly. Some cases require emergency treatment and others are minor
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A closer look: Red Eyes in Dogs

Red eyes are a very common symptom in dogs. It can vary widely in severity from low risk to life-threatening. Determining urgency of medical intervention is based on presence of other symptoms and concern for preserving vision. Most conditions associated with red eyes are not deadly but may impact vision. Any sudden onset change in vision requires urgent veterinary care.

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Possible causes

Risk factors

Red eyes is further characterized as

  • Unilateral or bilateral
  • Single symptom or concurrent symptoms
  • Acute or chronic
  • Persistent or intermittent

Red eye is common in dogs and the risk to overall health is variable. The presence of other symptoms may indicate severity.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics vary depending on the suspected underlying condition and the associated symptoms. Some diagnostics that can be used include;

  • Physical examination
  • Full ophthalmic exam
  • Blood work
  • Infectious disease testing
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Urinalysis
  • Cytology
  • Biopsy

Treatment can depend on the underlying condition and has a wide potential for variety. Some examples of treatment options include;

  • Benign neglect
  • Topical medication
  • Systemic medication
  • Surgery
  • Palliative care

Similar symptoms

Red eyes are self evident and not likely to be confused with other symptoms. Red eyes are similar to redness of the skin around the eye or eyelid and red mass in or around the eye (tumor or cherry eye).

Associated symptoms


Ron Ofri - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Jennifer Hyman - Writing for dvm360®
Courtney Barnes; Tammy Hunter; Ernest Ward - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
Tony Johnson - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Shalini Radhakrishnan - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Rhea Morgan - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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