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Key takeaways

Swollen eyes, a symptom where the eye and/or eyelids appear abnormally enlarged, can be caused by a number of different underlying conditions, including allergies, insect bites or stings, injury, conjunctivitis, or glaucoma.

  • The swelling can vary from mild to severe, in accordance with the underlying condition, and affect one or both eyes as well as affecting different eye tissues
  • Swelling of the eyelids can be the only symptom (e.g., trauma to the eye) or be accompanied by other symptoms such as dry eyes, redness, difficulty breathing, or swollen gums
  • Dogs presenting with swollen eyes may undergo a number of diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause, including blood work, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment may not be required in mild cases
  • Depending on the cause, antihistamines, antibiotics, or surgery are all possible treatment options
  • Nevertheless, immediate medical attention is warranted, as swollen eyes can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition
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A closer look: Swollen Eyelids in Dogs

A swollen eye can be characterized as inflammation or swelling of the eye itself, or of the surrounding tissues (eyelids and/or conjunctiva).

Swollen eye/lid(s) is a common symptom as it can be caused by a wide array of underlying conditions. While some may be harmless and not a matter of concern, others can be life threatening. As such, prompt medical attention is advised in all cases of swollen eyes.

Inflammation can be caused by irritation, allergies, injuries, or from infections. If swelling is caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen or insect bite, immediate medical attention is crucial as the swelling may block the airways.

Swelling of the eyes can vary depending on the underlying condition. The symptom can be categorized into different subgroups.

Severity: Eye swelling can vary from mild to severe. Medical attention is warranted in all cases as the swelling may progress rapidly. Sudden severe swelling of the eyeball itself requires immediate medical attention to try and avoid permanent vision loss.

Unilateral or bilateral: Swelling can affect one or both eyes.

Solitary or secondary: Swelling can present either as a solitary symptom or along with other symptoms.

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Possible causes

There are several underlying conditions that can cause eye swelling in dogs.

Risk factors

Swelling of the eyeball itself is considered the most severe presentation of swollen eye or lids as it can lead to permanent blindness. Swelling of the surrounding tissue is typically more mild, and does not often lead to vision loss.

All dogs are at some risk of swollen eye or lids, as the need to engage with the outdoor environment exposes them to many insects and other potential injuries. Very old, very young, and immunocompromised dogs are at higher risk of inflammation and infection that may be associated with swollen eyes or lids.

Testing and diagnosis

Investigation of swollen eye/lid(s) a may require a number of diagnostic tests, including:

  • Medical history (including a history of irritant exposure (e.g., smoke), allergens (e.g., pollen), or insects (e.g., bees)
  • Physical examination
  • Ophthalmic examination
  • Diagnostic imaging: X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs may be necessary in identifying facial tumors
  • Blood tests: to identify the presence of infections or systemic inflammation

Treatment varies greatly depending on the underlying cause. In some cases, treatment may not be necessary. When needed, treatment options may include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Surgery
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Steroids
  • Pain medication
  • Supportive care (rinsing the eye, removing bee stingers or foreign material, warm compresses to the eye)

Similar symptoms

Swollen eyes are very distinctive symptoms seldom mistaken for other clinical signs.

Associated symptoms


Adrienne Kruzer - Writing for The Spruce Pets
DR. ASHLEY GRAY - Writing for Veterinary Emergency Group
No Author - Writing for Dutch
AKC Staff - Writing for The American Kennel Club
Dr. Beth Turner - Writing for Preventive Vet
Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals

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