Dog Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)


Canine conjunctivitis (also called pink eye) is a general label used to describe a dog eye that is red. It is caused by congestion in the blood vessels that line tissue in the eye, the eyelids and the third eyelid.

A veterinarian will need to differentiate the causes of conjunctivitis such as infection, foreign objects or allergy, from other causes of red dog eyes such as uveitis (a problem in the interior of the eye) and glaucoma (an increase in ocular pressure).

Often a problem in the conjunctiva is a secondary problem caused by something happening elsewhere in the body such as a disease. Conjunctivitis does not effect the ability to see and the eye globe size will be normal.

Picture of Conjunctivitis in Dog Eye
Dog Conjunctivitis
Dog conjunctivitis caused by Blepharospasm, which is an eyelid spasm

No matter what the cause, keeping the area around the eye clean is important. If you see any type of discharge Use a clean tissue or wet warm washcloth to wipe the areas around the eye. Do not use the same tissue or cloth for both eyes as you can spread infection from one to the other.


Conjunctivitis in dogs can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Infections
    -- Viral (distemper, canine herpes virus)
    -- Bacterial
    -- Fungal
  • Immune Mediated
    -- Allergy or pollen
    -- Follicular conjunctivitis (refers to eye appearance that looks like small red areas)
    -- Plasma cell conjunctivitis
    -- Pemphigus
  • A foreign object in the eye
Dog Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
Dog Pink Eye
A foreign body called foxtail (a type of grass) caused this case of pink eye. Treatment included a topical anesthetic to numb the eye and then removal by a veterinarian. After removal, the dog stopped itching, which was also causing eye irritation.
Dog Dry Eye
Dog Keratoconjunctivitis
Keratoconjunctivitis (dry eye) caused by the viral infection distemper
  • Chronic irritation
  • Eyelid problems (entropion, ectropion)
Conjunctivitis Due to Dog Dry Eye
Dog Ectropion
Dog Conjunctivitis due to an elongated eyelid (called dog ectropion). Surgery was used to reduce the length of the eyelid. An alternative would be to keep the eye clean to avoid foreign material getting caught in the eyelid.
  • Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation, see picture at top of page)
  • Eyelash problem
    -- Distichia – eyelash in an abnormal spot on the eyelid
    -- Trichiasis – abnormally positioned eyelashes
Conjunctivitis Due to Distachia
Dog Distachia
Eyelashes in bottom middle of picture can cause dog eye redness (conjunctivitis)
  • Irritants
    -- Exposure to chemicals
    -- Redness due to wind and dust
    -- Smoke
    -- Medications
  • Skin or dermatological disease
  • Irritation from nasal folds
  • Uveitis (inflammation into the pigmented (color) part of the eye)
  • Neoplasia (tumors)
    -- Melanoma
    -- Mast Cells
    -- Hemangioma
    -- Lymphosarcoma
    -- Papilloma

Continue to this page for more information on symptoms and diagnosis.

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