My Dog's Eyes Are Red

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My Dog's Eyes Are Red

Many pet owners feel queasy just talking about their dogs' eyes. As a result, reports on eye problems may be questionably accurate! When describing redness, therefore, it is important to distinguish where the red is. Is it in the anterior chamber, (the portion between the cornea and the iris), the iris (the colored part of the eye), the sclera (the white part of the eye), or the conjunctiva (the tissue surrounding the globe and lining the eyelids)?

What to Look For

Place your dog in an area that affords enough light and space for his comfort and your ability to examine him. Get a flashlight with a bright beam. Cradle your dog's head in both your hands and look straight into his eyes. Observe the upper and lower lids, the tissues surrounding the eyes, and the part of his head that spans the area between his eyes.

Lift each upper lid and tug down on each lower lid to observe the tissues beneath them. Using the flashlight, shine it directly into each eye to check the way your dog's pupils respond. Also shine the flashlight from the side of your dog's eyes to see how it illuminates the clear portion at the front of each globe.

Place your thumb on the upper lid of each eye and press gently down on your dog's eyes in order to assess how hard the eyes feel underneath. By forcing the globes back slightly in their sockets, you will also allow your dog's third eyelids to rise passively, giving you a look at them as well.

Check your dog's ability to see by testing his menace reflex. With the palm of your hand facing your dog, move your hand swiftly from a position about eighteen inches from your dog's eye to within about three inches of your dog's eye. If your dog can see, he'll blink. The absence of that response is a strong indication of reduced or absent vision. Repeat the maneuver a few times to check your result, since some blind dogs may actually blink in response to the movement of air created by your hand.

What to Do

To figure out what to do next, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you notice any discoloration or swelling of the areas around your dog's eyes? This could represent the effects of some type of blunt trauma and explain the redness. It could also be an infection or a mass of some sort. If it is warm and tender, but your dog is acting fine, try applying cold compresses to reduce the swelling and discomfort. If it begins to drain fluid, blood, or pus, see your vet for help.
  • Are your dog's pupils equal in size and do they both get smaller when you shine the flashlight into them? If so, then your dog's eyes are behaving normally, and the redness should be treated as just an eye symptom. If they are unequal in size or they behave unequally when exposed to direct light, then there is something affecting part of your dog's nervous system. Watch this closely and if no improvement is noted within 24 hours consult a veterinary ophthalmologist.
  • Is the redness associated with the conjunctival tissues that surround the eye? If so, and there is no blood present, but an overall, angry redness, your dog has conjunctivitis. See “My Dog Has a ‘Stye'” [not available online].
  • Does the redness look like a bulging pink growth coming from the lower corner of the eye closest to your dog's muzzle? If you see something like this and your dog is under two years of age, he probably has protrusion of the gland of the third eyelid, otherwise known as cherry eye. See “My Dog Has a Problem with His Third Eyelid”.
  • Does the redness appear to be confined to the whites of your dog's eyes? If so, and if the redness is in the form of streaks of red from the iris and radiating out toward the lids, your dog's eyes are bloodshot. See “My Dog's Eyes Are Bloodshot” [not available online].
  • Is the redness contained within the colored iris? If so, and if the redness moves with the iris when the pupil reacts to light, then it is probably a normal pigment variation. If the redness seems independent of the actions of the iris, it may be blood in the eye. If this is the case, it may gradually get reabsorbed. If your dog is not suffering, wait a day or two to see if there appears to be some improvement. If not, have your vet take a look. If, when you shine a light from the side of the eyes, the redness appears to be in the anterior chamber, it may be associated with an inflammatory process called uveitis. This could be serious and should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
  • Do your dog's eyes appear to be bulging more than usual? Refer to “My Dog's Eyes Are Bulging”.

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Reviewed on 12/3/2009 11:30:30 AM

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