If those puppy eyes that stare at you begging for food are looking a little more goopy than usual, your dog may have conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis -- inflammation of the conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the eyeball -- is more than unsightly; it's also uncomfortable for the pooch. If not treated properly, it can cause damage to the eye. Conjunctivitis is common in certain dog breeds, but it can affect any pup.
The most common symptoms of canine conjunctivitis are discharge from the eye, excessive blinking, squinting and redness, and swelling of the eyes, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Discharge may be clear or may contain mucus or pus. Conjunctivitis may also cause other clinical signs like nasal discharge, sneezing and coughing.
Conjunctivitis often occurs as a result of a bacterial or viral infection, such as canine distemper virus. Immune-related disorders, like allergies or hereditary conditions, can cause chronic, or recurring, conjunctivitis. In rare cases, conjunctivitis may be caused by a cancerous tumor. If conjunctivitis occurs in only one eye, it may be a result of trauma or environmental causes, such as irritation from dust or chemicals, or a foreign body in the eye. Conjunctivitis can also develop as a result of other eye diseases, such as ulcerative keratitis, anterior uveitis or glaucoma.
Diagnosing the cause of conjunctivitis is often a multi-step process. Your veterinarian will examine the eye or eyes closely to rule out the presence of any foreign objects or visible damage to the eye. Once trauma is ruled out, the vet will examine the eyelids, eyelashes, tear ducts and third eyelid. The next step is corneal strain tests to check for corneal damage, and intra-ocular pressure tests to check for glaucoma. Your vet will make a diagnosis based on the results from these tests.
Treatment for canine conjunctivitis depends on the underlying cause and may involve topical, oral or systemic medications. VCA Hospitals notes that topical antibiotics are commonly prescribed in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medications. If the conjunctivitis occurs as a result of another medical condition, medications will be administered to target the specific condition. Most dogs recover from conjunctivitis without any complications or lasting effects. If conjunctivitis is caused by a chronic condition, like allergies or cancer, long-term management may be necessary to prevent reoccurrences.
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