Eye problems are often obvious to owners because dogs will rub at their eyes, rub their faces on the ground, wink, and even hold one or both eyes shut, but many owners don't know what they can safely do to help at home. Some products can cause serious, if not permanent, damage to an eye or interact with your dog's other medications so it is important to know how pink eye can be managed with home remedies and when to call your veterinarian.
What is Pink Eye in Dogs?
Pink eye is the common name for conjunctivitis and can occur in dogs when the fleshy, pink part surrounding an eye, called the conjunctive, becomes inflamed.
Pink eye can occur due to another eye problem or by itself due to a viral infection, bacterial infection, or allergies. Depending on the reason for the inflammation, pink eye may need medications from a veterinarian but there are a few safe and effective home remedies that may also help.
Antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, and antihistamines are different medications that may be needed to treat pink eye in addition to the following home remedies if it does not improve.
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Saline Eye Drops
Saline eye drops can be used to safely flush any irritants out of a dog's eye. These drops won't hurt, even if there is an infection, and will provide some temporary relief to your dog's inflamed eye.
Saline eye drops can be purchased from a pharmacy, online, or from a pet store and gently squirted directly into your dog's eye. They are not the same as contact lens solutions. Contact lens solution for humans has added ingredients and should never be used in a dog's eye as it can be harmful.
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While putting an e-collar on a dog with pink eye does not directly do anything to treat it, it does help to prevent any further damage to the eye. Dogs with pink eye often rub the eye with a paw or on the ground and can scratch it or irritate it further. An e-collar will prevent this trauma while you address the problem.
E-collars can be purchased from pet stores, online, or from your veterinarian and should be big enough so that your dog can't scratch its face or rub its eye on the floor or furniture. The basic rule of thumb is that an e-collar should reach two inches past the nose of your dog when put around its neck like a lampshade.
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If something is inflamed or swollen, including the conjunctiva, a cold compress can often help. For dogs with pink eye, a cold, wet washcloth is usually the easiest and most comfortable way to apply a compress to the eye. Soft, cold compresses (not frozen, hard ice packs) can also be purchased online and from pharmacies.
The compress can be applied to the closed eye for several minutes, several times a day to help decrease any swelling and inflammation. A cold compress will of course not treat any infection but it will help your dog feel a little more comfortable.
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Different than simple saline eye drops, artificial tears have a lubricant in them that is safe for eyes. If your dog's eyes are dry and irritated, artificial tears may help to provide additional moisture to decrease inflammation. These can be applied a few times a day if the eyes are extremely dry. However, they do not contain antibiotics or other medications to treat an infection.
Artificial tears come in either an eye drop or an ointment and are commonly used in dogs diagnosed with dry eye. Since they are not used to flush an eye but are instead designed to stay in the eye, only a small amount is needed so a small bottle or tube will go a long way.
Home remedies can be a great adjunct therapy and sometimes even all your dog needs, but pink eye often requires medicated eye drops or ointments to kill off bacteria and suppress inflammation.
If home remedies are not improving your dog's eye concern after a day or so or the symptoms are severe, you should contact your veterinarian in order to get your dog some additional help and potential pain management. Other issues may be present causing the pink eye and could worsen if ignored.