What to Do If Your Dog's Eye Is Swollen

Close up of a dog's swollen eye.
There are many reasons for a dog's eye to swell.

Getty Images/Ирина Мещерякова

It can be alarming if one or both of your dog's eyes begin to swell. There are several causes of swollen eyes in dogs, so it's helpful for dog owners to be familiar with them in case their dogs ever experience this problem. Eye swelling can be painful and a symptom of a more serious problem; ignoring it is never the answer.

 Causes of Swollen Eyes in Dogs

There are a variety of things that can cause you dog's eyes to swell. Depending on the cause, the swelling can occur in one or both eyes as well as suddenly or slowly over time. The following causes are some of the most common, but various other things can cause ocular swelling, too.

Allergic Reaction

One of the most obvious causes of eye swelling in dogs is an allergic reaction. Just like in people, insect bites and stings or an exposure to other allergens can cause a dog's eyes to quickly become swollen. Facial swelling along with swelling of the throat can also occur during an allergic reaction so this acute swelling should not be ignored.

Dog eye swollen from an insect sting.
Allergic reactions from insect stings can cause eye swelling.

Getty Images/Anant_Kasetsinsombut


Tumors in the mouth, on the face, or in the skull can put pressure on the eyes and cause them, or the tissues surrounding them, to swell. Your veterinarian may not be able to see a tumor without your dog being sedated or fully anesthetized and taking an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, so they aren't always obvious. Tumors can be painful and their prognosis varies depending on the type of tumor.


Various types of bacterial infections involving the eye and surrounding tissues can cause inflammation and swelling. Additionally, viral, bacterial, fungal, and even some parasitic infections that affect other parts of the body can cause eye swelling.


Even though they are inside the mouth, tooth root abscesses can cause an eye to swell. The upper fourth premolar is a common culprit for swellling just under the eye due to its long roots. Skin abscess can also cause eye swelling if the abscess is located near the eye.


Glaucoma is a disease that causes increased pressure inside the eye. The eye can bulge and therefore appear to be swollen or larger than normal.

Dry Eye

Another disease of the eye is keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye. With dry eye, a dog does not produce an adequate amount of tears to keep its eyes lubricated. Consequently, they become dry, inflamed, and can swell.


Severe trauma can cause an eye to actually pop out of its socket. When this happens, it is referred to as "proptosis," and the eye will appear swollen. Sometimes the eye comes completely out of the socket, but other times it will simply bulge.


Bite wounds, bumps, and scratches on the face can all cause inflammation and swelling so if these injuries occur near the eye, the eye or the surrounding area will become swollen. Dog fights, being hit by a car, and rough play are common causes of these eye swelling injuries.

Treatment of Swollen Eyes in Dogs

If one or both of your dog's eyes are swollen, you should call your veterinarian immediately. They may recommend simple, at-home treatments, such as warm compresses, a saline eye rinse, or oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, until you can get your dog into the hospital. Once they examine your dog and the cause of the swollen eyes is determined, medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or steroids may be prescribed. Surgery, dental procedures, and other treatments may also be necessary depending on the cause of the swelling.

How to Prevent Swollen Eyes in Dogs

Because there are so many different causes of swollen eyes in dogs, it can be difficult to prevent it from happening. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help to detect any problems before they cause the eyes to swell. You should also do your best to keep your dog away from stinging and biting insects and situations that may cause trauma to its face.

Basic safety measures that you would otherwise take for your dog will also help keep its eyes from being injured and getting swollen. It will also help to provide regular dental care; avoid letting your dog chew on things that could crack its teeth. This will help prevent tooth root abscesses from developing.