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Vet Tech Rounds: Conjunctivitis in Pets

Vet Talks 4 min read
white dog and white cat with pink eye and conjunctivitis in pets
Vet Tech Holly with her Dog

We all know that conjunctivitis is a condition that usually pops up at some stage, whether young, old, healthy, or sick. Any pet can also end up with conjunctivitis. For those that don’t know, anything ending in “itis” generally means that the specific area is inflamed and infected. In this case, conjunctivitis refers to an infection of the eye.

What is Conjunctivitis in Pets?

The tissue that covers the eye and inner surface of the eyelid is called the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis means that the conjunctiva is inflamed. It can be caused by many different factors such as bacteria, viruses, allergies, trauma, and different irritants. It may not always be infectious; therefore, it may not transfer from one pet to another but it CAN also be contagious.

Contagious conjunctivitis seems to be more common in cats than in dogs. This is caused by different bacteria or viruses. Conjunctivitis in dogs can be more commonly caused by an underlying issue or a seasonal allergy.

eye graphic for conjunctivitis


Many of the symptoms associated with this condition are restricted to the eye area. There will be:

  • Redness in the eye
  • Discharge
  • Swelling
  • Excessive blinking
  • Light sensitivity
  • Scratching the eyes by pawing
  • Rubbing their face on different surfaces

Conjunctivitis is not something that should be attempted to treat at home. It is always best to take your pet to a veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying conditions or possible damage to the eye itself. When you notice these symptoms, it is advised to have this looked at as soon as possible.

Veterinary Tests

One of the main reasons that it’s important for your pet to get checked, is due to there being many different types of conjunctivitis. These different types can range from minor to severe and if you tried to treat the more severe case with home remedies, it most likely will not have any effect. The more severe cases can relate to conditions such as disorders of the tear duct, corneal diseases, eyelid abnormalities, or parasites.

A vet will put Fluorescein (Fluorescein is a dye that will detect corneal ulcers or any abrasions on the eye) into the eye. It is a green dye that glows under blue light and if there is damage to the cornea, the dye will stain the eye. When the dye sticks the damaged area, it will show the veterinarian where the damage is and how big/small the issue is.

The Schirmer tear test will detect whether the eye is producing enough tears to lubricate the eye. There are additional tests that can also be performed to detect any bacteria, distemper, or glaucoma.

close up of dog eye


Most of the cases of conjunctivitis can be treated by applying eye drops and ointments to the eye. When the conjunctivitis is related to a more serious condition then antibiotics and other medication may be prescribed to administer orally. When the guidelines and treatment are followed correctly, the eye will have a very good chance of healing within a few days.

There are many other reasons why a pet may have conjunctivitis such as entropion. Entropion means that the eyelid is deformed and the eyelashes grow inwards causing damage to the eye. This condition would require surgical attention in order to correct it.

Other issues such as dry eye, can be a long-term issue and will require treatment for the rest of your pet’s life. This can also be managed by applying drops daily.

It is always a good idea to revisit the vet to ensure that the eye is healing correctly and responding well to the advised treatment. For severe cases, the eye may need to be removed to prevent further pain and inflammation. Though this is rare, removal of the eye can be more common in breeds where the eyes are bulging.

white cat with eye infection


Not all causes of conjunctivitis can be avoided but for the most part, it can be prevented. Pet parents should be careful with airborne irritants that your pets can be exposed to such as cigarette smoke. For pets with eyes that are more exposed, playtime should be monitored. Vaccines can also be a great preventative measure against certain viruses that may cause problems with the eye. Diseases like distemper and herpes virus can also cause conjunctivitis.

Supplements for Conjunctivitis

NHV Ey-Eas: Eye Infection Support For Cats & Dogs

Our pet experts advise using the Ey-Eas. It’s our herbal formula that contains antibiotic and anti-inflammatory activities for conjunctivitis and watery eyes. This formula is gentle and non-irritating and it will support the management of painful swelling, soothing uncomfortable itching, and helping to control discharge. Ey-Eas can also help prevent the infection of other pets as conjunctivitis can be contagious in some cases.

Ey-Eas can be applied topically to the eye 2-3 times a day.

Holly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Nursing from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland. She also completed a 1-year Animal Care course. Worked in small Animal Veterinary practice for 3+ years before moving on to working in the Equine Industry. Professional Boston Terrier care – includes skills such as fart eraser and immune to Loud snoring sounds.

Published: May 15, 2020

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