One common sight you may see if you own a dog is swollen eyes or eyelids. This can be down to many reasons, but the most common is something called blepharitis.
Blepharitis is a condition which causes inflammation of the eye and eyelid, and in some cases, the swelling can be severe enough to close the eye completely whilst the flare-up occurs. In some cases, the condition can affect not only the skin around the eye but also the tissues which are inside the eye, as well as the meibomian glands.
Blepharitis isn’t serious per se, but it is very uncomfortable for dogs, quite painful, and if you don’t treat it quickly and correctly, it could damage your dog’s sight in time. Of course, blepharitis is a condition which can also affect humans and is closely linked to conjunctivitis. You shouldn’t confuse the two, however, as they are two separate conditions which are treated differently.
There are several other conditions which are less common, but which can also cause your dog’s eyes to become red, itchy, swollen, and even swollen shut.
Is it Normal for a Dog’s Eyes to Be Swollen Shut?
It isn’t normal, no, but it is a very common condition which develops and then passes, provided proper treatment is administered. There are certain breeds of dogs which are much more prone to inflammation of the eyes than others, and these include:
- Shih Tzus
- English Bulldogs
- Chow Chows
- Lhasa Apsos
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Chinese Shar Peis
Whilst any dog can develop blepharitis or general inflammation, these breeds are at a higher risk, so this is something to be informed about beforehand and also to be on the lookout, to treat early and avoid discomfort and possible future damage.
Causes of Swollen Eyes
Blepharitis can be caused by a number of different factors, including congenital disposition, bacterial infection, allergies, or other less common conditions, including:
- Abnormalities with the structure of the eyelid
- The nasal folds are prominent, and therefore cause regular swelling
- An inability for your dog to close his or her eyes properly, called lagophthalmos
- Staphylococcus or streptococcus infection (bacterial)
- A trauma to the eye which has happened in the past
- A parasite infection
- A viral infection
- Dry eyes
- Adenocarcinomas of the eye, or sebaceous adenomas
All of these are known to cause blepharitis, however one of the most common causes is a simple allergy, e.g. pollen or another allergen which irritates the eyes and causes the swelling and itching symptoms to occur.
Commonly Related Symptoms
The most common symptoms of blepharitis, aside from the obvious swelling are:
- Red eyes
- Swollen around the eye, under the eye, and even the eye being closed shut
- Loss of vision or impairment of vision
- A discharging eye, although this isn’t usually green, it is normally watery
- Your dog will probably be quite irritable, and may not let you look at the area closely
- Pain in the area
- Small pustules which appear on the skin surrounding the eyes
- The skin may be flaky or scaly
- Hair loss surrounding the eyes
This can all be on just one eye, or it can be both eyes. If the blepharitis is down to a bacterial infection however, the chances of your dog infecting the other eye, due to itching and touching the other eye, are quite high.
Treatment for Swollen Eyes
How the blepharitis is treated, totally depends upon what is causing it in the first place. In the simplest cases, home remedies may help, and we’ll talk about a few of those shortly.
If there is no real cause underlying for the blepharitis, your vet may simply advise you to try and self-treat the swelling with warm compresses, which you should apply to the affected eye a few times a day, until the swelling and redness subsides.
If the blepharitis is down to a bacterial infection however, it may be that a course of antibiotics will be needed. This could be given in various forms, and your vet will advise on the best course of action.
The most common type of antibiotic is going to be an eye drop, and of course, depending upon the temperament of your dog, this could be a tricky affair! It is important to try your very best to adhere to treatment however, as this is the single only way to help your dog’s blepharitis, and remove any pain or discomfort your dog is experiencing.
This will also ensure that no further damage occurs, as bacterial-caused blepharitis, left untreated or improperly treated, could cause visual damage in the future.
Other medications may be prescribed, depending upon the cause. This could be anti-parasitic medication, if the blepharitis is down to a parasite problem, or it could be an anti-fungal medication. Again, it all depends upon the cause of the condition.
If the blepharitis is recurring and is down to an abnormality of the eye, or a tumor, then you should seek help from your vet, who may need to surgically remove the problem. It’s worth mentioning that if your dog’s recurrent blepharitis is down to a tumor, then most canine tumors turn out to be totally benign, and when removed, your dog should recover completely normally.
Of course, this is a worst-case scenario, and most cases of blepharitis are usually down to a very simple cause, which can be treated just as simple.
Overall, simple blepharitis, when treated correctly, should clear up relatively quickly. Blepharitis which has no underlying cause and is treated at home, should disappear within a few days to a week. If it continues however, you should reconvene with your vet, who may want to do some extra tests to find out why the condition isn’t resolving on its own.
Home Remedies for Inflamed Eyes in Dogs
If you are sure that your dog’s blepharitis is not due to any underlying cause, i.e. you have checked with your vet and they have told you that you are free to treat your dog at home, there are several home remedies you can try.
These should ease the inflammation, soreness, and redness, as well as helping to soothe any itching that may be present.
In addition, the quicker you use these home remedies, the less chance there is of your dog’s blepharitis becoming severe or progressing. Because blepharitis could be caused by something which has entered the eye and irritated it, e.g. pollen or some other allergen, the best step is to wash the eye out and remove any debris or anything which is lurking in there which shouldn’t be there.
Your dog may not be amenable to this, so do not force him or her to allow you to do anything they are extremely adverse to. If your dog is struggling against you, becomes aggressive, or simply won’t let you look at his or her eye, then this is a sure sign that they are in pain or very uncomfortable, and you should seek extra help from your vet in that case.
If your dog is quite comfortable with you treating the area, you can try the following things:
- Mix lukewarm water (bottled is best) with half a teaspoon of salt. Splash this onto the affected eye, and then clean carefully with a cotton wool pad, ridding the area of any debris or any watery discharge.
- Apply cooled chamomile tea to a cotton wool ball and clean your dog’s affected eye carefully. Always ensure that the tea has cooled sufficiently, as the area will be very sensitive.
- You could also make your own herbal eye drop, by mixing calendula, chamomile, eyebright, and red clover together, in equal measurements, and using a dropper to apply the eye drop to the affected eye. You should do this three times per day. If you’re not sure how to use herbs in this way, this may not be the best first course of action, but if you have experience, it can be a good way to soothe the area and rid your dog of inflammation.
If you think that your dog’s blepharitis is down to an allergic issue, you can try giving them an antihistamine drug, such as Benadryl. Always check with your vet before giving your dog any medication such as this, but overall, Benadryl is safe for pets and very successful at relieving symptoms which are due to allergies, including blepharitis and swollen eyes overall.
Do not use Benadryl if your dog has any history of high blood pressure, glaucoma, or cardiovascular disease.
If all is well, you can give your dog Benadryl safely, provided you know their body weight. The standard dosage is usually 1mg per pound of their body weight, and it is administered 2 or 3 days per day.
Swollen eyes can certainly be annoying and painful for your dog. If you can think back to any time when you have suffered with an eye infection or pain in that area, you will know yourself how much of a discomfort it can be.
Your dog is feeling all of this and cannot vocalize what is going on! By knowing the signs, you can help him or her rid themselves of their symptoms quickly, and in the safest possible way.
Remember, if you are at all concerned, contact your vet for extra help and support.