Blood Shot Eyes in Dogs
Have you ever looked at your dog’s cute puppy eyes and suddenly noticed that they were an unusual shade of pink or red? Changes in appearance can be very off putting because they tend to denote a health issue that warrants immediate attention from a professional. When your dog’s eyes are a different color than they should be, it can cause a lot of stress on your end because you might not have any idea as to what is going on with your canine companion.
As with all health concerns, the first action to take once you notice your dog’s eyes are red is to reach out to your pup’s veterinarian. Once you have described the symptoms and explained the entire situation to the vet, you will receive words of wisdom regarding how you should proceed. The most common outcome of a phone call to the vet is that you will schedule an appointment to have your pup seen by the veterinarian in person.
In the most urgent of situations, you might need to rush your dog to the vet as soon as possible, but let us calm your worries for a moment. While blood shot eyes are a cause for genuine concern, there is no need to panic if you notice that your pup has red, irritated eyes. It is nowhere near as time sensitive as breathing problems or cases where dogs lose consciousness. As long as you take your dog to a medical professional within a couple of days, your dog will be just fine.
But how do you know if your dog is experiencing red bloodshot eyes? Are there ways to distinguish between everyday allergen irritation and an actual case of bloodshot eyes? Let’s find out! First, we will talk about the signs that manifest when dogs have a blood shot eye or two. From there, we will provide you with an outline of causes behind red bloodshot eyes, as well as a list of symptoms that stem from canine bloodshot eyes. After that, we will summarize blood shot eyes in dogs with treatment options and ways of preventing blood shot eyes in the future.
Signs of Blood Shot Eyes and Optic Irritation in Dogs
Optic irritation in dogs is often denoted by redness, and sometimes, it is coupled with tears that do not stop falling. Tears accompany bloodshot eyes in particular when dryness is present because your dog’s eyes are trying to counteract the painful lack of moisture by activating the tear ducts and producing tears.
Some signs that indicate bloodshot eyes in pups are…
- Sensitivity to light
- Poor visual perception
- More tears than usual
- An inability to stop itching their eyes
- Redness and obvious irritation
- "Eye boogers," or unusual discharge
The Causes of Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs
Blood shot eyes in dogs can be attributed to allergies. As we will discuss furthermore later on in this blog post, allergies can be the source of redness and irritation. If allergies are the reason behind your dog's blood shot eyes, then the best you can do is give your dog's eyes time to become less inflamed. This is the only instance in which letting blood shot eyes in dogs resolve themselves is appropriate.
A few causes of red bloodshot eyes in dogs that warrant immediate action include…
- Cherry eyes
- Dog bloodshot eyes stress
- Allergens in the air
- Foreign objects stuck in the eye
- Swelling of eyelids or right below the eye
- Problems with regulation of tears in tear ducts
- Accidentally getting chemicals in or near the eyes
- Hepatitis for dogs
- Distemper in canines
- Dog eye blood vessel burst
- Ulcers along the cornea
- Bloodshot eyes cancer
- Benign tumors
- Malignant cancerous tumors
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eyes
Let’s focus on chemical burns for a moment, because they sound far fetched as a possible cause of bloodshot eyes in dogs and many pet owners do not realize how common bloodshot eyes are caused by chemicals. Interestingly enough, there are actually more toxic products in your household than you might think of off the top of your head. Soaps are considered a chemical for dogs, as is laundry detergent as well as any and all cleaning solutions.
Also, your dog does not necessarily have to come in direct contact with a bottle of detergent or the soap dispenser. Sometimes, there are chemical particles that have fallen on the floor or embedded into the carpets around your house. When your dog rubs his or her face against a rug that has the smallest amount of cleaning solution on it, he or she will likely get those toxic particles on his or her nose.
They will make their way to your pup's eye and cause bloodshot eyes to occur within moments of relaxing on the carpet. It's easy for toxicity to enter your dog's eyes, which is a major reason to be especially careful when using chemicals in your home. If you suspect that your dog has chemicals in his or her eyes, then you must immediately apply a rush of water to your dog's exposed eye. This will likely not remove all trace amounts of toxins, but it will eliminate a great deal of chemicals floating around against your dog's eyes.
How To Diagnose Dogs with Bloodshot Eyes
The process of diagnosing blood shot eyes in dogs is not restricted to one simple procedure. There are various ways of determining whether or not your dog has red bloodshot eyes, or even figuring out what is behind the bloodshot nature of your pup’s eyes.
- Blood tests
- Tonometry exams
- A thorough appointment with an ophthalmologist
- A fluorescein stain exam
- A schirmer tear test
A blood test is one of the more popular avenues of diagnosing a canine's optic irritation. Blood tests reveal a lot of deficiencies as well as indicate various genetic disorders that can contribute to your dog's bloodshot eyes. Having blood work done for your dog will help to rule out any pre-existing conditions that might contribute to bloodshot eyes.
An exam that is performed by an ophthalmologist, or an eye doctor, can check for any and every possible eye condition relating to vision, as well as the physical structure of your dog's eyes. This can also be performed by your veterinarian, if he or she is qualified.
The purpose of a fluorescein stain test is to take a peek at your dog's cornea in search of possible scratches or damage to the actual eye. A test of this nature will also reveal whether or not there is simply something in your dog's eye that is causing irritation, like an eyelash or a dust particle, for example.
Appropriately named, the schirmer tear test will focus on the tears that your dog's eyes produce. Checking the tears of canine dogs is helpful when trying to figure out the cause of redness and bloodshot eyes.
Tonometry appointments include an exam that tests the intraocular pressure of your dog's eyes. In simpler language, a tonometry determines the overall pressure of the fluid within your dog's eye. A tonometry can allow a professional to figure out if glaucoma is a possible risk factor for your dog's bloodshot eyes.
The precise way of diagnosing a dog’s bloodshot eyes will vary from one dog to another. Your vet is the one who decides which route to take, and the process of diagnosing is up to his or her discretion. There will usually be a reason behind why your veterinarian decides to go with one diagnostic test over another, so you can trust the wisdom of your pup’s vet. They are there to guide you in situations such as bloodshot eyes in dogs.
Treatment for Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs
There are various ways that a veterinarian will treat bloodshot eyes in dogs. Most of the time, your dog will either receive topical and/or oral medication for the treatment of bloodshot eyes. Depending on the cause of the irritation, your pup's vet will decide upon an external or internal form of bloodshot eye medication.
Topical medicine involves eye drops, ointments, medicated creams, or anything else that is applied to the body of your pup. Oral medications are the complete opposite of topical medicine in the sense that oral meds for bloodshot eyes are taken by the mouth. Your dog will swallow capsules or liquid, depending on the particular medicine being prescribed.
Anti-inflammatories are usually the category of oral medication for dogs with bloodshot eyes, whereas topical medications tend to be antibiotics, pain relievers, and steroids for dogs. CBD, or cannabidiol, is an up-and-coming treatment method for bloodshot eyes in dogs. If you scroll down the section below the next one, you can read even more about the ways in which CBD can help dogs with red blood shot eyes!
In the rarest of circumstances, it might be advised that your dog undergo surgery for his or her bloodshot eyes. Red blood shot eyes as a result of cherry eyes, entropion, and damage to the cornea are three main causes that will result in surgery as treatment for bloodshot eyes. The chances of your dog requiring removal of an eye is very, very rare, so try to not go into the situation with the worst case scenario in mind. Your dog will be just fine, and if you ever have any worries about your dog's situation, discuss the details with your pup's veterinarian. They are there to console you as much as they are there to make sure your dog stays healthy and happy.
Bloodshot Eyes Prevention Tips and Tricks for Pet Owners
When you start looking into ways of preventing blood shot eyes in dogs, the first point you should address is whether or not the irritation is caused by genetics. If baseline genes are the cause behind your dog's red bloodshot eyes, then be aware that this is a phenomenon that might show up time and time again. You'll be able to take note and remember that this might just be a chronic problem for your dog, but you can keep eye drops on hand, as well as always have access to CBD oil for treating bloodshot eyes in your dog.
If your dog naturally struggles with producing tears, then bloodshot eyes will go hand in hand with your pup's lack of tear production. Dogs with a higher risk of dealing with bloodshot eyes are those that have shorter noses, which might sound random but, in fact, noses are part of the nasal passageway of your dogs. The eyes and the nose are more interconnected than we realize, so the structure of your dog's nose might be a contributing factor to your dog's heightened risk for blood shot eyes.
Once you have established the cause of bloodshot eyes in dogs, you can begin to identify tips and tricks for bloodshot eye prevention.
A few tricks you can keep up your sleeve include...
- Invest in pet-friendly eye drops
- Make sure your pup is drinking enough water
- Give it time to see if there isn’t an allergy in the air
- Use CBD oil to expedite your dog's healing time
CBD and Bloodshot Eyes: How CBD Can Help Your Dog
If you know much about cannabis in general, you might already be aware of its tendency to cause redness in the eyes. Let’s talk about this in terms of people, and then we will relate the circumstances to dogs.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Why are my eyes so bloodshot?” Anyone who has dabbled in marijuana themselves can attest to the way cannabis dries your eyes and makes the whites of your eyeballs turn red. Though this phenomenon is attributed to cannabis in general, the truth of the matter is actually that cannabis as a whole does not cause eye soreness or redness.
The cannabinoid, THC, is responsible for eye irritation. Tetrahydrocannabinol does this by lower your blood pressure which subsequently results in the dilation of the blood vessels and capillaries in your bloodstream. Capillaries in your eyes will also dilate, which is why your eyes appear red in color. On the contrary, cannabidiol does not make your eyes red or irritated. Bloodshot eyes are caused by THC in the bloodstream, not CBD.
A related misconception of cannabis is that your eyes turn red because of the smoke that marijuana emits when met with fire. It makes a lot of sense why people come to this conclusion, but just to clear the air, bloodshot eyes after cannabis use is due to THC, not smoke. If you are not yet convinced, then think about what happens after you eat an edible. Your eyes will still turn red, despite there being no smoke involved.
The only instance where your eyes would turn red simply due to the smoke around you is if your bloodshot eyes are the result of an allergy to cannabis. It’s quite possible that you have an innate allergy to cannabis, which can certainly be a major cause of bloodshot eyes after ingesting marijuana. If you are worried that your irritated eyes are a result of an allergic reaction, there is one way to know for sure that cannabis is an allergen for you. The truth of the matter is that marijuana is not going to be a toxin, given its nature.
However, you might be allergic or sensitive to the smoke that is produced by smoking marijuana. You are either allergic to smoke, or you’re not, but replacing marijuana with, say, a tobacco product, will not result in a different response. If cannabis gives you bloodshot eyes, so will every other source of smoke.
All of these points are attributable to dogs as well. Your dog should never ever be exposed to THC, so there should not be an incident where your dog is having an allergic reaction to cannabis smoke, unless you are in a public place and it happens haphazardly simply from being around other people. That aside, you can treat bloodshot eyes in dogs just as you would your own eyes.
Also, the redness we are talking about is the most obvious sign that your dog has bloodshot eyes, and it is directly correlated to inflammation. Imagine that! Hearing that your dog's optic blood vessels are inflamed is not exciting news, but the part that is exciting is that one of the most powerful healing traits of CBD is its ability to reduce inflammation.
Where to Buy CBD for Dogs
Innovet is your one-stop shop for all things CBD. When it comes to cannabidiol for blood shot eyes, you cannot go wrong with CBD oil for dogs. Innovet offers dog treats, puppy chews, CBD-infused balms, and cannabidiol oils for dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Your dog’s bloodshot eyes are not as painful as they appear, but even so, your dog deserves relief from the irritation that redness brings. Trust Innovet with relieving pain for dogs with bloodshot eyes by purchasing CBD for your dog today!
Dr. Sara Ochoa
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, St. Georges University
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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