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How to Treat Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs: Expert Tips and Advice - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

How to Treat Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs: Expert Tips and Advice

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

bloodshot eyes in dogs

Bloodshot eyes in dogs can be a sign of various underlying health issues. It is essential to identify the root cause and treat it promptly to avoid any complications. Bloodshot eyes can cause discomfort and irritation to dogs, and if left untreated, it can lead to severe eye infections, vision loss, and other complications.

Red eyes in dog dogs can result from allergies infections, injuries, and underlying health conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Regardless, cleaning your dog’s eyes out regularly with canine eye cleansers is essential to prevent infections and bloodshot eyes.

Now when it comes to causes and treatment of redness in dog eyes, we take the issue seriously. The eyes are more than just a window to the soul, they are also a window to a dog’s health. So to give a truly thorough answer, we consulted the Clinical Atlas of Canine and Feline Ophthalmic Disease and Dr. Kirk N. Gelatt, VMD, DACVO in his summary of dog eye disorders.

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When a dog’s eyes become bloodshot, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Therefore, it is important to identify the cause of the redness before starting any treatment.

The first step in treating bloodshot eyes in dogs is to clean the area around the eyes with a damp cloth. This will help to remove any discharge or debris that may be causing irritation.

If the redness is caused by an infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment. It is important to follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian and administer the medication as directed.

In some cases, allergies or environmental irritants may be the cause of bloodshot eyes in dogs. In these cases, your veterinarian may recommend an antihistamine or other medication to help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.

It is important to monitor your dog’s eyes closely and seek veterinary care if the redness persists or if your dog shows signs of discomfort or pain.

In summary, treating bloodshot eyes in dogs involves identifying the underlying cause and administering appropriate treatment under the guidance of a veterinarian.

Understanding Bloodshot Eyes in Dogs

Bloodshot eyes in dogs can be a sign of various underlying health conditions. When a dog’s eyes appear red and irritated, it means that the blood vessels in the sclera (the white part of the eye) have dilated or expanded. This can be caused by a range of factors, including allergies, infections, injuries, or underlying health conditions.

It is important to note that bloodshot eyes in dogs can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as glaucoma, uveitis, or cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention if the redness persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as discharge, swelling, or discomfort.

One common cause of bloodshot eyes in dogs is an irritated sclera. This can occur due to allergies, dust, or other irritants in the environment. In such cases, the redness usually subsides within a few days, and the dog may not require treatment.

Another possible cause of bloodshot eyes in dogs is a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This occurs when the blood vessels in the sclera rupture, causing blood to accumulate in the surrounding tissues. Although this can be alarming, it is usually not a serious condition and resolves on its own within a week or two.

Common Causes of Bloodshot Eyes

Bloodshot eyes in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial to providing the appropriate treatment. Here are some common causes of bloodshot eyes in dogs:

Foreign Object & Injury

Foreign objects such as dirt, dust, or grass can cause irritation and inflammation in the eyes, leading to redness. Injuries to the eye, such as scratches or blunt trauma, can also cause bloodshot eyes.

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Environmental Irritants

Dry air, smoke, and excess sun exposure can cause dryness and irritation in the eyes, leading to redness. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors are more prone to this type of irritation.

Dry Eye

Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears, leading to dryness and inflammation. This can cause bloodshot eyes, along with other symptoms such as discharge and squinting.

Allergies

Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things, including pollen, dust, and certain foods. Allergies can cause inflammation in the eyes, leading to redness and itchiness. You may see you dog rubbing their eyes a lot if this is the case.

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Infections

Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can all cause bloodshot eyes in dogs. Other symptoms may include discharge, swelling, and discomfort. 

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Straining & Coughing

Straining and coughing can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst, leading to bloodshot eyes. This can happen when dogs strain to defecate or cough excessively due to respiratory issues.

Autoimmune Disorders or Compromised Immune Systems

Autoimmune disorders or compromised immune systems can cause inflammation and bloodshot eyes. Examples of such disorders include lupus, pemphigus, and immune-mediated polyarthritis.

It is important to note that these are not the only causes of bloodshot eyes in dogs. If your dog is experiencing redness or other eye-related symptoms, it is best to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. 

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Other Eye Conditions that cause red or bloodshot eyes in dogs

Keep in mind, there are very many eye conditions that cause bloodshot or red eyes in dogs. Some other ones to look out for include:

  1. Canine Herpesvirus (CHV) Ocular Disease: Studies show that canine herpesvirus can cause ocular disease in puppies, leading to redness, conjunctivitis, and discharge. It can be severe and even result in corneal ulcers or blindness.
  2. Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition where increased intraocular pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to red, painful eyes, and potential vision loss if left untreated.
  3. Chronic Cataracts: Cataracts are opacities in the lens of the eye, causing redness, cloudiness, and visual impairment. They can be congenital or develop with age.
  4. Bartonella: Bartonella infection can cause inflammation in the eyes, leading to redness and conjunctivitis in dogs.
  5. Uveitis: Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. It can cause redness, pain, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. It is also a common reasons dogs squint or won’t open their eyes.
  6. Complications from Diabetes: Dogs with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, leading to redness and vision problems.
  7. Basement Membrane Disease (BMD): BMD is a genetic disorder in certain breeds (often Boxers) that affects the corneal basement membrane, causing recurrent erosions, redness, and discomfort.
  8. Golden Retriever Pigmentary Uveitis (GRPU): GRPU is an inherited condition seen in Golden Retrievers, characterized by inflammation inside the eye, leading to redness and eventual vision loss.

Also be aware of issues like corneal ulcers and possibly tumors in the eye.

Other Symptoms to Watch Out For If Your Dog Has Bloodshot Eyes

Physical Indicators

Bloodshot eyes in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, infections, and trauma. Physical indicators of bloodshot eyes include redness and inflammation in the whites of the eyes, as well as swelling and discharge. In severe cases, the eyes may appear cloudy or hazy.

Other physical symptoms that may accompany bloodshot eyes include:

  • Squinting or excessive blinking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing or discharge
  • Changes in the size or shape of the pupils
  • Changes in the color of the iris

If your dog is exhibiting any of these physical symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Behavioral Changes

In addition to physical symptoms, bloodshot eyes in dogs can also cause behavioral changes. Dogs with bloodshot eyes may be more irritable or lethargic than usual, and may be less interested in playing or going for walks.

Other behavioral changes that may indicate bloodshot eyes include:

  • Rubbing or scratching at the eyes
  • Avoiding bright light or sunlight
  • Hiding or seeking out dark places
  • Changes in appetite or drinking habits

If you notice any of these behavioral changes in your dog, it is important to schedule a veterinary appointment to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms.

Treating Bloodshot Eyes In Dogs: 13 Treatment Steps & Options

If you notice that your dog’s eyes are red and bloodshot, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue, eye injury, or infection. Here are 13 treatment steps and options that can help alleviate your dog’s discomfort and treat their bloodshot eyes.

1. Flushing the eye out

Flushing out the eye with saline solution or water can help remove any debris or irritants that may be causing the bloodshot appearance. Use a syringe or eye dropper to gently flush the eye with the solution.

Rinsing a dog’s eye out with gloves to prevent contamination and using cool, sterile water or a veterinary eye cleanser can be done following these steps:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly and put on disposable gloves to prevent any potential contamination.
  2. Position your dog in a comfortable and secure position. You may need someone to help hold the dog steady if necessary.
  3. Use a syringe, a gentle stream of cool, sterile water, or a veterinary eye cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Make sure the solution is specifically made for eye irrigation and safe for dogs.
  4. Gently hold the dog’s head still, and with a steady hand, carefully direct the stream of solution into the affected eye.
  5. Allow the solution to flow over the eye, flushing out any debris or irritants. Use a generous amount of solution to ensure thorough rinsing.
  6. Avoid using cotton wool or any rough material, as it can scratch the surface of the eye and cause more damage.
  7. After rinsing, gently pat the area around the eye dry with a soft, clean cloth or tissue. Avoid touching the eye directly.
  8. Observe your dog for any signs of improvement or worsening of the condition. If the redness or irritation persists or worsens, seek veterinary attention promptly.

2. Saline Eye Drops & Eye Lubricants

Saline eye drops and eye lubricants can help soothe and moisturize your dog’s eyes, reducing redness and irritation. These can be purchased over-the-counter or prescribed by your vet. But first see our article on which eye drops are safe for dogs.

3. Treat Underlying Health Issue

If the bloodshot eyes are a symptom of an underlying health issue such as allergies, infection, or glaucoma, treating the underlying condition can help alleviate the redness.

4. Eye compress

A warm or cool compress can help reduce inflammation and soothe your dog’s eyes. Use a clean, damp cloth and hold it against the eye for a few minutes at a time. A great eye compress is to make a cup of chamomile tea and simply let the tea bag cool. When it’s cool (but still wet) hold it against your dog’s eye for several minutes.

5. Use A Humidifier & Limit Sun or Smoke Exposure

A humidifier can help reduce dryness in the air, which can cause eye irritation. Additionally, limiting your dog’s exposure to smoke and sunlight can also help reduce irritation and redness.

6. Prevent them from scratching/rubbing the eye

If your dog is scratching or rubbing their eyes, it can worsen the redness and cause further damage. Use an Elizabethan collar (the cone collar not the shock e collar) or other method to prevent them from touching their eyes.

7. Ointments & Medication

Your vet may prescribe topical ointments or medication to treat the underlying cause of your dog’s bloodshot eyes. Follow their instructions carefully and administer as directed. Remember that antibiotics have to be completed.

8. Reduce Exposure To Allergens

If allergies are causing your dog’s bloodshot eyes, reducing their exposure to allergens such as pollen or dust can help alleviate the redness.

9. Surgery: Medial canthoplasty For brachycephalic ocular syndrome.

Some dogs have red eyes because their eyes protrude. We see this most often in short-nosed or brachycephalic breeds. In severe cases of brachycephalic ocular syndrome, surgery may be necessary to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term damage to the eyes.

You can see more on specific eye problems a dog may have in our article on dog breeds prone to poor eyesight.

10. Use a Harness Instead Of A Collar To Stop Pressure On the Eye

If your dog is prone to eye injuries or has a history of bloodshot eyes, using a dog harness instead of a collar can help reduce pressure on the eye area. Remember, if a dog is pulling on a collar, the pressure on their throats can damage their eyes, possibly causing blood vessels to burst. 

11. Treatment For Dry Eye

If your dog is suffering from dry eye, your vet may prescribe medication or recommend eye drops to help alleviate the symptoms and reduce redness. These are usually medications to stimulate tear production and eye lubricants.

12. Boost Dog’s Immune System

A healthy immune system can help reduce the risk of eye infections and other conditions that can cause bloodshot eyes. Make sure your dog is getting proper nutrition and exercise to boost their immune system.

13. Surgery for eyelash and eyelid abnormalities

In some cases, eyelash or eyelid abnormalities like ectropion or entropion can cause bloodshot eyes. Surgery may be necessary to correct these issues and alleviate the redness.

Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnostic Tests

When a dog presents with bloodshot eyes, the veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to determine the underlying cause. This may include a complete ophthalmic exam, blood work, and urine analysis. The vet may also use specialized diagnostic tests such as a Schirmer tear test, intraocular pressure measurement, or a fluorescein stain test to assess the eye’s condition.

Treatment Options

The treatment for bloodshot eyes in dogs will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, the condition may resolve on its own, while in others, medical intervention may be necessary. Treatment options may include:

  • Topical ophthalmic medications: These include eye drops or ointments that are used to treat infections, inflammation, or other eye conditions.

  • Oral medications: Antibiotics, antihistamines, and other medications may be prescribed to treat underlying infections or allergies.

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities or remove tumors that are causing the bloodshot eyes.

  • Lifestyle changes: The vet may recommend changes to the dog’s diet, environment, or daily routine to help manage underlying health conditions that may be contributing to the bloodshot eyes.

It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions closely and administer any prescribed medications as directed. In some cases, it may take several weeks or months to fully resolve the condition, and regular follow-up appointments may be necessary to monitor the dog’s progress.

Home Remedies for Bloodshot Eyes In Dogs

There are several home and natural remedies that can help alleviate bloodshot eyes in dogs. However, it is important to note that these remedies should not replace professional veterinary care. If your dog’s bloodshot eyes persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary attention.

Here are some home remedies that can help with bloodshot eyes in dogs:

  • Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress to the affected eye can help reduce inflammation and soothe the eye. A cold, damp cloth or a bag of frozen vegetables can be used as a cold compress. Hold the compress against the eye for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.

  • Warm Compress: A warm compress can also help soothe the eye and promote healing. A warm, damp cloth can be used as a warm compress. Hold the compress against the eye for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.

  • Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce redness and swelling in the eye. Brew a cup of chamomile tea, let it cool, and then use a cotton ball to apply the tea to the affected eye.

  • Saline Solution: Saline solution can help flush out any irritants or debris that may be causing the bloodshot eye. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of warm water and use a dropper or syringe to apply the solution to the affected eye.

  • Eye Drops: Over-the-counter eye drops made for dogs can help alleviate bloodshot eyes. However, it is important to use eye drops specifically made for dogs, as human eye drops can be harmful to dogs.

Remember, while home remedies can be helpful in treating bloodshot eyes in dogs, they should not replace professional veterinary care. If your dog’s bloodshot eyes persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary attention.

Prevention and Long-Term Management

Preventing bloodshot eyes in dogs is essential for their overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to help prevent bloodshot eyes in dogs:

  • Keep your dog’s environment clean and free of irritants. Dust, pollen, and other allergens can cause eye irritation and lead to bloodshot eyes. Regularly clean your dog’s bedding, toys, and play areas to reduce the risk of exposure to irritants.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals around your dog’s eyes. If you need to use a cleaning solution, make sure it is safe for use around the eyes and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep your dog’s eyes moist. Dry eyes can cause irritation and lead to bloodshot eyes. Consider using a canine eye lubricant or artificial tears to keep your dog’s eyes moist.
  • Provide a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet that includes essential vitamins and minerals can help prevent eye problems in dogs.

Long-term management of bloodshot eyes in dogs involves identifying and treating the underlying cause. Here are some tips for managing bloodshot eyes in dogs:

  • Regularly check your dog’s eyes for signs of irritation or infection. If you notice any discharge, redness, or swelling, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan. Depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s bloodshot eyes, your veterinarian may prescribe medication or recommend changes to your dog’s diet or environment.
  • Consider natural remedies. Some natural remedies, such as chamomile tea or a cold compress, may help soothe your dog’s eyes and reduce inflammation. However, always consult with your veterinarian before using any natural remedies on your dog.

By following these prevention and long-term management tips, you can help keep your dog’s eyes healthy and free from bloodshot eyes.

When to Seek Professional Help

If the bloodshot eyes persist for more than a day or two, it’s best to seek professional help. A veterinarian can examine the dog’s eyes and determine the underlying cause of the redness. They can also prescribe medications to treat the condition.

Additionally, if the bloodshot eyes are accompanied by other symptoms such as discharge, squinting, or pawing at the eyes, it’s important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition such as an eye infection or injury.

In some cases, bloodshot eyes could be a sign of a systemic disease such as hypertension or diabetes. A veterinarian can perform a thorough examination to rule out any underlying health issues.

It’s important to note that delaying treatment for bloodshot eyes can lead to further complications, including vision loss. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek professional help if the symptoms persist or worsen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I give my dog for bloodshot eyes?

It is not recommended to give your dog any medication without consulting a veterinarian first. Over-the-counter eye drops meant for humans may contain ingredients that are harmful to dogs and could worsen the condition. Always seek professional advice before administering any medication to your dog.

What does it mean if a dog’s eyes are bloodshot?

Bloodshot eyes in dogs can be a sign of various underlying health issues, such as allergies, infections, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, and more. It is essential to consult a veterinarian to determine the cause of your dog’s bloodshot eyes and provide appropriate treatment.


How can I treat my dog’s red eye naturally?

Some natural remedies that may help alleviate your dog’s red eye include applying a warm compress to the affected area, using chamomile tea bags to soothe the eyes, and feeding your dog a healthy diet rich in antioxidants. However, it is still recommended to consult a veterinarian before trying any natural remedies.

How long do bloodshot eyes last in dogs?

The duration of bloodshot eyes in dogs depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, it may clear up on its own within a few days, while in others, it may require medical treatment. Consult a veterinarian to determine the cause and duration of your dog’s bloodshot eyes.

Are there any eye drops for dogs with bloodshot eyes?

Yes, there are eye drops specifically formulated for dogs with bloodshot eyes. However, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian before using any eye drops to ensure they are safe and effective for your dog.

Why are my dog’s eyes red and have discharge?

Redness and discharge in a dog’s eyes can be a sign of various eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, and uveitis. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment to prevent any further complications.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, bloodshot eyes in dogs can be a sign of various underlying conditions and should never be ignored. It is important to seek veterinary attention if the bloodshot eyes persist for more than a day or are accompanied by other symptoms.

Pet owners can help prevent bloodshot eyes in dogs by ensuring that their pets have a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Additionally, avoiding exposure to irritants such as smoke, dust, and chemicals can also help prevent bloodshot eyes.

When treating bloodshot eyes, it is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully and administer medication as prescribed. Pet owners should also ensure that their pets are comfortable and have a clean environment to aid in the healing process.

Overall, with proper care and attention, bloodshot eyes in dogs can be treated effectively, and pet owners can help prevent future occurrences.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.