If you’ve noticed a few new eye boogers, are some worrying redness on your dog’s eyes, you may wonder, “can you use human eye drops on dogs?” It’s often tempting to reach for the medicine we have on hand or to grab something over the counter, especially if the problem doesn’t seem too bad.
After all, a dog vet’s bills can leave us all a bit deflated, especially in the current cost of living crisis. Of course, good eye care with dog tear stain removers and eye wipes go a long way in preventing eye problems.
But even so, dog eye infections remain among the most common issues in the vet’s office. So, what human eye ointments are okay for you to use on your dogs, and what are the risks? To answer this, we need to go through the different human eye drops you may have access to.
Can you use human eye drops on dogs?
The short answer is, no, do not use human eye drops on dogs. Eyes are delicate organs, and medications that work on humans do not always have the same effect on dogs and can be dangerous.
Further, because eyes are prone to complications, veterinarians must examine and diagnose eye problems. If dog owners try to wing it and use whatever medication they have on hand, they can potentially cause major damage to their dog’s eyes.
Some human eye drops, such as certain antihistamine drops, are potentially dangerous and damage your dog’s eyesight. Using human steroidal or antibiotic eye drops may be dangerous if you give them for the wrong condition or dose. Simple human eye lubricant
Can dogs use human eye drops for allergies?
First, let’s address one of the most common human eye drops and why we should never use them on a dog. We often use Visine when we have red, itchy, and inflamed eyes from allergies. This is made with tetrahydrozoline. It constricts blood vessels in the eye and is not FDA-approved for dogs as it can cause permanent eye damage.
Dogs who swallow Visine can also develop neurological issues. Other ingredients in human eye drops, such as naphazoline, are extremely toxic to dogs. So straight away, be aware that many innocent-looking eye drops we use for ourselves all the time are extremely dangerous to dogs.
So if you notice your dog winking, or blinking excessively, having red eyes, discharge, or other signs of eye problems, think twice before reaching for human ointments.
Another common treatments for eye allergies include Baush +Lomb, and Zaditor, which contain ketotifen and have been tested on dogs. But their long-term safety is not yet established, so they are not FDA approved for canines.
The trouble is also that dogs respond differently to allergies than humans do. Skin and ear infections are the two most common signs, and the causes are usually environmental, such as fleas or pollen. Human antihistamine eye ointments are not safe for dogs. It’s much better to work with your vet to find the source of the allergy and remove it from your dog’s environment.
Can you use human antibiotic eye drops for dogs?
The problem with using human antibiotic eye drops on your dog is that you simply may not know what kind of bacterial infection your dog has. At least, you can’t know unless your veterinarian examines and tests your dog.
Another problem is that antibiotic eye drops often cause inflammation, so your dog will often need steroidal eye drops to prevent this. But steroidal eye drops have their own risks, which we will discuss further below.
When it comes to eye drops for conjunctivitis or any other common eye conditions, you cannot be certain if it is a bacterial infection or, if it is, what kind of bacteria. To know for sure, your vet needs to see your dog.
But what does it matter? If you have human antibiotic eye drops lying around, surely it can only help? Well, human antibiotic eye ointments are firstly made for people. This makes it risky to assess how much is safe for your dog.
Secondly, giving the wrong antibiotic eye drop at the wrong dose can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A future infection can be much harder to treat, creating massive complications that may impair your dog’s vision.
Can you give your dog human steroid eye drops?
Yes, veterinarians often prescribe dogs corticosteroids or steroid eye drops for inflammation in the eyes. But this does not mean we should reach for human versions such as Pred Forte, Lotemax, Vexol, or Flarex.
This is another example of the dangers of using something meant for humans without consulting a vet. For one thing, if your dog has an injury to its eye, the steroid can delay healing. So it is not recommended. Neither steroid eye ointments nor antibiotics are appropriate for a viral or fungal infection, and dogs should never get steroids in the case of corneal ulcers.
Remember, the best eye drops for dogs are the ones your vet recommends after a thorough examination.
Can you use human lubricating eye drops for dogs?
Firstly, as illustrated by the dangers of Visine, never give your dog any human eye drops without reading the ingredients and checking with your vet. That said, dry eye is a common problem for many dog breeds prone to eye issues, especially brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs.
Of course, the underlying causes of dry eye and similar conditions will need to be treated. Still, some human lubricating eye drops are an option to help your dog. Eye drops such as Systane Lubricant eye drops are usually safe for dogs with dry eyes. Another possible human over the counter eye drops you can use in a pinch include:
- Remend Lubricating Eye Drops
- Refresh Optive
However, always give your vet a call first to check before you use any of these.
Can you use human saline eye drops on dogs?
If your dog has a little discharge, and you just want to wash their eye out, you can rinse with OTC saline human wash. A good choice is Miracle Care Sterile Eye Wash. You can also make your own doggy saline wash at home:
Mix 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Veterinarian Dr. Schnell from Calgary shows how to use eye washes with saline solution in the following video:
Can I give my dog human eye drops for conjunctivitis?
One type of eye drop that can work for both humans and dogs are ozone-based eye drops. In studies, using Ozodrop® 3 – 4 times a day is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis, keratoconjunctivitis, and corneal ulcers in humans and dogs. However, your vet still needs to conduct a test to determine the source of the infections.
These infections can be extremely difficult to treat with many normal antibiotic eye drops because they’re often caused by very resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.
If your vet determines that your dog has an overgrowth of this kind of bacteria in their eye, they can determine if Ozodrop® is the best treatment. So don’t use this without speaking to your veterinarian first. Remember, there are many causes of pink eye infections in dogs, and the wrong eye drops will do more harm than good for many of them. You can read more about the causes in can dogs get pink eye.
When dogs need more than one kind of dog eye drop
Another reason not to grab OTC eye medication for your dog is that eye issues can be complex and often need multiple types of ointments and drops. Take the case of epiphora or excessive watery eyes.
Dogs’ eyes often tear excessively because they have a congenital issue like cherry eye or a blocked tear duct that needs surgery. While dog eye wipes help remove build-up around the eyes, the wrong mixture of eye drops can only exacerbate the problem.
Dogs with epiphora may need a combination of antihistamine ointments, antibiotics, and other topical ointments, depending on your vet’s diagnosis. Giving a simple safe saline wash can leave a much deeper problem untreated.
In conclusion, what kind of human eye drops can give my dogs?
No human eye drops are completely safe for dogs, and you should always speak to your vet before administering any human medication. The worst eye drops to steer clear of those for allergies, such as Visine. Under no circumstances give any antihistamine eye ointments to your dog.
Steroidal and antibiotic drops can also be problematic. The main problem is giving the wrong treatment for your dog’s specific condition and potentially creating complications or making things far worse.
A safe saline wash is usually okay to rinse your dog’s eyes out, and several lubricants should be fine if your dog has a temporary problem with dry eyes. Keep in mind that a more serious underlying condition usually needs veterinary treatment. So even if a human eye lubricant is safe, your vet still needs to examine your dog and decide on the best course of treatment.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
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.