Conjuntivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin tissue that coats the eye and the lining of the eyelids.
Conjunctivitis can happen in animals of any age, in one or both eyes, by itself or secondary to another eye problem.
Common symptoms of conjunctivitis are:
- Puffy eyelids
- Stringy discharge
- Watery eyes
- Pawing at the eyes
- Eyelids that stick together
If any of these signs are noted your pet’s eye should be evaluated by a veterinarian. This way treatment can be initiated quickly and any more serious problems with the eye can be addressed. While conjuntivitis itself is not likely to cause blindness an underlying issue that is causing conjunctivitis may.
Short faced (brachycephalic) breeds such as Pugs, Shih Tzus and French Bulldogs tend to be at higher risk of developing conjuntivitis. Breeds that are prone to allergies such as Boxers, Bichon Frises and Cocker Spaniels as well as dogs with autoimmune skin diseases also are at higher risk.
There are several causes of conjunctivitis. Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually a primary condition meaning there is no other predicating cause, this may also be seen in newborns before their eyes open. This type of conjunctivitis is treated with topical or systemic antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection. Viral conjunctivitis is seen with cases of canine Distemper as well as other viruses. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis can be quite contagious. Other things that may cause conjunctivitis are allergies, problems with the eyelash follicles, trauma to the eye, physical abnormalities of the eyelids, problems with tear production (dry eye), uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eyeball) or glaucoma.
Signs of conjunctivitis include:
- Squinting or repetitive blinking
- Redness of the moist tissues of the eye
- Discharge from the eye or eyes; it may be clear or contain mucus and/or pus
- Swelling from fluid buildup of the moist tissue covering the eyeball
Diagnosis of conjunctivitis is based on history and a thorough ocular examination. They may examine the eye for trauma using a special stain called fluorescein, they may look under the third eyelid for a foreign body, intraocular pressure may be measured to check for the presence of glaucoma.
As there are many possible causes on conjuntivitis the treatment will be determined by the presumptive cause. This may be eye drops, eye ointment or even systemic medications. Some pets will require an Elizabethan collar (a plastic cone collar) to keep them from scratching at their eyes and potentially causing damage to the globe of the eye.