Why is My Dog Squinting?

You may have noticed your dog’s eye appears a little red or maybe there is some discharge present. Maybe he or she has started squinting recently and you aren’t sure what the problem is. There are a number of reasons why these clinical signs may have developed, but we will discuss the most common in these post, which include allergies, infection, foreign material within the eye, or a corneal ulcer.

Let’s start with the least severe cause. Allergies can result in clear, serous discharge from the eyes and mild redness on the sclera (the white part of the eye). Usually these signs are seen bilaterally. Your dog may paw at his or her eyes frequently to itch them, similar to how we itch our eyes when dealing with environmental allergies. Unfortunately, allergies are difficult to treat since it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the culprit is within the environment. Allergy testing can be performed, but is often inconclusive. However, administering an anti-histamine to your dog during a flareup can provide some relief. Just be sure to always consult with a veterinarian before giving your dog any medications.

An eye infection is usually bacterial in nature and will cause green-yellow discharge from the affected eye. This clinical sign is referred to as conjunctivitis. Infections can arise from close contact with another pet, a foreign object within the eye, or immunosuppression by another pathogen. It is common to see redness and squinting in some cases as well as frequent pawing.

Corneal ulcers are the most severe of these issues, and they can result in extensive damage to the eye if not treated promptly. Sometimes a foreign object can penetrate the corneal epithelium and expose the underlying tissue layer. These lesions can also develop from scratches on the cornea that continue to worsen.

Whenever a dog presents with squinting, it is important to check for scratches on the cornea by using a fluorescein eye stain prior to prescribing any topical medication. Often these conditions require an ointment containing a steroid for pain relief and to reduce inflammation; however, using steroids in dogs with corneal ulcers can make the condition worse. Infections usually require twice daily application of the topical medication for 7-10 days. Corneal ulcers often need to be treated for much longer, and in severe cases, surgery may be required.

If you are concerned about an eye problem in your dog, it is best to schedule a visit to see your veterinarian. He or she can perform testing and determine an appropriate treatment to help your pup feel better!