Just like us humans, dogs get eye problems too. To address these eye concerns, it’s common for us to reach for eye drops. However, as with any medication, eye drops can have side effects.
Here are the five common side effects of dog eye drops:
In this article, we will discuss these side effects in greater detail and explore eye conditions in dogs and how to address them. Read on!
1. Mild Irritation or Redness
Upon applying eye drops, it’s possible to see some irritation or redness. This is a common reaction to medicine in eye drops and is no cause for worry. This should go away in a few minutes.
However, because your dog may feel uncomfortable or simply curious, it may start pawing at its eyes. This behavior is dangerous because it could cause trauma to the eyes, leading to infection.
To keep this from happening, you can put protective goggles or a cone on your dog right after applying the eye drops and take them off only when you see no more signs of irritation.
Signs of Severe Irritation
Your dog should only experience mild irritation after administering eye drops. If side effects worsen, it’s time to contact the vet.
Here are common signs that the irritation has worsened:
Eye Redness Persists or Worsens
Eye drops should not make dogs’ eyes red, at least not for a long time. If it’s been an hour and your dog’s eyes are still red, don’t wait any further. Something in the eye drops could be causing severe irritation.
Dogs are naturally curious beings. So even if they are not feeling itchy, they may paw at their eyes just because they are curious about the new medicine. However, if your dog continues to paw aggressively at its eyes or begins to behave violently, it may be because their eyes are giving them extreme discomfort.
Also, if your dog is not wearing a cone or protective goggles, it may scratch its eyes and cause severe damage.
Dog’s eyes can get infected when bacteria or dirt gets inside their eyes’ surface, such as scratching. But they can also get infected when their eyes get in contact with irritating substances like chemicals or when an existing inflammation is not addressed right away.
Infected eyes are typically characterized by the following:
- Redness and inflammation
- Increased eye discharge that is yellow or green
- Swollen eyelids
When a dog’s eyes get to this point, it usually means that the infection has advanced. Do not attempt to self-medicate. Talk to your vet about what antibiotics to use and how to administer them.
How To Avoid Eye Infection or Irritation in Dogs
Eye infections can be a hassle, not just for your dog, but for you too. An infection can affect a dog’s overall wellbeing and attitude. And treating it can cost you time and money.
Here are some simple and effective ways you can avoid that altogether:
Administer Eye Medicine Properly
The most common mistake dog owners make when applying eye medicine is letting the tip of the eye drops or an applicator touch the dog’s eyes.
As a general rule, you should not allow an applicator to touch any surface of the dog’s body unless it has been sanitized before use and sanitized again afterward or if it is meant for single use.
The applicator may collect bacteria or dirt that can then be transmitted into the dog’s eyes on the next application of the medicine. Rather than making the dog well, this can aggravate the situation.
If you use the same medicine applicator for another dog in the household who shares more or less severe symptoms, it may result in reinfection.
Aside from using a clean applicator, keep the dog’s face clean to avoid debris from getting into the eyes.
Do Not Use Human Eye Drops On Dogs
While it can be tempting to do this (and some human medicines may be used on animals), some ingredients in human eye drops are harmful to dogs. Using human medicine in dogs may even cause blindness.
Use human medication for your pet only if your vet prescribed it or confirmed that its ingredients are safe.
Maintain Good Grooming
This is especially important for breeds that have long or very thick fur: Trim your dog’s fur regularly so that it does not get into the eyes. Dog hairs may look harmless and soft, but they can do significant damage to the cornea.
Another important thing is to keep your dog clean, particularly its face, so that whatever dirt that may have stuck to its hairs does not get into the eyes. Little stones or chunks of dirt easily stick to dog fur, so make a habit of wiping your dog’s face down, especially after playtime outdoors.
Use Protective Gear When Needed
It’s essential to keep protective gear such as a cone and goggles at home for times when your dog might need them.
As mentioned previously in this article, you can put goggles or a cone on your dog when applying eye medication or when your dog has a wound in the facial area.
This protective gear not only protects your dog from themselves (like when they paw at their faces) but also from their environment.
Store Away Any Irritants
Keeping a dog also means making your home a safe environment for it. This means you should store any products (especially chemicals) out of the reach of your dogs to prevent them from causing harm.
Dogs are curious creatures, but they can also be pretty cautious. So there’s a big chance that if they perceive that something’s not good for them, they’ll stay away from it. However, younger dogs may not be as keen about their environments yet.
2. Stinging Sensation
After administering the eye drops, your dog may feel a mild stinging sensation, especially if the eye drops contain antibiotics or steroids. You will know that your dog is experiencing this when they let out a tiny yelp upon application.
If you’ve had your dog for a while, chances are you already know how it reacts to certain stimuli. Observe its reactions and how long these reactions last.
The stinging, which can sometimes be accompanied by mild irritation and redness, should not last long. Contact your vet right away if your dog lashes out or begins to display signs of severe discomfort or pain.
Eye drops, especially ones that have steroids or antibiotics, do not mix well with other medicines or vitamins. Tell your vet about them if your dog has had medicines other than eye drops.
In the meantime, you may try to rinse your dog’s eyes carefully with lukewarm water to alleviate some of its discomfort. Other than that, try not to apply anything else and wait instead for your vet’s advice.
How To Comfort an Anxious or Stressed Dog
Dogs can pick up on human emotions very well. This is why they are often the ones that do the comforting. But when they are stressed, in pain, or anxious, they need comfort and assurance.
To comfort your dog, you can do the following:
- Speak soothingly to your dog. It’s normal for you to be scared or worried when you know that your dog is unwell. However, you should try to keep calm and speak using a low, soothing voice, as they will feel more distressed if you show that you’re stressed out.
- Pet your dog. Give your dog much-needed TLC by petting it gently. Remember not to make any jerky movements or those that display nervousness.
- Lay your dog down in a comfortable place. If your dog has a favorite rug or pillow, lay it down there to encourage it to rest. As much as possible, use something soft for it to lay down on, especially if it is in pain.
- Give it a toy. Dogs can be very much like children. And they enjoy toys as much as children do. You can encourage your dog to relax by putting its toy next to it. It doesn’t have to play with the toy. The mere presence of something that it likes can already be a source of comfort.
- Prepare its favorite food or treat. Just like toys, food makes dogs happy. When your dog is stressed, it is best to whip up its favorite treat.
While these may help give a dog some comfort, you will still have to address the real reason behind the problem. The signs of distress will not go away so long as the pain is present.
3. Twitching of the Eyes or Eyelids
Eye drops prescribed for dry eye or conjunctivitis sometimes cause brief twitching of the eyelids or blepharospasm. This is mainly because, just like humans, dogs have a natural reflex that causes their eyelids to blink.
This reflex is helpful in expelling foreign objects from inside the eyes. That is why it’s common and natural for dogs to blink when you apply medicine to their eyes.
But if your dog is displaying uncontrollable eyelid twitching that persists for a long time, or if your dog has displayed this behavior in the past (even without the application of eye drops), it’s possible that your dog could be suffering from an illness.
Common Health Conditions That Cause Eye Twitching
Dogs can exhibit eye twitching when eye drops aggravate already existing medical conditions. The blepharospasm may remain for a long time or even stay, depending on what condition your dog has:
This is a condition where the dog’s eyelids are inflamed, making eye movement uncomfortable and even painful for a dog. Dogs with this condition cannot control the twitching of their eyelids as a result of the inflammation.
To soothe inflammation, you can apply a warm compress on the affected eye and remove the discharge collected inside the eyelid.
Corneal Ulcer or Abscess
A corneal ulcer is an eye condition where the cornea is eroded due to the frequent rubbing of a foreign object against the cornea.
On the other hand, a corneal abscess is when the cornea is infected. Sometimes, a corneal ulcer leads to an abscess.
The affected eye becomes very painful in both cases, causing a dog to develop involuntary eye twitching.
When a dog’s tear gland isn’t working, the eyes cannot produce as many tears as they should. This results in excessive dryness of the eyes, creating discomfort and pain.
Like in the previously mentioned conditions, the discomfort causes the involuntary twitching of the dog’s eyes.
One of the common treatments for dry eye is the application of “false tears” in the form of eye drops, such as the Plush Paws Lanosterol Solution, to lubricate the eyes. In the early stages of treatment, eye drops are usually applied very frequently. The frequency of application should decrease over time.
Irritation From Abnormal Lash Growth
Certain dog breeds are more prone to having lashes that grow in the margins of the eyelids instead of on the skin. This makes eye movement irritating to the cornea. While not all dogs with this condition develop blepharospasm, their condition is usually accompanied by eye twitching.
4. Frequent Urination and Increased Thirst
If you notice that your dog is peeing or drinking more than it used to, the first thing that you should do is review what your dog ate or what medicine it took.
If you just administered eye drops containing steroids to your dog, then it simply could be a side effect of the medicine. Frequent peeing and increased thirst are typical results of taking steroids. In this case, simply make sure to hydrate your dog properly.
Common Reasons Why Dogs Pee or Drink Too Much
However, if you don’t think steroids are the reason, your dog could be suffering from a more severe condition.
You also have to consider your dog’s behavior even before applying steroidal eye drops on its eyes. If your dog has been exhibiting frequent thirst and urination for a long time, then it may be an entirely different condition.
In all of the following conditions, do not attempt to self-medicate your dog, as they are tricky to diagnose and need a vet's attention for proper treatment.
Kidneys are essential organs in a dog’s body. They perform the ever-important function of flushing out waste and excess fluids.
If a dog’s kidneys are impaired, their bodies cannot maintain an internal balance of minerals and fluids, which may result in a constant urge to take in more water. In such a case, your dog may exhibit signs of thirst.
Female dogs sometimes experience infections in their reproductive tract, one of which is pyometra or infection of the uterus. When this condition occurs, pus fills up in the dog’s womb and causes a foul-smelling white or green vaginal discharge. Another symptom of this condition is frequent urination.
Liver disease in dogs is a grave concern, but it is often tricky to determine because its symptoms are similar to other dog disorders. Left untreated, liver disease may also trigger more health issues and even become fatal.
Among the symptoms of liver disease are frequent urination and increased water intake, presence of blood in pee or poop, loss of balance, and seizures.
5. Swelling of the Eyes or Face
If your dog’s face starts to swell up after administration eye drops, you have reason to be concerned. This is a sign that your dog is having an allergic reaction to an ingredient, or you may have given more than the recommended dose.
When you see your dog’s face or eyes swell up, stop giving the medicine and contact your vet.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Having an Allergic Reaction
Aside from a swollen face, there are other signs by which you will be able to tell that your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction. Detecting them early will help you manage the reaction before it causes serious harm.
Here are other common signs of an allergic reaction:
Watery Eye Discharge
Unlike with an infection (where you will generally see thick, white- or yellow-colored discharge), your dog will have a watery eye discharge if it is experiencing an allergic reaction. This can make your dog’s eyes very itchy and affect its ability to see.
Redness and Itching
Another symptom of an allergic reaction is persistent redness and itching of the eyes. This will make your dog want to scratch its eyes or rub them against the first inanimate object it can find. For some dogs, the itching will be uncontrollable, making them aggressive or violent, even though they have never displayed any violent behavior before.
Squinting or Keeping Eyes Closed
If your dog’s eyes are making it uncomfortable, it may also keep squinting or even keep its eyes shut. While this is better than scratching their eyes against things, keeping their eyes closed may trap the discharge inside.
When this happens, the dogs create in their eyes an environment that can easily breed bacteria and promote infection.
How To Treat Eye Allergies in Dogs
Dogs can be allergic not only to medicines but also to things present in their immediate environment, such as trees, mites, and even grass.
Dog allergies, therefore, are more common than people think. And so, dog owners need to know how to deal with them. Here are some ideas:
Apply a Saline Solution
Dog-safe saline solutions can be found in many drugstores and pet shops. And they are usually the go-to for eye allergies in dogs because they are so cheap and easy to use.
But before buying anything for your dog, be sure to consult with your vet and get a go-ahead first.
To use a saline solution, you should drop as much of the solution as needed in each affected eye to flush out the allergens. You should see the liquid flowing from your dog’s eyes when flushing. Using too little saline solution will not be as effective. Wait until 48 hours to see improvements.
Give Your Dog an Antihistamine
Like humans, dogs experience an allergic reaction when their bodies detect a threat or a foreign body that their immune system thinks is harmful. The immune system triggers the release of histamines, creating outward manifestations that a fight is on inside the body.
Antihistamines work by blocking the body’s production of histamines, essentially turning off the signal that alerts the body of a threat.
Many over-the-counter antihistamines are available, but the dosage can be pretty tricky. Different antihistamine brands have different formulations. And other factors, such as the dog’s weight and age, need to be considered when deciding how much a dog can take and how often the medicine can be given.
Err on the side of caution, and always seek the advice of your vet before giving your dog antihistamines.
Steroidal Eye Drops
If the allergic reaction is severe and the dog’s eyes are swollen and inflamed, your vet may prescribe eye drops that contain steroids. It is because steroids can quickly bring the inflammation down. In most cases, they can also alleviate, if not eliminate, the itchiness as well.
However, it is not advisable to use steroids long-term or as maintenance medicine to manage your dog’s allergies. They can cause a thinning of the eye’s surface, making it more prone to irritation and damage.
It’s important to note that this effect is irreversible. So when using any steroid medication, make sure to strictly follow your vet’s instructions and not unnecessarily prolong use.
If you want to continue using eye drops as part of your dog’s maintenance routine, using therapeutic eye drops that do not contain steroids or antibiotics is a good idea. Our eye drops here Plush Paws are a good option as they can help improve your pet’s vision and prevent dryness. Browse our selection today!