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Dog Eye Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment

If you notice that your dog’s eyes are red, you might be wondering what could be causing it. While dogs with allergies typically exhibit symptoms related to the skin or digestive system, allergies can also contribute to eye irritation, much like in humans with seasonal allergies.

“Allergic conjunctivitis” is the medical term used to describe eye inflammation usually triggered by environmental allergens such as pollen and mold. Dogs with symptoms of skin-based allergies (allergic dermatitis) are more prone to experiencing allergic conjunctivitis compared to dogs with no allergy history.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, it’s crucial to have them examined by a veterinarian to rule out other potentially serious conditions that might present similar symptoms. Here’s what you should know about dog eye allergies.


In dogs, redness in the eyes is a general symptom that could stem from various underlying conditions. However, for allergic conjunctivitis, the redness typically appears in both eyes. Alongside redness, you might observe the following symptoms:

  • Squinting of the affected eye(s)
  • Pawing at the face
  • Discharge from one or both eyes

Dog Eye Allergies and Itchy Skin

If your dog has a history of experiencing itchy skin, it’s essential to inform your veterinarian about it. Dogs with itchy skin are more prone to developing allergic conjunctivitis compared to the general dog population. Typically, affected dogs show symptoms before the age of 3. While all dog breeds can potentially develop allergic dermatitis, some common breeds predisposed to this condition include:

  • Boxer
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Poodle
  • West Highland White Terrier


While a test known as “conjunctival cytology” can sometimes reveal inflammatory cells confirming allergic conjunctivitis, these cells may not always be present. Therefore, many veterinarians diagnose eye allergies through a process of elimination.

Your veterinarian might conduct various brief tests to rule out diseases with similar symptoms, such as eye infections, dry eye, or corneal ulcers. Additionally, factors like your dog’s age, breed, and history of itchy skin can assist the veterinarian in reaching this diagnosis.

In rare instances, a biopsy of the conjunctival tissue surrounding the eyes, performed while your dog is under general anesthesia, may be necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis or to exclude other more severe causes of red eyes.

An emerging test called the conjunctival provocation test has demonstrated potential as a quick and straightforward method for definitively diagnosing allergic conjunctivitis. However, its availability is currently limited, and it would likely be administered by veterinary dermatologists rather than general practice veterinarians.

What Can You Give Dogs With Eye Allergies?

For mild cases, simply flushing the eyes with sterile saline once or twice daily may suffice to eliminate the allergen and alleviate symptoms. Avoid using contact solution for this purpose.

While antihistamines offer relief for people with eye-related allergies, their effectiveness varies in dogs with this condition. Hence, eyedrops containing steroids are often preferred for treating allergic conjunctivitis in dogs.

It’s crucial to emphasize that steroid-based eyedrops can pose significant harm to dogs with similar eye conditions, so initiating treatment without consulting your veterinarian is not advisable. Severe cases may necessitate the use of oral medications in conjunction with eyedrops.

Follow-Up Testing and Treatments

Typically, a reevaluation is advised after one to two weeks of treatment to allow your veterinarian to evaluate the effectiveness of the medications.

If there’s minimal improvement, it may be advisable to consult a veterinary dermatologist, who can conduct allergy testing and other diagnostics to identify the allergens triggering your dog’s allergic conjunctivitis.

Where possible, allergens are eliminated, often through dietary changes. If removing allergens isn’t feasible, the dermatologist may recommend immunotherapy for long-term management.

In cases where allergens cannot be removed or treated with immunotherapy, it’s highly probable that dogs with allergic conjunctivitis will experience flare-ups throughout their lives. Fortunately, the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are typically mild, and with proper treatment and care, affected dogs generally enjoy long and happy lives.

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