Dog Health

Medicating Dog Eyes

Although some dogs may never need eye medications, most will probably end up with a minor problem at some stage that requires treatment. Injuries may be physical trauma to the eye, like a scratch from a stick or a foreign body like grass seeds.
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Safely Medicating Dog Eyes

Author: Cathy Lambert

Why do you need to do it?

Although some dogs may never need eye medications, most will probably end up with a minor problem at some stage that requires treatment. Injuries may be physical trauma to the eye, like a scratch from a stick or a foreign body like grass seeds. They may also suffer from conjunctivitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the eyelids) due to an allergic reaction, bacterial or viral infection, irritation, or even a condition that prevents the normal production of tears. Dogs with long hair may also get eye irritations if the hair isn’t clipped back and out of their eyes. Some hereditary conditions may require frequent eye treatments, but these are less common.

If your dog blinks a lot, squinting or scratching at its eyes, then take a closer look. If the eyes appear different from usual or red, swollen, cloudy, dry, watering or discharging a lot, you should seek veterinary advice. Apart from causing your dog discomfort, vision loss could be a real possibility if symptoms are left too long for some disorders. In addition, there are many different kinds of drugs available in eye medications, and they are not always interchangeable between conditions. Therefore, you should not try medicating dog Eyes without veterinary advice.

How do you do it?

Your dog will need to remain quiet while administering the medication, but only for a few seconds. Hopefully, you will have conditioned your dog to be used to being touched around the eyes and head and that it will also be comfortable with sitting or lying down for you. Try to use as little physical restraint as possible so your dog doesn’t feel threatened. If you use an encouraging and confident tone of voice, followed by a small food reward or a big pat, the whole process should be quick and easy.

I find it easiest to have the dog sit on the floor for a medium or large-sized dog. I put one foot behind it to stop it from scooting backwards and then lean its head onto my leg while applying the medication to the eye on the far side. You could also ask it to lie down if it is too fidgety sitting. With the dog’s head on the ground, it is also a good angle for the drops to fall straight in with gravity.

For a smaller dog, it may be easier to administer the medication with the dog either sitting, standing or lying down on a bench or your lap, so you can hug it firmly towards your body if necessary with your arm while medicating the eye on the far side.

Medications will either be in the form of drops or a thicker ointment. You can apply the eye ointment by pulling the lower eyelid down. Then squeeze a ribbon of the medication into the pocket that forms between the eyeball and the eyelid. You will then need to allow the upper and lower eyelids to close together and gently massage to spread the ointment. Drops can be applied in the same manner but won’t need rubbing to spread – a couple of blinks by your dog should distribute it well enough. Make sure you don’t allow the tip of the bottle or tube to contact your dog’s eye. If you are nervous about applying the treatments or your dog is fidgety, you could wash your hands well and apply the ointment via your fingertip.

How often is medicating dog eyes necessary?

Most eye treatments will generally be short courses typically lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks. However, sometimes, longer and repeat treatments may be necessary for chronic conditions. It is usual for there to be multiple treatments in a day, although ointments generally last longer, so you may not have to give them as often.


College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University

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Applying ointment to the lower lid while the dog is on a bench.

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A drop applied to the eye is easily distributed with a couple of blinks.

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