What does It Mean When Your Dog Has Red Eyes?

Sage is a one and half year old Husky dog. She first came to Vet HQ when her eyes developed a nasty pussy discharge. Normally she has one beautiful blue eye and one brown eye. Her nose had also become pale and was inflamed and crusty.

Eye discharge may be associated with many conditions such as:

  • Eye infections
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Inflammation of the membranes lining the eye socket = conjunctivitis
  • Allergies
  • Inflammation of the inside of the eyeball = uveitis
  • Bad teeth or oral disease
  • Generally feeling unwell.

The eye is very limited in the way that it can react to irritation and some or all of these signs may be present regardless of the underlying cause. They include:

  • Redness
  • Excessive tearing or discharge (this may be clear, mucoid, pus, blood)
  • Squinting or changed eyelid shape
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Rubbing the eye
  • Pulling away when approached (fear of pain)
  • Cloudiness of the eye

In Sage’s case, her normally beautiful blue eye was cloudy and dull. It was very inflamed and red. Her normally beautiful brown eye was also a milky colour. She was very sad and depressed.

Both of Sage’s eyes are blood shot and red. The blue eye is more pink than blue indicating marked inflammation of the coloured part of the eye (iris). The brown eye is also inflamed but the colour change is not as obvious. The whites of the eyes are also blood shot and the skin around the eyes has lost its pigmentation and is red and inflamed.

Sage visits the country frequently and it was feared that she had scratched her eyes whilst chasing a rabbit.

To determine if a scratch has occurred on the eyes, we use a special stain called fluorescein. This stain highlights any break or scratch on the surface of the eye. Fortunately, Sage had not scratched her eyes.

A corneal ulcer showing up as a bright green stain on an eye after fluorescein is used to highlight the damage.

It was determined that Sage’s red eyes were due to a condition called UVEITIS. This is a general term for inflammation to the inside parts of the eye ball. It has many causes ranging from infection to immune mediated diseases to cancer.

Further testing indicated that Sage’s eyes and nasal skin were affected by an immune mediated disease called UVEODERMATOLOGIC SYNDROME. This condition most commonly affects Huskies, Malamutes, Akitas and Sammoys. The “Artic” dog breeds.

Normally our immune system acts to protects us against infections, but sometimes it gets it wrong and starts attacking our own cells. This is called an immune mediated disease. In Sage’s case, her immune system was attacking her eyes and skin leading to terrible inflammation and pain in her eyes (uveitis), changes in the eye colour and loss of pigmentation to the skin around her eyes and nose.

Treatment involved turning the immune system down in a way similar to the use of organ rejection drugs used in people after transplant surgery. We started with these drugs in Sage’s eyes and we were able to reduce the inflammation. Her eyes improved and before long she was back in the country chasing rabbits again. Unfortunately for Sage, her immune system is continuing to attack her skin and further drugs will need to used to control the disease.

If your pet shows any of the signs described above in association with their eyes ALWAYS have them checked. We only have two eyes and our sight is invaluable. The old adage, “better safe than sorry” really does apply to eyes.

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