Conjunctivitis

This is the common term used to describe the most common condition affecting a dog or cats eye. It is an inflammation &/or infection of the tissue lining the eyelids, but not the eyeball itself. It usually does NOT impair vision unless the conjunctiva is severely swollen and covers the cornea. It does NOT imply human contagious “pink eye“, which is an inflammation and infection of the white portion of the eye known as the sclera. Conjunctivitis usually is not a symptom of a more systemic problem either, but there are exceptions like jaundice, causing a yellowish tint to the conjunctiva and sclera, which is a symptom of liver disease. There are many causes of non-systemic conjunctivitis. They include foreign bodies that get into the conjunctiva, allergies from pollens, grasses, leaves, etc. and infections caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. The most common symptoms may include some or all of the following: redness of the conjunctiva, swollen eyelids, and a clear watery or thick pus type discharge from the eye. Often there is excessive blinking and rubbing of the eye, and even a sticking together of the eyelids. When allergies are the cause, sneezing and coughing may also be a symptom. It must first be determined that the eye ball itself is not involved and that there is no injury to the cornea. This is accomplished by the veterinarian using a topical anesthetic and sterile dye to check the intactness of the cornea. Once it is determined that there is no injury to the eye ball or cornea, many times a tear production test is then performed. If all these tests are negative, and the diagnosis of conjunctivitis is made, the veterinarian decides if treatment with an ointment or drops is warranted, and if antibiotics alone or a combination of antibiotics and a steroid is the course of treatment. Also, if allergies are suspected, various oral steroid/antihistamines medications may be used to treat an underlying allergy. Of course, avoidance is the best medicine. Always keep your dogs or cats eyes clean with cotton and warm water. Make sure hair is not brushing against the eye itself, and never let your dog ride in the car with its’ head out the window. As with all medical conditions, but most importantly with the eye, get a diagnosis early rather than later. The eyes heal slowly but do heal. A general thumb rule is to treat the conjunctivitis for 3-5 days after they appear back to normal.