Have you noticed that your dog's eyes are looking a bit swollen and puffy? Are you concerned that your dog's eyes are bulging? Swollen eyes in dogs can be caused by various conditions, from allergies to infections. Swollen eyes in dogs can be a symptom of various conditions such as foreign material, allergies, infections, or injuries. But whatever the cause may be, it's essential to pay attention to any changes in your pet’s health. In this article, we'll explore what causes swollen eyes in dogs and how you can help them feel better. So if you're worried about your pup’s uncomfortable-looking peepers, keep reading for more information on the causes of swollen eyes in dogs.

1. Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are a common cause of swollen eyes in dogs. Various allergens can trigger these reactions, but most commonly by insect stings or bites, or environmental contaminants such as pollen or dust. When this happens, the body will respond by releasing chemicals called histamines which can cause inflammation and irritation.

While it is common for both eyes to be affected, it is not uncommon for only one eye to be affected. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergic reactions in dogs, but if necessary, your veterinarian may prescribe stronger medication such as corticosteroids, which can quickly and effectively stop the allergic response.

swollen eyes in dogs from an allergic reaction

2. Blepharitis

Another one of the potential causes of swollen eyes in dogs is blepharitis, a condition that affects the eyelids. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the eyelids, which can lead to redness, swelling, and irritation. In severe cases, blepharitis can cause the eye to become swollen and painful, making it difficult for your furry friend to open their eyes. It's important to recognize the symptoms of blepharitis and seek veterinary care if your dog is showing any signs of discomfort. With proper treatment, this condition can be managed effectively, and your dog can get back to being their happy, playful self.

3. Foreign material and irritants

Swollen eyes in dogs are a common ailment that can be caused by a variety of irritants and foreign materials. From soap to smoke, dust to hair, and even grass, there are many different substances that can cause a dog's eyes to become inflamed and puffy. Although some cases of swollen eyes in dogs from foreign material and irritants may be mild and resolve on their own, others can be more severe and require veterinary attention.

4. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a common eye condition that can cause swollen eyes in dogs. The conjunctival tissues are the pinkish membranes that line the inner ocular structures. Conjunctivitis in dogs is usually caused by bacteria but often occurs as a result of another eye condition, like KCS (dry-eye), eyelid issues, or corneal ulcers. These conditions can cause inflammation that leads to a bacterial infection.

Fortunately, conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. If your dog suffers from recurring conjunctivitis, it is important to work with your veterinarian to identify the underlying cause of the infection.

swollen eyes in dogs

5. Orbital cellulitis or retrobulbar abscess

Orbital cellulitis is characterized by inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the eye socket and leads to swollen eyes in dogs. It can often be triggered by a few key factors; One common cause is a penetrating injury, where the skin around the eye is damaged, or when a foreign object accidentally gets lodged in the eye area. Another cause can be diseases spreading from nearby areas in the body, such as issues in the teeth, salivary glands, ears, or nasal passages. Additionally, harmful microorganisms like bacteria entering the bloodstream and finding their way to the ocular region can also lead to this condition. 

This condition requires immediate veterinary attention and often involves antibiotics and other medications to treat the underlying cause. If there is no improvement in 48-72 hours with medical management, further treatments such as surgery to allow for proper drainage may be necessary.

The infection can spread to deeper structures such as the retrobulbar abscess in more severe cases. This is an abscess (collection of pus) behind the eye and will therefore result in swollen, bulging eye(s) in dogs. Treatment often requires surgery to drain the contents of the abscess, followed by antibiotics.

Clinical signs of orbital cellulitis and retrobulbar abscesses are often very acute and progressive and usually only affect one eye.

6. Dental Abscess

A dog may develop a swollen eye as a result of a dental abscess, particularly when it occurs in the large premolars (carnassial teeth/maxillary 4th premolar) whose roots are located close to the eye. Usually, only one eye is affected and the symptoms occur and progress quickly. The formation of an abscess, caused by a bacterial infection in the tooth's root, often leads to inflammation and swelling of the surrounding tissues. Due to the proximity of the large premolars' roots to the eye, this inflammation can extend upwards, resulting in visible swelling of the eye.

7. Proptosis

Proptosis occurs when the eyeball becomes displaced or pushed out of its socket. This can happen due to trauma or other underlying health issues and will cause the affected eye to appear swollen. In dogs, proptosis is more commonly observed in brachycephalic breeds, like Pugs and Boxers, who have a more prominent and bulging eye shape. This condition can cause discomfort, pain, and even blindness if left untreated. If your dog is exhibiting any signs of proptosis or swollen eyes, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

8. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye and can cause swollen eyes in dogs. This elevated intraocular pressure can cause the eye to bulge and appear swollen or larger than normal. Prompt veterinary attention is necessary to manage glaucoma effectively.

Causes of glaucoma include primary glaucoma, which is often hereditary, and seen in certain breeds with a defective eye drainage system. Secondary glaucoma, the more common type, results from other eye conditions like uveitis, lens luxation, or eye tumors that obstruct fluid drainage. Trauma, chronic retinal diseases, and cataracts can also contribute to glaucoma by causing inflammation (anterior uveitis) and/or blocking fluid drainage.

What are the treatments for swollen eyes in dogs?

The first step to address swollen eyes in your dog is to contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend initial, first-line therapies such as ocular flushing/rinsing, warm or cold compresses, and antihistamines such as Benadryl.

More specifically, conjunctivitis is usually managed with medicated ointments, while blepharitis may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Orbital cellulitis or retrobulbar abscess is usually treated aggressively with antibiotics, pain medications, and surgical drainage if necessary. Glaucoma is typically treated with topical medications designed to reduce intraocular pressures. If your veterinarian suspects a dental abscess, starting the oral antibiotics, followed by extraction of the affected tooth is recommended.

Swollen eyes in dogs can be caused by a variety of conditions, including irritants and foreign material, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, orbital cellulitis or retrobulbar abscesses, dental abscesses, and glaucoma. Treatment for swollen eyes depends on the underlying cause but may include ocular flushing/rinsing, warm or cold compresses, and antihistamines such as Benadryl®. Additionally, antibiotics and other medications may be necessary to address more serious cases like orbital cellulitis or retrobulbar abscesses. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of swollen eyes it is important to contact your veterinarian right away so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin promptly. With proper diagnosis and management from your veterinarian, you can help ensure that your dog's swollen eyes get back to normal soon!