Canine conjunctivitis means "inflammation of the conjunctiva". The conjunctiva of a dogs eye is a membrane that covers the eyelids as well as the eyeball. It's basically a thin layer of protection for the eye.
Picture a soft, delicate peach covered with saran wrap.
When a dog has conjunctivitis, it means that thin membrane has become inflamed -- which means it is irritated, swollen and most likely a red color. The red color is why it is often called "Dog Pink Eye" as well.
There can be many causes, but for the most part there are two different forms -- One is caused by allergies of some sort, and the other is caused by an infection of some sort.
Canine conjunctivitis can be caused by many different allergens such as:
Conjunctivitis caused by infections tend to be more painful and require immediate attention from a veterinarian -- they are usually one of the following:
It can also be a secondary condition, or symptom brought on by physical damage to the eye, such as ulceration of the cornea, or problems with the tear ducts such as dry eye
The symptoms of canine conjunctivitis will vary depending on the cause of it. The most obvious symptom is that your dog's eye will look very red, irritated and likely swollen.
The second most obvious symptom is a liquid discharge from the eye. If the cause is allergies, the discharge will be clear and watery. Much like how our eyes water when we have allergies.
If the cause of the conjunctivitis is an infection, the discharge is going to be green or yellowish and thick. The eyes may also get glued shut (crusty eyelids) by the discharge. If you have every experienced "human pink eye," it is much the same.
Regardless of the cause, your dog is likely to blink his eyes more than usual, squint and be sensitive to light. You may also notice him trying to rub his eyes with his paw, or rubbing them against the carpet or furniture.
If you suspect anything other than allergies, a trip to your vet is very important. Severe conjunctivitis can be an initial symptom of more dangerous eye problems such as glaucoma , which requires immediate attention.
You can somewhat self-diagnose at home depending on the discharge that's coming out of your dog's eyes. Also make note of situations your dog has been in -- for instance:
If your dog eyes are bothering her, and she's been riding in the car a lot, or running in fields with tall grasses, etc. and the discharge is clear and watery, it is likely allergy related.
However, your veterinarian will be able to give a definite diagnosis by doing a thorough examination of the eyes and any discharge. If the cause is not obvious by doing a physical examination, there are also a couple of tests that your vet may run.
The most common test is a conjunctival swab, which is just a matter of taking a sample of the discharge and sending it to a lab in order to determine what the cause of infection is.
If the cause is allergies, the most common treatment is to flush the eyes with a saline-like solution such as the type we humans use to clean contact lenses. This not only makes your dogs eye's feel better, but will usually flush out the allergen (grass, pollen, etc.) that is irritating the eye.
If the cause is an infection, then the most common treatment is a topical antibiotic. Your vet will usually put the first drops in your dogs eyes and show you how to apply them properly. The duration of antibiotic drops is usually about a week.
Just like human's taking antibiotics, it's very important to complete the entire prescribed medication. Which in the case of eye infections, means you'll likely need to keep applying the drops at least a few days after it seems your dog is cured to ensure all of the infection is gone.
When canine conjunctivitis is caused by allergens it can be treated naturally, and often times prevented. You can take preventative measures such as learning what things tend to irritate your dogs eyes, such as tall grasses, or times of the year when there's a lot of pollen in the air and try to avoid those things.
Other than avoiding things such as pollen, there are a few products out there that are very effective at soothing a dogs eyes, and giving them some extra nutrients that help them stay healthy. One of the products that I've had good results with is Eye Heal by Native Remedies.
It works to keep your dogs eyes well lubricated with nutrients that support eye health, and soothes eyes that are irritated by things like pollen and grasses. It works especially well to support the health of the conjunctiva.