Red eyes are often a symptom of a medical problem in dogs. This describes the white of the eye, the sclera, turning pink or red. Due to their short noses and unprotected eyes, bulldogs are at a higher risk of eye trauma and injury on top of other common causes of irritated or red eyes.
There are many types of injuries and diseases that can lead to this change in color.
What are the common causes of red eyes in bulldogs?
There are many causes of red eyes in bulldogs. Cherry eye, dry eye, conjunctivitis, allergies, glaucoma, ulcers, injuries, and entropion can all cause red eyes and irritation. If your bulldog has symptoms of an eye problem it is important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The eyes are delicate and professional treatment is needed to ensure the best chances of recovery.
Unfortunately, eye problems can seem to come out of nowhere at times. However, you can reduce the chances of trauma (like scratches) by examining your bulldog’s behavior and eyes and performing daily care.
In this article, we will discuss each of the above causes of red eyes, possible treatments for them, and at-home prevention.
Causes of Red Eyes
As you can see, there is a variety of problems that could be the source of red eyes in your bulldog. Let’s discuss some of these common eye issues in more in-depth.
What is cherry eye in bulldogs?
If you own a bulldog or someone you know does, you have probably heard the term “cherry eye.” This is the common name for a prolapsed third eyelid tear gland. What exactly does this mean?
Many mammals have an additional eyelid that is usually hidden behind their lower lid. This third eyelid contains a gland that helps produce tears that coat the eye and protect it. When this gland pops out, or prolapses, it is called cherry eye.
Prolapse occurs when the attachment between the lower eyelid and tear gland is weak. This allows the gland to move up from behind the eyelid.
This is common in many brachycephalic, or “flat-faced,” breeds including bulldogs. The telltale sign of cherry eye is a pink or red bump of tissue in the inner corners of your dog’s eyes.
If your dog is experiencing cherry eye, they must go to the veterinarian as soon as possible. A prolapsed gland will need medication. The vet may prescribe eye drops that are anti-inflammatory to combat the swelling.
If there is a discharge or other symptoms of infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. Cherry eye may need to be surgically corrected if the problem continues to occur.
What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is a fancy-sounding name for pink eye. It means inflammation of the pink tissue (conjunctiva) that is inside of the eyelids and in contact with the eyeball. There are many things that can cause it, such as a viral infection, bacterial infection, allergies, or an injury.
The symptoms are similar to those in humans. Thick discharge, swollen eyelids, and pink or red coloring are common signs.
What is a corneal ulcer?
Corneal ulcers occur when a part of the surface of the eye (the cornea) loses its top layer of cells and exposes the blood vessels and cell layers underneath. This is painful for the dog and can lead to infection.
Your dog may paw at their face or rub their eye against things in an attempt to stop the discomfort. They may also hold their eye closed and have some discharge.
A fairly recent study has shown that flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs are more susceptible to corneal ulcers than other skull shapes and breeds. The researchers found that the flat-faced breeds had over a 10x higher risk of developing ulcers compared to dog breeds with longer snouts.
What is dry eye?
The official medical term for dry eye is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This occurs when there are not enough tears being produced and causes inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva. This results in discomfort and pain for your dog.
There may also be a thick discharge coming from their eyes and ulcers on the cornea are possible. Other symptoms may include blinking frequently, squinting, or holding the eyes shut.
This condition is more common in older dogs. If dry eye is left untreated, dry eye can cause corneal ulcers and possibly infection. It can also cause scarring of the cornea that could reduce your dog’s eyesight if it is severe enough.
What is glaucoma?
There are two types of glaucoma. The first is open-angle glaucoma, which slowly causes loss of vision and is painless for your dog. The second type is closed-angle glaucoma.
This type involves a drastic and quick increase in the pressure inside of the eye. It results in pain, swelling of the eye, and redness.
The pressure can damage the retina, which is the part of the eye that receives incoming light, and the optic nerve, which transmits the resulting signal to the brain. This damage leads to blindness and loss of vision occurs rapidly.
What is entropion?
Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward towards the eye and rubs against it. The eyelid and eyelashes cause irritation to the cornea. It is considered a genetic disorder, meaning that the dog inherits the condition from their parents.
Entropion is slightly easier to spot since the lash line sits against the eye and the eyelid looks abnormal. Your dog may also squint or hold their eye closed and discharge may be present.
Since it is hereditary, puppies will usually show the signs and be diagnosed with entropion early in life. Surgery is required to fix it.
Can allergies cause red eyes in bulldogs?
Allergies can lead to red eyes in dogs. Food, environmental, and seasonal allergies are all possible causes for bloodshot eyes. Other symptoms that could indicate an allergy include scratching at the body and ears, sneezing, and irritated skin.
What is the treatment for red eyes in bulldogs?
The symptoms of different eye issues are pretty similar and include redness, rubbing the eye, holding the eye closed or squinting, and discharge. In order to make a treatment plan, your veterinarian may perform a few tests to help them diagnose the problem.
There are some common tests that they may use based on your dog’s symptoms and suspected issues. These include:
- Pupillary Light Reflex: The veterinarian shines a light into each eye to examine the way the pupils’ contract.
- Schirmer Tear Test: The end of a test strip is placed behind the lower eyelid and the rate of tear production is measured. Tear fluid travels down the test strip and the distance it travels within a certain amount of time gives the vet the approximate production rate.
- Culture: A sterile cotton swab is used to wipe the surface of the eye. The sample is transferred to a petri dish to see if bacteria grow. The veterinarian can then identify any bacteria and choose the appropriate medications.
- Fluorescein Stain: A small amount of a special dye is placed in the eye. Ultraviolet light is then used to observe the surface of the cornea to check for ulcers. They trap the dye and glow bright yellow or green under the UV light.
- Intraocular Pressure (Tonometry): An instrument is used to push the end of a very small rod against the surface of the eye. The depth of the indent that the rod produces is used to calculate the pressure inside of the eyeball. Despite what it may sound like, this test is not painful for the dog. It is commonly used to test for glaucoma.
- Ophthalmoscopy: An instrument with a light and a magnifying glass is used to look at the inside of the eye including the retina and optic nerve.
After completing any necessary tests, your veterinarian may prescribe medication in the form of a pill or topical. As mentioned above, some conditions require surgery to completely resolve them.
Your veterinarian may first prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics to treat cherry eye. If the problem continues or reoccurs frequently, surgical correction may be recommended.
Conjunctivitis has a variety of causes, but your vet may prescribe antibiotics or allergy medication. Antibiotics help fight any bacteria that may be causing the infection or inflammation, while allergy medication decreases the severity of allergic reactions to food or the dog’s environment.
Antibiotic eye drops or ointment may be prescribed for corneal ulcers. In severe cases, they may require surgery. Dry eye may require eye drops or gel to lubricate the eye and make up for the lack of tear production.
Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication that works to reduce the amount of fluid that is created inside the eye, which in turn reduces the pressure. There are multiple classes of drugs that have this effect but they achieve it in different ways.
As mentioned above, entropion is often caught early on in the dog’s life but surgery is required to fix it.
How do you prevent red eyes in bulldogs?
Sometimes eye problems are unpreventable but there are a couple of things that you can do at home to minimize the chances of certain issues. Make sure to keep your bulldog’s eyes clean and clear. Wipe away any eye “boogers” or normal discharge with a damp cotton pad daily.
Bulldogs’ eyes are more exposed than breeds with longer noses, so they can scratch their corneas and get debris in their eyes more easily.
Supervise them on walks and try to keep them from putting their heads in plants or branches. At the dog park or on playdates, watch for rough play and any signs of eye irritation afterward.
Do you need to take your dog to the vet for red eyes?
Yes. You should call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment if your dog has red eyes or other symptoms of a problem.
Eyes are sensitive and delicate, and injury or disease can quickly get worse and become serious. Some of the problems mentioned above, like glaucoma, can cause severe damage in a matter of a few days.
If your dog is showing signs that something is wrong with one or both eyes, it is important to see a professional as soon as possible.
Daily observation and care can help you catch the onset of troubling eye issues in your bulldog. They are more at risk than some other breeds and early detection can help ensure the best possible outcome with treatment.
Being proactive about your bulldog’s eye health will keep them happy and comfortable and help preserve their vision throughout their life!
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