Ultimate Guide: Eye Drops For Dogs
What is the purpose of dog eye drops?
Dog eye drops are used to treat keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dog dry eye syndrome. KCS can be a symptom of a more serious condition, so it's important to speak to your vet as soon as you notice dry eyes even if they have a pre-existing condition that can cause KCS.
There are two types of dog eye drops available: medicated dog eye drops and unmedicated eye drops.
Medicated dog eye drops are prescribed by your vet to deal with eye infections or other serious eye complications.
There are several different kinds of medicated eye drops.Your vet will be able to tell you what type of eye drops are necessary for your dog's condition. They may also prescribe other medication or even surgery if the condition is serious enough.
Unmedicated eye drops like our Pro Pooch Eye Drops For Dogs are designed to be used as an eye rinse to alleviate conjunctivitis, stinging, squinting, itching, irritation and allergies and the removal of debris from the eye.
Unmedicated eye drops can also be used as a tear replacement when dogs are suffering from transient (temporary) KCS caused by trauma, other medications, or allergies.
What are the common causes that cause dry eyes?
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) can be caused by a variety of other conditions:
- Congenital disease – breeds such as pugs and Yorkshire terriers often suffer from a congenital version of KCS. KCS can occur as a congenital disease in other dog breeds as well, but it is much less common.
- Breed predisposition – some breeds of dog are predisposed to KCS even though it isn't necessarily a congenital disease for them. These breeds include English Bull Dogs, Yorkshire and Boston Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, and German Shepherds.
- Immune-mediated adenitis – gland inflammation brought about by abnormal activity in the immune system, is the most common cause of KCS and is often connected to other immune disorders.
- Neurogenic – KCS is sometimes developed after traumatic proptosis(eyes being popped out of their sockets) or a neurologic disease that disrupts functions of the tear gland.
- Drug induced – general anesthesia and atropine can both cause temporary dry eye syndrome. The vet will typically give you some dog eye drops after these medications are used.
- Drug toxicity – certain sulfa-containing drugs or etodolac(an NSAID) may cause either transient or permanent dry eye syndrome.
- Third eyelid removal – sometimes used to treat "Cherry Eye"(an eye condition that disrupts functioning of the tear gland belonging to the third eyelid), this surgery can cause permanent KCS. It is rarely used anymore due to the risks involved.
- X-Ray exposure – dogs may develop KCS if their eyes come into contact with the primary beam of X-Ray equipment.
- Systemic disease – Canine Distemper Virus has been known to cause extremely dry eyes. There is no known cure for Canine Distemper Virus, making this the only cause of KCS that is 100% fatal.
- Chlamydia conjunctivitis – this is a specific type of conjunctivitis caused by a Chlamydia infection. Dogs can suffer from other forms of conjunctivitis as well, but those rarely lead to KCS.
- Allergies – allergies in dogs are more common than you might think, and some dogs suffer from KCS as a result. Most dogs get runny eyes instead.
What are the symptoms of dog dry eye syndrome?
KCS may cause any or all of the following symptoms:
- Excessive blinking
- Swollen blood vessels in the eye
- Chemosis (swelling of tissue lining the eye and eyelids)
- Pus or other discharge from the eyes
- Overly visible third eyelid
- Corneal changes in the blood cells, causing changes in pigmentation and possibly ulceration
- Impaired vision can occur when the KCS is a symptom of a much more serious condition
How can I check my dog's eyes?
If you're concerned that your dog may be suffering from KCS or another eye issue, you can check their eyes using the following steps:
- Wash your hands
Your hands are going to get extremely close to your dog's eyes during this process, and you don't want to risk adding bacteria or debris to their eyes. Use an antibacterial soap and wash your hands thoroughly, even cleaning under the nails.
- Bring your dog to a well lit area
Many of the signs will be small and impossible to notice in poor light.
- Look directly into their eyes
Get your dog to sit and rest your hand directly under their chin so they can't move their head much. Check both eyes thoroughly, looking for any signs of debris or disease. Your dog's pupils should be the same size and there should not be any cloudiness or discolouration. The third eyelid(a whitish membrane that makes it look like your dog's eye is rolling into the back of their head) should not be visible.
- Check the lining of their eyes
Holding your dog's head still with one hand, use the thumb and forefinger of your other hand to pull back their eyelids. The lining should be pink, not red or white. There also shouldn't be any cuts or debris within the eyelid lining.
Be sure to check both top and bottom eyelids for each eye.
- Check their reflexes
You can use what is called a "menace test" to check if your dog's vision is impaired. Hold your open palm about 46CM away from their face, then move it quickly so it comes to about 8CM away from their face. If they don’t react at all or they react slowly, their vision is impaired or gone completely.
- Give them a treat!
As with any good behaviour, you should reward your dog for behaving well during an eye check. It's not as stressful as administering eye medication or an eye rinse, but it's still not something your furry friend looks forward to.
Ideally you should check your dog's eyes once every 4-6 months, or once every 2-3 months for older dogs. You should also check your dog's eyes right away if you notice any strange behaviour or discharge.
What eye drops can I use on my dog?
Dogs' tears are made out of salt and water like human tears, so unmedicated eye drops for dogs are typically a modified saline solution. It is safe to use unmedicated eye drops for humans, but these solutions typically must be diluted with purified water because of the higher sodium content.
There are several different brands of unmedicated dog-specific eye drops with less concentrated amounts of sodium available, including our Pro Pooch Dog Eye Drops.
The only other eye drops you should ever use on your dog are medicated eye drops prescribed by your veterinarian.
What eye drops are safe for dogs?
Since dog eyes and human eyes are so similar, there are many different types of eye drops you can use on your furry friend. Unlike with many other dog care products, it's very rare to find harmful ingredients in dog-specific eye drops, so you can safely use just about any brand.
You can also use most unmedicated eye drops for humans. Some may have to be diluted with purified water before use. Always ask your vet to check out any brands you're considering before you use them on your pooch.
Never use medicated eye drops that haven't been prescribed to your dog, especially not medicated eye drops for humans. Dogs are highly sensitive to chemicals and exposure to the wrong medicine can make their existing issues worse, cause blindness, or even be fatal.
See our article on whether you can use human eye drops for your dog.
Why should you use dog eye drops?
It is quite typical for us to avoid buying something until we absolutely need it, but it's almost always better to buy things in advance when possible. This is particularly true with dog care products, which we often only buy when our dogs have an emergency situation. Yet these products are also essential to preventative care—and wouldn't you rather your dog always be healthy?
Training your dog to calmly accept eye drops before they have a serious medical condition is also a good idea. You can start doing this when they're puppies by using unmedicated eye drops formulated specifically for dogs.
Unmedicated dog eye drops should always be part of your dog care kit, as they can be used to rinse debris or chemicals out of your dogs' eyes. They may also be able to reduce the severity of allergic reactions until your dog can reach the vet.
Technically you can get away with keeping unmedicated eye drops for humans handy, but these frequently need to be diluted before use and you should always ask a vet before use. Dog-specific eye drops are almost always a safe bet.
What do they treat?
Unmedicated dog eye drops are typically used as an eye rinse or as a solution to transient KCS caused by medication and/or surgery. They may also be used to treat dry eyes associated with a more severe health issue, usually in combination with oral or injected medication.
Medicated eye drops are used to deal with most causes of KCS, sometimes in combination with other treatments for more serious conditions. In most cases you will be required to use these eye drops for somewhere between 2 and 8 weeks. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions.
What dog eye drops are the best?
The best dog eye drops are always the simplest ones, containing only purified water, sodium chloride, and sodium hypochlorite, all sourced from reputable companies. This is essentially a saline solution formulated specifically for dogs.
Our Pro Pooch Dog Eye Drops contain all of these ingredients and nothing more. The solution is manufactured in the UK to meet GMP standards. It is safe for all dog breeds and is completely non-toxic so your furry friend won't get hurt if they start licking it off.
Every 250ML bottle (that's enough for several months even if you use it every day) also comes with 10 large cotton wipes and an ebook with comprehensive instructions for use.
How do you administer eye drops?
There are two different ways to administer eye drops: as a medication or as an eye rinse. Both typically require assistance from a second person, especially if you have a large or particularly energetic dog.
As a medication/tear replacement
When using eye drops as a tear replacement or a medication, you will typically have to use them between 2 and 6 times per day for 2-8 weeks. You can do this by completing the steps below:
- Wash your hands
There is no such thing as too clean, especially when it comes to your dog's eyes. Make sure you use anti-bacterial soap and clean every part of your hands thoroughly. You don't want to risk getting ANYTHING in your dog's eyes.
- Prepare the area
You'll want to have the medicine ready in the area where you plan to administer it before you bring the dog over. Most people find it easiest to administer dog eye drops in an area that limits their dog's ability to back up or run away, such as against a wall or on a table. If you use a surface that is raised off the floor make sure they won't be able to hurt themselves in an attempt to escape.
- Hold your dog securely
If you're doing this alone, you definitely want to bring your dog to an area of the house where their hindquarters are backed up against either a wall or a piece of solid furniture. If you have someone helping out, they can hold your dog's hindquarters between their legs or even just stand behind the dog.
- Gently clean around the eyes
The eyes should be clean before you apply any eye drops. Tilt their head to the side and use a damp cotton pad or cotton ball to wipe away any residue or discharge from the eyes and surrounding areas. Make sure you throw these cotton pads out immediately so bacteria doesn't end up back in the eyes.
- Position your dog's head
Use your non-dominant hand to cradle your dog's head, keeping your grip firm but gentle. The bottle of eye drops should be in your other hand.
With the thumb on your non-dominant hand, pull the lower eyelid down until it forms a pouch.
- Apply the eye drops
Drop the required number of drops (you will see instructions on the bottle/be given instructions by your veterinarian when eye drops are prescribed) into the pouch you have now formed with the thumb. Depending on the type of eye drops you're using you may be required to put the eye drops directly on the eyeball instead.
The top of the bottle should never touch your dog's eye. You want to keep the bottle tip around 1-2CM away from the eyeball at all times. This prevents the bottle from touching your dog's eyes directly and also keeps eye drops from ending up all over your dog's face.
- Gently massage the eyelids
Massaging your dog's eyelids ensures that the eye drops are spread throughout the entire eye. You want to massage the eyelids of each individual eye for 10-15 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side
Move your dog's head so you can access the other side of the face and start the process again.
- Give your dog a treat
Administering eye drops isn't fun when we have to do it to ourselves and it's even less fun for your dog. If they're well behaved when receiving medication, be sure to reward them with a treat (or three, we're not judging).
- Close and secure eye drops
Dog eye drop bottles should always be secured immediately after use and kept out of areas where dogs or children might accidentally get into them. Unmedicated eye drops won't hurt your dog if they accidentally get into the bottle, but medicated eye drops can cause severe problems if ingested improperly.
Still nervous? Watch one of these instructional videos:
- The PetHealthClub – How to put eye drops or medication in your dog's eyes
- How to give your dog eye drops
- Administering eye drops to an aggressive German Shepherd(for people with big dogs)
- Training dogs to accept eye drops
How to give your dog an eye rinse
Sometimes your dog will get debris in their eyes or manage to get into something they shouldn't have, and you need to rinse their eyes out to dislodge it. This process is very similar to applying eye drops as a tear replacement, with some key differences.
- Wash your hands
One thing that definitely doesn't change when you're doing an eye rinse is that your hands—and anything else that's going to be close to your dog's eyes—should be washed with antibacterial soap before you begin.
- Have eye wash and supplies ready
Before you bring the dog over, make sure you have everything you need in a place where you can reach it easily but your dog can't.
- Trim excess hair around the eyes
Excessive hair close to the eyes can cause irritation and make it easier for debris and bacteria to reach the eyes. It will also get messy when you perform the eye rinse, so it's best to do this beforehand. Use a pair of blunt nosed scissors and of course, trim carefully.
You may need to restrain your dog before you reach this step, but most dogs don't need to be as heavily restrained for his as they do for the actual eye wash.
- Make sure your dog is properly restrained
Eye washes are best done on a table that backs onto a wall. You should put one arm around your dog's shoulders, putting pressure on the shoulder closest to the eye. Keep the eye drops in the hand of the arm restraining your dog.
With your other hand, press your dog's snout gently but firmly into the table. If your dog nips or bites at this stage, you may need to use a muzzle.
Either you or your helper can stand in front of the dog in a position where they can see you with their other eye. Having someone they trust visible will help keep them calm.
If the dog is particularly strong, your helper may need to restrain the dog's back haunches as well.
- Clean around the eyes
Bacteria around the eyes can cause re-infection or new infections. Use damp cotton pads or cotton balls to clean the area around the eyes. If your dog has an issue with tear stains around the eyes, you might want to use a specialized tear stain removal product like our Pro Pooch Tear Stain Remover.
Make sure all cotton pads/balls are immediately thrown out to avoid reinfection.
- Open the eye
Use the thumb of the hand on your dog's snout, reach up and pull down the eyelid until it forms a pouch.
- Apply eye drops
To do a proper eye rinse you want to administer 5-6 drops per eye.
- Let your dog blink
Your dog should be able to blink out any debris or chemicals along with the eye drop solution. If you need to apply a medical ointment afterwards, this will need to be massaged into the dog's eyes.
- Dry them off
Since your dog blinks out most of the eye drops instead of absorbing them, wipe the area under their eyes with a clean, dry cloth.
- Give them a treat
If your dog is well behaved during this process, make sure you reward them for it!
- Clean everything up
Make sure your eye drops are sealed and kept in a secure place between uses. Throw out all used cotton balls and pads right away. And don't forget to clean up that fur you trimmed earlier.
Still nervous? Check out these instructional videos:
Preventing future eye problems
You can help prevent future eye problems in your dog by creating a consistent grooming routine. This includes regularly trimming any excess hair around the eyes, cleaning up tear stains right away, and performing eye rinses with a product like our Pro Pooch Dog Eye Drops once a month.
You also want to keep your dog out of situations that may cause eye trauma, such as fights with other animals, exposure to irritants, and hanging their heads out the car window.
Last but not least, you can get a pair of sun goggles for dogs to protect their eyes from UV rays and outside debris.
Why choose Pro Pooch?
At Pro Pooch we believe it’s important to pay just as much attention to what goes into our dogs’ bodies as we give to what goes into our own bodies. All of our products are designed with your dog’s health and happiness in mind.
Our commitment to your dog’s health is matched only by our commitment to quality. We work with expert manufacturers to make sure every product is the best it can be, every single time. We also offer a Happy Pooch Guarantee—if our products don’t work for you and your dog, you have a full 60 days to request a refund, no questions asked.
Dog eye drops are used to clean your dogs' eyes as well as to treat a variety of conditions ranging from minor (transient KCS caused by temporary medication) to fatal(Canine Distemper Syndrome). Unmedicated dog eye drops should be kept in your dog first aid kit for regular eye rinses and for dealing with mild KCS.
You can use human eye drops on dogs, but it's generally safest to stick with a reputable brand that develops eye drops specifically for dogs. Our Pro Pooch Dog Eye Drops are formulated for dogs' eyes, made with 100% natural ingredients, and backed by our Happy Pooch Guarantee.
Finally, remember to always take your dog to the vet when you notice issues with their eyes. KCS is often a symptom of a more serious condition, and left untreated these conditions can cause vision impairment or even complete loss of sight.