Written by Vet Tech

Swollen Eyes In Dogs – What Should You Do?

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Signs of a dog's eye infection include a swollen eye, usually of the corner of the eye. A swollen eye in dogs can be a sign of mild allergy or severe medical conditions. Read on to discover how to quickly treat eye infections and what to do next.

A dog’s eyes are their window to the world, so it’s important to take care of them when we notice anything concerning.

In this article, we’ll discuss the possible reasons that a dog’s eye or eyes are swollen, and what you should do if so.

What Causes Swelling?

Swelling is the body’s way of responding to an injury or allergen that the body may have been exposed to. Swelling presents as an enlargement of the area that has been affected, which can vary depending on the cause of injury or allergen exposure.

In general, swelling is an accumulation of body fluids under the skin. Swelling can be painful, hot, irritating, and can cause problems when it persists for too long.

What Could Cause Eye Swelling In Dogs?

When it comes to facial and eye swelling in dogs, there are a number of possibilities that could this. Some common reasons behind eye swelling include:

1. Allergic reaction

Just like humans, dogs can experience allergic reactions to virtually anything in their environment. Dogs can experience allergic reactions to their food, an allergen in the air, a bug bite, their routine vaccines, or any other allergen they may be exposed to.

When a dog has an allergic reaction, most owners notice by seeing facial swelling or hives on the body. Their facial swelling is usually around the eyes and the muzzle, so many owners believe it is an eye problem at first glance.

2. Injury To The Eye Or Eyelid

Dogs can easily injure their eye, as they’re not aware of the eye’s importance like we are. Their eyes often get injured during dog fights, playing with sticks and bones, or even by scratching their face.

The tissue around the eye is incredibly delicate, so any injury has the potential to cause severe swelling and irritation around their eyes.

3. Bee Stings Or Bug Bite Near Eye

One of the most common reasons for swelling around the eye is due to a bug bite or bee sting. Though this can also be tied in with an allergic reaction, the bug bite itself can cause a large amount of swelling around the eye if they are stung/bitten on the face.

Many dogs also bite at insects, causing them to sting the inside of their mouth. This can result in facial swelling around the eye as well.

4. Infection Of The Eye

If there is an infection present in the eye, the eye itself and the tissue around the eye can become irritated and inflamed. The swelling from an eye infection itself can be severe, but it is usually worsened by a dog pawing at their eye due to discomfort.

This is why dogs with an eye infection often have to wear an e-collar to protect dogs from scratching their eyes and aggravating the problem.

5. Corneal Abrasion Or Ulceration

Corneal abrasions or ulcers can be a result of injury to the eye. If you have ever had either, you know just how painful either of these conditions can be. Because they are so painful, dogs will often paw at their eyes and make the swelling and irritation worse.

6. Eye Condition

There are a number of different eye conditions that a dog can suffer from. Whether it is autoimmune related, injury-related, or an infection, dogs can experience eye complications just like we can. Dogs have ophthalmologists as well.

What Should I Do If My Dog’s Eye Is Swollen?

The first thing you should always do when you notice a concerning symptom on your dog is to contact your veterinarian. No matter what, it is always best to get professional advice.

Below are a few tips you can try if you can try at home, but it is still strongly recommended to contact your veterinarian first before trying any of these options below.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine):

If the swelling around your dog’s eye is associated with another facial swelling, skin, redness, or hives, then it is possible that your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction.

Benadryl is one of the only at-home medication that is safe to give to a dog and is an antihistamine that’s used for allergic reactions.

A safe Benadryl dose to follow is 1mg/pound. So a 25-pound dog would get 25mg and so on…

Allergic reactions often require the additional help of veterinary prescribed steroids, so if the swelling does not completely resolve within 2-4 hours, or if your dog is experiencing respiratory distress or vomiting, then they will need to see a vet ASAP.


An e-collar (Elizabethan collar, cone of shame, etc) is used in an effort to keep your dog from further irritating an area with their scratching or biting.

If you notice eye swelling in your dog or you see them scratching or pawing at their eye, you will need to keep them from further injuring their eye with the use of an e-collar.

Of course, dogs do not experience eye irritation for no reason, so even with purchasing the e-collar, you should contact your vet.

Things You Should Not Do

Though it’s tempting to want to solve your dog’s eye swelling at home, it’s important to remember just how important a dog’s eyes are. Complications of eye injury can result in blindness, so please refrain from acting on any home care if you have not had it approved by your vet.

With working in veterinary medicine, there are a few things we often hear when people find ways to treat their dog’s swollen eyes from the internet. Below, we will discuss what NOT to do if your dog’s eye is swollen.

Do Not Try To Flush The Eye

Many people try to clean their dog’s eye with an eye solution when they notice any inflammation or irritation around the eye.

There is no way to know if the actual eye itself is injured without seeing a veterinarian, so by flushing an eye with any solution, you could be further injuring their eye and causing irreversible damage. Some eyewash solutions contain harmful ingredients as well, so it’s best to never use them on your dog unless it is approved by your vet first.

Daily Warm Compresses

We often have clients explain how they’ve been treating their dog to daily warm compresses in an effort to relieve chronic swelling of the eye.

Though the compress itself is not harmful, it’s masking a bigger problem. If you are having to treat anything for days on end, it needs professional attention.

Ignore It

When your dog has minor eye swelling or you see them pawing at their eye, it can be easy to turn the other cheek and hope it resolves itself with time.

The eye itself is incredibly sensitive, and any injury can result in serious damage. Eye injuries are also incredibly painful, so it’s important to address any eye problem right away. Even 24 hours of ignoring an eye injury can result in permanent damage to the eye.

If you ever see a concerning symptom regarding your dog’s eye, have them seen by a veterinarian.

Using Previously Used Drops Or Medications

It’s extremely common for dog owners to want to use old medication when their dogs experience similar symptoms. This can be especially dangerous when it involves the eye, as some drops can contain ingredients that can be harmful in certain situations.

For example, eye infections without the presence of an ulcer will sometimes be treated with drops that include a steroid. If you use an old eye drop that contains steroids on a new eye injury, and the eye happens to have an ulcer this time, you can cause serious damage to the eye and slow down the healing process. It’s always safer to contact your vet before considering the use of old medications.

Diagnostics Your Vet Will Want To Perform

When your vet examines your dog’s eye, there is only so much they can see upon a basic physical exam. To diagnose injury or eye conditions, they will need to run a couple of diagnostics.

Some common eye diagnostics include:

Eye staining: The only way to rule out an ulcer or abrasion on the eye is by staining the eye itself. Your veterinarian will apply a dye to your dog’s eye that will glow under black light. If there is an ulcer on the eye, the dye will sink into the ulcer, causing it to glow under a black light examination.

Pressure test (tarsorrhaphy): Many eye conditions are diagnosed by the current pressure in a dog’s eye. A tarsorrhaphy test will determine the pressure in each eye, and help your veterinarian know if this condition can be treated in your clinic, or if your dog needs to see an ophthalmologist for any reason.

Above are basic eye diagnostics that you will find in any veterinary clinic. If your dog has to see a specialist, they may have more involved diagnostics.

Swollen Eyes In Dogs – Summary

The eye is incredibly important and should be taken seriously if you ever notice any swelling. Though the reasons behind eye swelling in a dog can vary, each option is a matter that should be addressed as soon as possible.

Make sure to contact your vet as the first sign of eye swelling and you can help save your pup from any serious damage.