Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Signs of Eye Pain or Discomfort in Dogs

Some dogs suffer from eye pain or discomfort. This may be due to various causes, including eye conditions that need prompt diagnosis and treatment. Our Renton veterinarians discuss common causes of eye pain in dogs that may require surgery or other treatment.

Eye Pain in Dogs

Even the most doting dog owner may have difficulty determining whether their dog is experiencing pain or discomfort in their eye. Most pets, particularly those with slow onset conditions, can adapt to or hide their pain, making eye problems challenging to identify. 

Many pet eye conditions can cause acute surface pain (similar to when you get an eyelash in your eye), while others can trigger headache-like sensations. The pain may originate from issues or diseases that affect the cornea or from structures within the eye. 

While eye surface diseases can cause your dog's eyes to become dry, gritty, or uncomfortable, pain occurring inside the eye may be more like an ache or feel similar to a migraine headache. Not all diseases cause eye pain, including some retinal and degenerative corneal conditions that can lead to blindness. 

How do dogs show pain or discomfort?

Unfortunately, dogs can't tell us verbally that they're experiencing eye pain or discomfort. However, some symptoms may indicate they are suffering from pain. These include:

  • Blinking, squinting, or closing their eyes more than normal 
  • Sensitivity to light or attempting to avoid bright light (photophobia - commonly associated with serious eye diseases)
  • Elevated third eyelids, which rise from the eye's inner corner
  • Rubbing their eyes on carpet or furniture 
  • Pawing at their eyes 
  • Excessive tearing
  • Tenderness around their eye - wincing or yelping when touched 
  • Lethargy or reduced appetite 
  • Reluctance to eat hard foods or fully open the mouth 
  • Reluctance to be petted

It is not always easy to tell when dogs are experiencing eye pain. Sometimes, subtle behavioral changes may be your only clue.

Many dogs withdraw and become more reclusive when they are experiencing eye pain or discomfort. Behavioral changes, including hiding, sleeping more, reduced playfulness, decreased appetite, or aggressive disposition are some subtle behavioral changes you may notice.

Many pet owners only realize these subtle shifts in behavior are connected to eye disease after the eye condition has been treated or corrected and their dog has resumed their "normal" pattern of behavior. 

Which eye conditions cause pain in pets? 

A few eye conditions that may cause pain in pets include: 

  • Corneal ulcers
  • Corneal perforation 
  • Eye injury or trauma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Eyelid and eyelash conditions resulting in hairs that rub on the eye (e.g. entropion, ectopic cilia)
  • Dry eye 
  • Glaucoma
  • Inflammation inside the eye (i.e. uveitis) 

How can a veterinary ophthalmologist diagnose the cause of my dog's eye pain?

A veterinary ophthalmologist can perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose the cause of your dog's eye pain. Specifically, the vet will check your dog's vision and reflexes and evaluate their front eye structures using a specialized handheld microscope. A handheld lens and headlamp will be used to visualize the back of your pet's eye. 

The vet may order additional testing to help narrow the diagnosis. These additional tests may include:

  • Fluorescein stain to look for wounds on the surface of the eye and evaluate tear film quality
  • Eye pressure test (i.e. tonometry) to look for glaucoma 
  • Schirmer tear test to check tear quantity 

Eye conditions can sometimes be linked to a systemic health condition. If the veterinary ophthalmologist suspects your pet's eye pain is the result of an underlying disease such as a fungal infection, tumor, or autoimmune disease, additional imaging, blood or urine testing may be ordered. 

What are common treatments for eye conditions? 

The veterinary ophthalmologist will recommend an individualized treatment plan based on your dog's diagnosis. Treatment methods may include:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Temporary soft contact lens used as a bandage for the eye surface 
  • Antibiotics 
  • Surgery 
  • Outpatient procedures 
  • Immunomodulators 

We'll discuss your dog's diagnosis and treatment options with you. If your dog has a blinding eye condition that is also causing them significant pain, we may recommend eye removal (enucleation) in some circumstances to promote comfort. While this may sound extreme, it may be the best choice to permanently eliminate discomfort. Many blind and one-eyed patients can also live full, happy, healthy, and comfortable lives. 

Veterinary Ophthalmology at  Northwest Animal Eye Specialists

Dogs sometimes develop minor or severe eye conditions that can cause discomfort and affect how they see. While some of these conditions are age-related, others are injuries or diseases. 

No matter the issue, any suspected discomfort or loss of sight should be promptly assessed by a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to positive outcomes for your dog's health.  

Our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists at Northwest Animal Eye Specialists work with your pet's primary care vet to provide the most comprehensive and compassionate eye care possible. We can diagnose and treat virtually any eye condition or disease, including infections, tumors, dry eye, and more. 

Note: Northwest Animal Eye Specialists specializes in treating eye conditions and illnesses. The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Do you suspect your dog may be experiencing eye pain? Contact our Renton vets to book a consultation with our veterinary ophthalmologist.

New Patients Welcome By Referral

We are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the eye health of animals. Talk to your vet today about getting a referral to Northwest Animal Eye Specialists serving patients from Renton, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas.

Contact Us

Kirkland Renton