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Can Dogs Get Pink Eye? Is It Contagious?

Many of us have had pink eye. The pink eye, runny discharge, and crusty lids are uncomfortable. Can dogs get pink eye? Can it spread between humans and dogs? Let's take these one at a time.


So Can Dogs Get Pink Eye?


Yes, dogs get pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis. What exactly is it? “Conjunctivitis is inflammation ("-itis") of the conjunctiva, the pink squishy tissue surrounding the white of your dog's eyeball,” says Dr. Greg Magnusson, DVM, a veterinarian in Indianapolis. “Anything that irritates the conjunctiva can cause conjunctivitis.” This means that your dog’s eye irritation could be caused by bacteria, allergies, dust, or even a scratch from your dog’s nails as he cleans his face. “Many veterinarians have stories of finding all kinds of weird and wonderful things (usually bits of a plant) hidden deep within the folds of a dog's conjunctiva,” Dr. Magnusson adds.


Can dogs get pink eye

The symptoms of dog pink eye are the same symptoms as a few other eye irritations. Allergies, eyes that make too much or not enough tears, and having a piece of dirt or some other foreign object could all lead to red eyes, watery discharge, and a dog pawing at his eyes.

Is It Contagious?


Conjunctivitis is one of those nasty issues that can be contagious across species. Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, said that if conjunctivitis stems from a bacterial infection, it can spread from dog to dog, person to dog, and dog to person. “Dogs can even transfer bacteria from one dog with eye boogies to another by licking - dogs are wonderful at trying to heal infection with a tongue bath - but between eyes is not a good plan,” she says.

What Should I Do?

The best way to determine if your dog has pink eye and what to do about it is to consult your veterinarian. If the irritation is caused by a bacterial infection, your dog will most likely need a prescription from the veterinarian for an antibiotic or steroidal cream to relieve the issue at its source. Dr. Alinovi also recommended warm compresses or a pure saline eye rinse to bring down swelling for pink eye caused by allergies or a virus. On the other hand, Dr. Alinovi says, “Swelling due to trauma (played too hard, puppy smacked his head against the coffee table), as long as the eyeball itself is not affected, cool compresses will work well.” Dr. Magnusson also recommends cool compresses for allergic conjunctivitis. Again, your veterinarian will be able to determine pink eye’s cause and the best treatment for your dog’s specific incident.

In the meantime, Dr. Alinovi recommends washing your hands thoroughly after touching your dog. This will prevent the spread of conjunctivitis to other members of your household.

Can dogs get pink eye? Yes, from many different sources, and each cause requires different treatment. If you suspect your dog has pink eye, call your veterinarian. If that is not convenient right now, you can also try our friends at


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Photo credit:  Noel Zia Lee

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