Styes are one of the most troublesome eye infections a person can get. Not only are they extremely irritating to deal with, but the bacterium that causes this problem may pave the way for other, more dangerous conditions.
It is a common condition in humans, but what about dogs? Can dogs get styes too?
If your furry companion has encountered this eye infection, then it’s time to take action.
Where do you start?
Let’s check out what a dog eye stye looks like, what dog stye treatments are available, and how you can prevent your best friend from contracting it in the first place.
Can Dogs Get Styes?
A stye is an eye infection that creates a protruding spot filled with pus on, inside, or near the eyelid.
The infection is typically caused by the very contagious bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which your dog may contract due to a compromised immune system, overgrowth of bacteria in their eye, or from some form of eye trauma.
This bacterium may also cause heart valve infections, pneumonia, and even bone infections.
Other common causes of eye infection include:
- Viruses, such as those that cause distemper, herpes, hepatitis, or canine influenza.
- Other types of bacteria, like canine brucellosis, leptospirosis, and tick-related diseases like canine ehrlichiosis or Lyme disease.
- Consuming fungi.
- Irritants or foreign matter getting lodged in their eye (ex. smoke, shampoo, dirt, grass, your dog’s hair or eyelashes, etc.).
- A scratch or a cut on their cornea.
Dogs and humans alike can develop styes, on either the inner or outer part of the eyelid. Both the upper and lower eyelids of either eye can be affected.
This is because the rim of your dog’s eyelids houses the meibomian glands, which secrete an oily substance that keeps your dog’s eyes moist.
Sometimes, these glands become inflamed and swollen, leaving this oily substance to build up and create a painful growth on or inside your dog’s eyelid. These growths are styes – and they look somewhat like pimples on your dog’s eyelid.
They may also be referred to as hordeolums by your veterinarian, particularly if these growths are exclusively on the outside of the eyelid.
Dog Stye Symptoms
Dog eye styes symptoms will vary from dog to dog, even from those within the same breed. As such, you’ll need to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior if you suspect they have a stye.
If your dog is infected, they may feel as if there is something painful stuck in their eye. They will then display one or more of the following behaviors, and other physical symptoms:
- Scratch or paw at the affected eye.
- Squint their infected eye often.
- Rub their eye against you or furniture in an attempt to relieve their pain.
- Redness around or in their eye.
- Swelling on the eyelid.
- Watery or thick, smelly discharge inside or around their eye.
- Blinking often.
- Keeping the infected eye shut.
- Sensitivity to light.
See also: How to treat dry eye in dogs.
Of course, these behaviors and symptoms could also be indicators of other eye infections – so don’t immediately jump to conclusions.
Instead, be sure to closely evaluate their eyes for any other symptoms and take note of irritations. When doing so, be careful, as too much stimulation in the infected area can hurt them even more.
Styes will usually start out as small, red bumps on your dog’s eyelid, but, if left untreated for too long, they will then become full of pus. Their entire eyelid may become swollen as a result.
How to React
Fortunately, most styes will improve within just a few days without requiring much, if any, medical treatment whatsoever.
This usually means that the stye will rupture and leak pus around your dog’s eye, which you can then clean up with a saline solution.
Most importantly, if you do see a stye forming on your dog’s eyelid, DO NOT attempt to squeeze or pop it like you would a regular pimple.
Allow it to burst naturally, or follow a treatment method recommended to you by your veterinarian.
Dog Stye Treatment
First, your vet will determine if your dog really has a stye or if their pain is due to some other condition, like an allergy, underlying autoimmune disease, or even a tumor.
If your veterinarian has diagnosed that your dog does have a stye, they may suggest several home remedies to help your dog manage their pain.
Placing warm compresses on the infected eye help to reduce any swelling and pain. These compresses soften the stye and will encourage it to finally rupture and drain out.
To create a warm compress, simply soak a soft washcloth in warm water, wring it out (so it doesn’t drip water onto your floor or dog, causing more irritation), then gently hold it over the stye.
Depending on the severity of the stye, you should do this for about five minutes, three to four times each day until the stye ruptures.
You can also create a warm compress from a used tea bag. Just make sure the bag is cool to the touch before you press it to your dog’s eyelid. Different kinds of teas will also have different effects on the healing process.
For example, chamomile tea is a good choice, as it has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. You should do this for about 15 minutes, twice a day – or three to four times a day, for five to ten minutes each, if your dog refuses to stay still for too long.
You can also dip a cotton ball in some cooled tea and gently apply it to their eyelid for several minutes, four times a day.
Beyond that, you can leverage topical antibiotics like eyedrops or ointments to wash away any dead skin cells or bacteria.
Be sure you do not use any over-the-counter eyedrops designed for humans, such as Visine, and instead use brands recommended by your veterinarian.
You may also create your own natural eyedrop solutions – or ‘washes.’ For instance, using a coriander seed eyewash can help reduce swelling and pain caused by the stye.
Boil one cup of water with one teaspoon of whole coriander seeds, let it cool, and then use it as a healthy eyewash four times a day.
Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so you may mix this into an eyewash as well. Just add one tablespoon of turmeric powder to two cups of water, boil it until you have about one cup left, and then let it cool before use.
Make sure you strain the mixture through cheesecloth before washing your dog’s eye with it.
Your vet may also suggest you use cortisone to treat the dog stye, especially if their eye is severely swollen.
To prevent your dog from getting styes in the first place, do one or more of the following:
- Keep your windows closed on windy days or while driving, so as to prevent foreign bodies from flying into their eyes.
- Have your dog wear protective goggles.
- Trim the hair around their formerly infected eye, so it won’t become irritated again.
- Keep your dog’s face clean, especially around their eyes.
- Stop them from scratching at their eyes, if possible.
This video explains more about natural treatments for dog eye infections.
When to See Your Vet About A Dog Eye Stye
Once the stye pops, it’s unlikely to become infected again. However, if it does not heal after any of the home remedies, or if your dog gets another stye, you will need to take them back to your veterinarian.
Evaluation and Treatment
To determine if your dog has a stye or some other eye infection, your vet may perform a bacterial culture on them, so as to get a more conclusive diagnosis.
If this is the case, they will most likely prescribe you both systemic and topical medications to allow the stye to heal.
Unfortunately, if their suggested home remedies or prescribed medications do not work, or the infection seems to actually worsen, then your dog may have to undergo surgery to remove the stye. Otherwise, it could result in further complications to your dog’s cornea.
This surgery typically involves the veterinarian cutting through the stye with a sterilized scalpel in order to drain the pus out.
They may even opt for cryotherapy, or cold therapy, where the infection is exposed to extremely cold temperatures to numb the nerves around the stye before cutting it.
Depending on the type of surgery your vet suggests, your dog could either have their stye numbed by local anesthesia or be fully sedated for the procedure.
Your vet will then issue you a saline eyewash to help prevent any further infections after the operation is complete.
If Not A Dog Stye, What Could It Be?
If the bump rests on the inside of the eyelid, rather than the outside, and presses against the eyeball, then your dog may have a chalazion.
This condition is less common than styes, but it is still quite troublesome and may cause other health issues if left untreated.
The outside of the eyelid can appear swollen, but you may feel a lump on the inside instead. It will continue to grow and bother your dog, but, surprisingly, this infection is not as painful as a stye.
In a sense, chalazions are nearly identical to styes. Aside from existing inside of the eyelid and lacking the degree of pain a stye offers, a chalazion also develops due to a build-up of oils in their meibomian glands. The resulting inflammation then causes the chalazion to grow within your dog’s eyelid.
They may be even harder to identify than styes, due to the fact that they are not as painful. Your dog could be acting totally fine until that chalazion starts to develop into a stye itself.
Remember to always contact your veterinarian if you ever suspect your dog of having a chalazion or a stye. It is better to be safe than sorry, after all. If left untreated, it could permanently harm their vision.
Eyelids protect the eyes from any dirt, dust, foreign body, or other harmful substance that might scratch or otherwise injure them. This is true for any creature – your furry pet included.
They are made up of a complex mix of parts, including layers of skin, tiny muscles, and mucus membranes. These tissues, in turn, are made up of bundles of nerves, blood vessels, oil glands, hair follicles (i.e. eyelashes), and secondary tear glands, all of which are susceptible to injury, infection, and, yes, even tumors.
Older dogs are more likely to develop eyelid tumors than younger ones. Fortunately, most eyelid tumors are benign, meaning they are abnormal growths that only stay in that one area and do not pose a threat to any of the surrounding tissues.
However, this does not mean you should just leave it to grow, as this could cause inflammation or other health complications. It will be far more difficult to handle as it grows larger, and can even disfigure your dog’s face to the point where it messes with how your dog’s eyelid functions.
The cause of most eyelid tumor growths is unknown, but it may be associated with excess exposure to sunlight. Some breeds are also more predisposed to the development of sebaceous (or gland) tumors than others.
Most tumors are removed surgically, although the complete removal of an eye tumor may cause eyelid deformities. Even so, it is wise to contact your veterinarian if you see any early signs of tumor growth. It is imperative that your dog receives early treatment to prevent any severe complications long-term.
Final Thoughts on Dog Stye Eye
Dog styes can be quite a painful eye infection.
As such, it’s important to help your dog through their pain as best you can, until the stye either ruptures on its own or the treatment methods work out.
While medical intervention may be necessary in some cases, home treatment and time also do the trick. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to contact your vet.
Follow these prevention and treatment methods, and we hope your dog will be happy and pain-free in no time!
Have you dealt with a dog eye stye? What steps did you take?