Blepharitis is an inflammatory eye condition that affects the connective tissue and outer skin of the eyelids. Some breeds are genetically susceptible to developing blepharitis, including poodles, Labradors, shih tzus, and English bulldogs, but the condition can affect any breed and causes severe discomfort for your dog. Here’s what you need to know about blepharitis in dogs:

Causes

Blepharitis in dogs can be caused by any of the following:

  • A bacterial infection often caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria
  • An environmental or food allergy
  • Side effect or reaction to a prescription medication
  • Eye disease such as keratitis or conjunctivitis
  • Tumour or cyst affecting the sebaceous glands
  • Sarcoptic mange infection, which is caused by a parasitic mite

Symptoms

Symptoms of blepharitis in dogs include:

  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes, which may appear watery or contain mucous
  • Flaking skin or crusts around the eyelids
  • Small pimples or a skin rash around the eyes, which may or may not contain pus
  • Blurred vision, which may manifest as clumsiness and a loss of interest in play
  • Thickening of the eyelid skin

Diagnosis

Your vet will diagnose blepharitis by taking details of when and how your dog’s symptoms started, examining your dog’s eyes, carrying out blood tests, and collecting a sample of the discharge or skin cells from your dog’s eyes.

Blood tests are used to determine if the inflammatory markers in your dog’s body are elevated, which is indicative of an underlying health problem such as a tumour. They can also be used to establish if your dog is having an allergic reaction or if they have a bacterial infection. Skin cell samples can be tested for parasites and can pinpoint the exact type of bacteria present in cases of blepharitis caused by a bacterial infection.

Treatment

Treatment for blepharitis is dependent on the underlying cause, but can include:

  • Warm Compresses—Cleaning your dog’s eyes daily with a warm saline solution and soft cotton pads will soften crusts, remove flaking skin and prevent discharge from building up while your dog’s immune system tries to reduce the inflammation around their eyelids.
  • Medication—Topical or oral antibiotics will be required if your dog has a bacterial infection, while anti-parasitic medication will be used to tackle sarcoptic mange. If blepharitis is being caused by an allergic reaction, corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation and promote healing of the delicate eye tissue.
  • Diet Modification—If your dog has food allergies, which can develop suddenly even if you haven’t changed their food, your vet will give you advice on how to modify their diet to ensure their nutritional needs are being met without consuming the food that’s causing their symptoms.
  • Surgery—Tumours or cysts affecting the sebaceous glands of your dog’s eyes will have to be surgically removed to enable the eyes to secrete a healthy amount of lubricating oil, which helps keep your dog’s eyes healthy by keeping them moist and clean.

If your dog is displaying any of the listed symptoms of blepharitis, schedule an appointment with a vet clinic such as Cardiff Veterinary Hospital as the condition is easier to treat when addressed early.