What is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as "pink eye" is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This area of your pet’s eye is particularly vulnerable to irritants and allergens which can cause inflammation, and viruses, bacteria and fungi which can cause infection.
Conjunctivitis is usually recognized by redness and inflammation it causes. Your pet may also have weepy eyes or a yellowish discharge which is often indicative of an infection, and the discharge may even cause your pet’s eyelids to stick together. It can also be quite painful and you may notice your pet pawing or scratching its eye on various surfaces such as the couch or carpet.
Conjunctivitis is the most common eye problem in pets, and if properly treated, it usually heals up without any complications. However, if left untreated or in serious cases, the infection of conjunctivitis can spread to other structures in the eye and cause serious visual damage. Conjunctivitis can also be indicative of other underlying conditions such as feline immunodeficiency virus in cats or canine distemper in dogs.
What Causes Conjunctivitis?
There are a number of things that can cause conjunctivitis. These include:
- Chemical irritants such as household cleaners, pesticides and other harsh chemical products that enter the eye.
- Mechanical irritants or injuries. Any trauma or injury to the eye can cause conjunctivitis such as sand that has gotten into the eye, or a cat scratch.
- Fungal, Viral and bacterial infections can all cause conjunctivitis.
- Illnesses that affect your pet’s immune system such as feline immunodeficiency virus or canine distemper.
In many cases, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose conjunctivitis based on an examination of your pet’s eye and by looking at the type of discharge produced. Your vet may also perform some tests to determine the cause of the conjunctivitis.
This may include a conjunctival swab which will help determine if the infection was caused by a virus or bacteria, and flourescein staining which will help determine if there are any ulcerations of the cornea. In addition, your vet may run other tests if immune deficiency is the suspected cause or if your pet has any other symptoms.
Help for Conjunctivitis
Treatment of conjunctivitis usually includes some form of topical ointment or eye drops; however treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause. Your vet may prescribe some form of aspirin, corticosteroids, or anti-inflammatory drugs, and in some cases, a course of topical or oral antibiotics may be recommended.
Many vets will immediately prescribe some form of anti-biotic for conjunctivitis and this comes with the risk of decreasing your pet’s immune system and resulting in recurrent infections. Using natural and homeopathic remedies can help resolves conjunctivitis quickly and effectively without worrying about harmful side-effects.
Herbs such as Burdock and Rosemary have become well known for their benefits to eye health. Burdock has superb eye-cleansing, detoxifying and immune boosting properties and is very beneficial when trying to treat any sort of eye infection.
Rosemary is also very beneficial for pets with conjunctivitis as it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as the ability to help relieve pain and sooth eye discomfort. Chelidonium majus and Meadow Sweet are two more herbal ingredients that can be used externally to promote healing of the infected eye and to quickly reduce pain and inflammation.
More Information on Conjunctivitis
Tips for treating and preventing conjunctivitis
- Conjunctivitis is often the result of a weakened immune system and may occur along side other illnesses such as respiratory infections. If you find this is the case, your pet may need some immune boosting supplements.
- Cat scratches are a common cause of conjunctivitis, and if left they can quickly result in abscesses which can be very serious. Have your vet check for signs of abscess of ulceration if your suspect this to be the cause.
- Help soothe your pet’s irritated eye by placing a cooled tea bag over the eye. The tannin in tea will help sooth itchiness and reduce inflammation. Chamomile tea bags are also recommended as chamomile is an effective eye tonic.