Why My Dog Can't Open His Eyes

Why My Dog Can't Open His Eyes

Is your dog struggling to open his eyes? It can be worrying to see your furry friend squinting or keeping his eyes closed. There are several reasons why this might happen, ranging from minor irritations to more serious health issues. In this article, we'll explore the common causes of eye problems in dogs and provide guidance on how to help your canine companion.

Key takeaways:

• Eye irritation or injury is a common cause of squinting in dogs
• Certain breeds are more prone to eye issues
• Home remedies can provide temporary relief, but veterinary care is crucial
• A balanced diet supports eye health in dogs
• Early intervention is key to preventing complications

Signs Your Dog is Having Eye Trouble

short-coated black and brown dog lying down on brown surface
Photo by Dominik QN / Unsplash

Recognizing the symptoms of eye problems in your dog is crucial for early intervention. Here are the main signs to watch out for:

• Excessive blinking or squinting
• Inability to open one or both eyes
• Redness in or around the eyes
• Swelling of the eyelids
• Discharge from the eyes (clear, yellow, or greenish)
• Pawing at the eyes
• Changes in eye color or cloudiness
• Visible third eyelid
• Light sensitivity

If you notice any of these symptoms, especially if your dog can't open his eyes at all, it's important to consult with your veterinarian promptly. Delaying treatment can lead to more serious complications and potentially affect your dog's vision permanently.

Common Causes of Eye Problems in Dogs

Dogs, like humans, can experience a variety of eye issues. Some of the most common reasons your dog might be keeping his eyes closed include:

  1. Eye irritation: Dust, dirt, or other foreign objects can get into your dog's eyes, causing discomfort and leading to squinting.
  2. Eye infections: Bacterial or viral infections can cause inflammation and discomfort in your dog's eyes.
  3. Injuries: Scratches or other trauma to the eye can make it painful for your dog to keep their eyes open.
  4. Breed-specific issues: Some breeds, particularly those with flat faces like Pugs and Bulldogs, are more susceptible to eye problems due to their unique facial structures.

How to Help Your Dog with Eye Problems

pug covered with blanket on bedspread
Photo by Matthew Henry / Unsplash

When you notice your dog is having trouble with their eyes, there are a few steps you can take to help:

  1. Gently examine the eyes: Look for any obvious signs of injury or foreign objects. However, be careful not to touch or attempt to remove anything from your dog's eye.
  2. Use a saline solution: For mild irritation, you can try flushing your dog's eyes with a sterile saline solution to remove any debris.
  3. Apply a warm compress: A warm, damp cloth placed gently over your dog's closed eyes can help soothe inflammation and provide comfort.
  4. Keep the area clean: Regularly clean around your dog's eyes to remove any discharge or debris that might be causing irritation.
  5. Seek veterinary care: If the problem persists or seems severe, it's crucial to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Breeds Prone to Eye Issues

While any dog can experience eye problems, certain breeds are more susceptible due to their physical characteristics:

• Brachycephalic breeds: Dogs with flat faces, such as French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers, are prone to issues like corneal ulcers and dry eye.

• Long-eared breeds: Dogs with floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, may be more likely to develop ear infections that can affect their eyes.

• Breeds with prominent eyes: Dogs with large, protruding eyes, such as Chihuahuas and Pekingese, are at higher risk for eye injuries and infections.

If you own one of these breeds, it's especially important to be vigilant about your dog's eye health and schedule regular check-ups with your vet.

Preventive Measures for Eye Health

Taking steps to maintain your dog's eye health can help prevent many common issues:

  1. Regular cleaning: Gently wipe around your dog's eyes daily to remove any discharge or debris.
  2. Grooming: Keep the fur around your dog's eyes trimmed to prevent irritation. Use blunt-tipped scissors and be extremely careful.
  3. Protection: When taking your dog for a ride, consider using protective eyewear designed for dogs, especially if they like to stick their head out the window.
  4. Balanced diet: Ensure your dog's diet includes nutrients that support eye health, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Regular check-ups: Schedule annual eye exams with your veterinarian to catch any potential issues early.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

While some minor eye irritations can be managed at home, there are times when professional help is necessary. Seek veterinary care if:

• The eye problem persists for more than a day or two
• There's significant redness, swelling, or discharge
• Your dog seems to be in pain or is excessively pawing at their eye
• You notice any changes in your dog's vision or eye appearance
• There's any trauma or injury to the eye area

Remember, early intervention can prevent more serious complications and ensure your dog's comfort and health.

The Importance of Timely Treatment

When it comes to eye problems in dogs, time is of the essence. Delaying treatment can lead to more serious issues and potentially permanent damage to your dog's vision. Some eye conditions, such as glaucoma or severe infections, can progress rapidly and require immediate medical attention. By seeking prompt veterinary care, you can often prevent minor issues from becoming major problems and ensure the best possible outcome for your furry friend's eye health.

The Role of Diet in Eye Health

A balanced diet plays a crucial role in maintaining your dog's overall health, including their eye health. Certain nutrients are particularly important for eye function:

• Vitamin A: Supports eye health and vision
• Omega-3 fatty acids: Help reduce inflammation and support eye moisture
• Vitamin C: An antioxidant that helps protect eye tissues
• Vitamin E: Another antioxidant that supports overall eye health

Talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your dog's specific needs, including any supplements that might be beneficial for their eye health.

Home Remedies vs. Professional Care

While there are some home remedies that can provide temporary relief for minor eye irritations, it's important to understand their limitations:

Home remedies:
• Can provide quick, temporary relief for minor issues
• Are suitable for mild cases of irritation or debris in the eye
• Should only be used under guidance from a veterinarian

Professional care:
• Is necessary for diagnosing underlying conditions
• Provides access to prescription medications when needed
• Can prevent minor issues from becoming more serious

Always err on the side of caution and consult with a veterinarian if you're unsure about the severity of your dog's eye problem.

Costs Associated with Eye Care

The cost of treating eye problems in dogs can vary widely depending on the severity of the issue and the required treatment. Here's a general overview:

• Routine eye exams: $50-$100
• Basic treatments (e.g., eye drops, ointments): $20-$80
• More complex treatments (e.g., for infections or injuries): $100-$300
• Surgical procedures (e.g., for severe conditions like glaucoma): $500-$3000+

While these costs can be significant, investing in your dog's eye health can prevent more expensive treatments down the line and ensure your pet's quality of life. Consider pet insurance to help manage potential veterinary expenses.


Understanding why your dog can't open his eyes is crucial for maintaining his health and happiness. By recognizing the signs of eye problems, taking preventive measures, and seeking prompt veterinary care when needed, you can help ensure your furry friend's eyes stay healthy and comfortable. Remember, your dog's eyes are not just windows to their soul – they're essential for their quality of life. So, keep a watchful eye on your pup's peepers, and don't hesitate to seek professional help when needed. Your dog will thank you with those loving, clear-eyed gazes that melt your heart!


Can I use human eye drops for my dog?
No, it's not recommended to use human eye drops for dogs without consulting a veterinarian. Some ingredients in human eye drops can be harmful to dogs.

How often should I clean my dog's eyes?
It's a good idea to gently clean around your dog's eyes daily, especially if they're prone to discharge or tear staining.

Are certain eye colors in dogs more prone to problems?
While eye color itself doesn't necessarily indicate a higher risk for problems, dogs with light-colored eyes may be more sensitive to bright light.

Can allergies cause eye problems in dogs?
Yes, allergies can cause eye irritation in dogs, leading to symptoms like redness, itching, and excessive tearing.

How can I tell if my dog has vision problems?
Signs of vision problems in dogs include bumping into objects, reluctance to jump or climb stairs, and changes in behavior or activity level. If you suspect vision issues, consult your veterinarian.