Can Dogs Get Pinkeye From Humans?

What Exactly Is Pinkeye?

Pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines your eyelid covering the sclera, or the white part of your eyeball.  When the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva became inflamed, they appear red, swollen and pink. That’s why it’s called “pink eye.”

In dogs, pink eye is called conjunctivitis, and it can affect all three eyelids of the dog. Unlike humans, dogs have a “third eyelid,” which is an extra layer of tissue that moves across the surface of the eye to provide extra protection and lubrication.  In dogs, both the conjunctiva and the third eyelid (also known as the nictitating membrane) can become affected and inflamed.

What Are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Dogs?

As with pink eye in humans, dogs with conjunctivitis will have a clear, watery, or thick discharge either yellow or green in color coming from the eye.  Your dog may squint, or blink a lot, and most often develop red, inflamed eyelids.  The sclera or white part of the eye may become affected as well.

Conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes, and in some cases, these symptoms could be accompanied by coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge. Conjunctivitis in your dog could also be a sign of something else, so it’s always recommended to contact your veterinarian if your dog starts showing symptoms of eye irritation.

So, Can Dogs Get Pinkeye from Their Owners?

Yes, dogs can get pinkeye from humans, especially if the dog’s eyes come into contact with a pink eye directly, or in contact with discharge from the eye. However, humans rarely contract conjunctivitis from dogs. So, if you or anyone in your family has pink eye, it’s recommended to take precautions to prevent the rest of your family from contracting it, including your dog, or dogs.

You can help prevent the spread by making sure surfaces and areas are cleaned and sterilized, and it’s always good practice to wash hands regularly, and limit touching your eyes.

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What Causes Pink Eye in Dogs?

Pink eye is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, or in human infants, a partially blocked tear duct. Dogs can get eye infections and conjunctivitis, and the cause is most often environmental irritants, allergies, or secondary bacterial infections.

If conjunctivitis appears in only one eye, it may be due to dry eye, inflammation of the tear duct, or a foreign body.  Below are listed some causes of conjunctivitis in dogs.  It is always recommended that if your dog has any kind of swelling or redness in and around the eyes, or any discharge from the eye, to contact your veterinarian.

Foreign Bodies

Some cases of conjunctivitis in dogs can be caused by something lodged in the eye, or in the tissue around the eye.  These are known as “foreign bodies,” and can include things like dirt and dust particles, fox tails, plant matter, or debris.


One of the more unpleasant causes of conjunctivitis in dogs is parasites, such as roundworms or a parasite called Thelazia.  Both parasites are actually worms, can live on the surface of the eye, and can cause conjunctivitis, or a mass of swelling and keratitis (inflammation of the cornea).

Defects of the Eyelid or Eyelashes

In some cases, defects of the eyelid can cause friction and inflammation. In dogs with a condition called entropion, where the eyelid rolls inward causing the hair on the surface of the eyelid to rub against the cornea and conjunctiva, the membranes of the eye appear red and puffy. Also, dogs with eyelash disorders where the hair irritates the tissues around the eye can also cause inflammation and irritation.

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Trauma to the Eye

Trauma or a physical injury to the eye can also cause swelling and conjunctivitis.  If you suspect any injury to your dog’s eye, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A Virus

Like humans, dogs can succumb to colds and upper respiratory infections that may cause drainage from the eyes.  In dogs, viral conjunctivitis is not necessarily considered contagious but is limited to dog-to-dog contact.  So if your veterinarian suspects a viral cause, she may recommend limiting contact between your dog and other dogs until treatment is finished.


Another cause of pink eye in dogs is bacteria. The bacteria Streptococcus and Staphylococcus are among the usual suspects, and while bacterial conjunctivitis in dogs is rare, it is very contagious.


Conjunctivitis in dogs can also be caused by allergies, pollen, dust, dander, mold, smoke and perfumes or aerosol cleaners.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Conjunctivitis?

Your dog may have one or all of the symptoms of pink eye, but that’s usually not enough to provide an accurate diagnosis of your dog’s issue.  Your veterinarian can run several diagnostic tests to find the cause of your dog’s pink eye.  One basic test is called the Schirmer test which measures tear production.

Another test is measuring eye pressure with a device held up to the surface of your dog’s eye, this test is done to rule out glaucoma or uveitis.  Glaucoma is a condition where the nerve connecting the eye to the brain is damaged due to high eye pressure, and this can cause blindness in your dog.

Uveitis is when the uvea, the tissue at the front of the eye, becomes inflamed and painful. Your veterinarian will also perform a thorough eye examination of your dog’s eyes, and eyelids with an ophthalmic lens.

In some cases, your veterinarian may suggest a bacterial culture, cytology (looking at cells under the microscope) of the conjunctiva, a nasolacrimal duct flushing (this duct allows tears to flow), a biopsy or an allergy test to get a diagnosis.

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How Is Conjunctivitis in Dogs Treated?

If you think that your dog has conjunctivitis or pink eye, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.  You and your veterinarian will be able to come up with treatment options, one of which may be treating your dog with eye drops.

However, the key to treating conjunctivitis in dogs is determining the cause, and that will determine what your veterinarian recommends.  Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian may prescribe topical eye drops, or ointments, to combat infection and reduce inflammation, and may also recommend products to stimulate tear production and eye lubrication.

However, if your veterinarian determines that your dog’s eye irritation is due to an abnormality, such as entropion, they may recommend a surgical procedure to correct the problem.  The best thing you can do to help your dog avoid conjunctivitis is to contact your local veterinarian.

How Can I Help Keep My Dog’s Eyes Healthy?

We all want our dogs to be healthy and happy, and the three tips below could help prevent your dog from developing eye issues:

  • Keep your dog’s sleep and play areas clean and free of potential bacterial infections.
  • Make sure that your dog is getting adequate veterinary care, exercise and proper nutrition.
  • If your dog has allergies, she may be prone to eye issues, so it’s always a good idea to keep your home free of dander, dust and mold.

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