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Conjunctivitis in cats and dogs

Published on 10 Jun 2021

Husky dog blue eyes close-up shot.

Sore, red eyes could be signs of conjunctivitis, a common eye condition affecting both cats and dogs. 

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is a common eye problem that occurs in both dogs and cats. It can happen on its own, or because of another disease and can affect one or both eyes.

Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the pink tissue surrounding the eyeball, known as the conjunctiva. There are many different causes of conjunctivitis, including viruses, bacteria, allergies, traumatic injuries, foreign material (such as grass seeds) and more.

Which pets are most affected?

Conjunctivitis can affect all dogs and cats of any age depending on the cause. For example, pets with allergic skin disease may develop an allergic conjunctivitis, or pets that go outdoors may be more susceptible to foreign materials such as grass seeds in the eyes.

According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), conjunctivitis is most prevalent in the following breeds of dog: 

Breed Prevalence*
Standard Poodle4.33%
Golden Doodle4.23%
British Bulldog4.03%
Bernese Mountain Dog3.89%
Havanese3.58%
Bull Terrier3.26%
Labradoodle3.25%
Italian Lagotto Romagnolo3.11%
Airedale Terrier3.07%
Hungarian Vizsla3.01%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), conjunctivitis is most prevalent in the following breeds of cat: 

Cat breed Prevalence*
Exotic Shorthair2.07%
Sphynx2.01%
Birman1.29%
Burmese 1.27%
Russian Blue1.11%
British Shorthair1.07%
Bengal1.07%
Ragdoll0.95%
Devon Rex0.90%
Siamese0.60%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis often causes redness and swelling to the pink tissues (conjunctiva) around the eye, accompanied with discharge which may sometimes have a greenish tinge to it. 

Pets may also squint the affected eye(s) or the eyelids may be stuck together. In some cases, conjunctivitis can cause irritation to the eye causing pets to rub, scratch or paw at their faces. 

Diagnosing Conjunctivitis

The first stage of diagnosing conjunctivitis will involve the Vet taking a clinical history. This means finding out if there has been any history of allergies, trauma, or other things, such as visiting an area with very long grass for example that may be implicated in causing eye irritation. A thorough physical exam of the pet patient will also be performed.  

In many cases, conjunctivitis will be diagnosed based on the history and the findings on examination. In severe cases, or cases that don’t resolve with symptomatic treatment, swabs, or samples of the affected conjunctiva may be performed to look for bacteria or other cells that may indicate an underlying cause of the problem.

Management of Conjunctivitis 

Conjunctivitis is often managed symptomatically with topical eye medications that may include antibiotics and anti-inflammatory components. Pain relief and eye lubricating medications, such as artificial tears may also be indicated. Cleaning the eyes of discharge often forms part of the treatment plan for conjunctivitis. 

The Veterinarian will recommend addressing any underlying causes for conjunctivitis, such as bacterial or allergic diseases. Treatment of conjunctivitis will vary depending on what has been recommended by your veterinarian and your pet’s response to those treatments.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to Conjunctivitis was $525 with the highest, single claim being $6,975. 

The overall treatment cost of managing Conjunctivitis will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to these treatments.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

References

  1. Blue Cross for Pets, “Conjunctivitis in Dogs”, accessed on 31 March 2021
  2. Vincyclopedia of Diseases, Conjunctivitis, Bacterial, accessed on 15/04/2021
  3. Vincyclopedia of Diseases, Conjunctivitis, Allergic, accessed on 15/04/2021

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Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell

Veterinarian

Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah