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Episcleritis, Redness in the White of a Dog's Eye

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Dog owners may be concerned when they notice redness in the white of a dog's eye and episcleritis in dogs may be one of the potential causes for this color change. If you have noticed any redness in the white of your dog's eye or the presence of a mass, you should report this change to your veterinarian. There are several eye conditions in dogs and only your vet can diagnose these and implement the most appropriate treatment plan. Sometimes, challenging conditions may need a referral to an eye specialist.

bump on a dog's eyelids

Normal temporal limbal pigmentation, brownish pigmentation seen in dog's eye.

Episcleritis in Dogs

Episcleritis is the medical term used to depict an inflammation of the episclera, a thin membrane of collagenous and vascular tissue that makes up the superficial layer of the dog's sclera.

Along with the conjunctiva, the sclera and episclera make up what is commonly referred to as "the white of the eye."

There are two forms of episcleritis, simple and nodular. In simple episcleritis, lesions found on the white portion of the dog's eye are flat. In nodular episcleritis there are lesions on the white portion of the eye that have a raised surface and therefore appear like a small red or tan looking lump or nodule. The inflammation may be generalized (often seen in Cocker spaniels) or just restricted to one region.

Affected dogs typically show signs of mild eye pain and watery eyes. Dogs may paw at their eyes, squint or rub their eye against the carpet, but not always are these signs obvious. On many occasions, dog owners notice the redness or nodule on the white portion of the dog's eye, and the dog doesn't appear to be in any pain or discomfort.

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Episcleritis should not be confused with the normal temporal limbal pigmentation of the limbus, the junction of the cornea and sclera. It is common for dogs to have a large amount of melanin that makes the limbus appear dark-brown or black, explains veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Juliet R. Gionfriddo. If you notice anything in your dog's eye that concerns you though, report to your vet.

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Vet checks a dog's eye

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Your vet will carefully examine your dog's eye so to determine the underlying cause of the inflammation. There are several conditions to rule out that may cause similar symptoms such as conjunctivitis or glaucoma. The vet may also look into the dog's eye to rule out any foreign material that could be causing the redness.

If there is a mass, the vet may decide to biopsy it to rule out cancers of the eye. Staining of the eye is often done to rule out the presence of a corneal ulcer, which is important if the vet is going to prescribe any eye drops containing steroids. The use of steroids in a dog with an eye ulcer can cause the ulcer to get infected or may exacerbate an existing infection, warns Dr. Andy.

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Sometimes, veterinarians may feel that certain eye cases need a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist. Veterinary ophthalmologists are veterinarians who have made of treating eye problems their area of specialty. Since they exclusively diagnose and treat eye problems, they are the best option for challenging or complicated cases involving a dog's eyes.

eye drops

Treatment of Redness in the Whites of Dog Eye

On many occasions, the underlying cause of episcleritis in dogs cannot be determined. When this is the case, it is said that the condition is idiopathic, which means of unknown cause. However, many believe that episcleritis may be caused by an immune system disorder. Seeking treatment for episcleritis is important, left untreated, the inflammation may progress and affect other structures of the eye causing secondary problems.

Episcleritis treatment in most cases involves reducing the inflammation with the use of eye drops or ointments. The standard therapy for episcleritis in dogs consists of topical corticosteroids such as 0.1% dexamethasone or 1% prednisolone acetate instilled in the eye every 6 to 8 hours for 2 to 3 weeks, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin. Because of the presence of steroid, these eye products need to be gradually tapered off. In some cases, topical cyclosporine every 12 hours may be used in addition to corticosteroids for stubborn cases.

Fortunately, in most cases, the disorder is easy to treat, but it may come back at other times and affected dogs may require long-term treatment. Dogs may be sent home with an Elizabethan collar so that the dog won't rub the eye and make the inflammation worse.


  • DVM360, Can a smoky sclera be normal?
  • Eye Care for Animals, Episcleritis

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