Follicular conjunctivitis is a condition that causes the whites and pink areas of a dog or puppy's eyes to turn red, become itch and irritated, and typically will produce lots of tearing. Some dogs and puppies will also start to squint to avoid opening up their eyes and causing further irritation. There are many difficult conditions that can cause the eyes to become red, itchy and swollen but follicular conjunctivitis is by far the most common and is actually relatively easy to treat if diagnosed and treated in the early stages.
As with any type of eye irritation the dog his or herself will do more damage to the eye than the actual medical condition. This is because dogs will typically scratch at their eyes as soon as they start to become irritated. This will further irritate the area and may even cause hairs, dirt and other materials get into the eye, resulting in scratches to the corneal that are far more serious. In addition dogs or puppies with itchy eyes will also start rubbing their eyes along the ground, potentially getting all sorts of grass, irritants, dirt and even fecal material into the eye. If there is already as scratch or irritated area this can be a prime growth area for bacteria.
Follicular conjunctivitis is usually initially caused by an allergic reaction. Dogs, just like humans, develop itchy, watery and red eyes with allergies. Often this condition is much worse in the spring and fall during flea season and when there are more allergy causing plants and airborne allergens present. The follicles on the conjunctiva, or the thin transparent covering of the eye, become enlarged due the presence of an allergen or other environmental contaminant or previous medical condition of the eye. Sometimes cherry eye or other problems with the third eyelid can trigger the onset of follicular conjunctivitis. In addition there are also follicles located on the third eyelid itself than can become enlarged and irritated.
Owners should look for signs of redness to the conjunctiva, tearing, or itching and rubbing of the eyes in the initial stages. As the condition becomes worse the dog will keep his or her eyes closed and the discharge from the eye will become thick and very pus-like in appearance. The dog may have a crusty covering over his or her eyelids after keeping their eyes closed.
Treatment is done by completely washing and flushing out the eye using sterile eye treatments followed by antibacterial drops and medications. In some cases steroids are used in the drops to immediately decrease the swelling and itching, providing quick relief for the dog. Careful monitoring of the dog and his or her environment as well as allergy testing should follow to try to determine the cause of the condition. Early detection and full course of treatment is essential to preventing this condition from becoming a chronic eye problem for the dog that can be very serious.