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How to Safely Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye

Here’s how my veterinarian treated my dog’s scratched eye, plus tips for dealing with eye scratches in dogs. Georgie has been to the dog veterinarian twice for eye-related problems: once for a scratched eye, and once for an eye infection.

Dog Scratched EyeI researched how to treat dog eye injuries and symptoms of cornea or retina problems in dogs – but there is no substitute for an actual diagnosis from a veterinarian! I didn’t think Georgie’s eye problem was as bad as it turned out to be, and I felt guilty for not taking her to the vet until three days had passed. That’s our rule, though. We have two dogs, and we don’t usually take them to the veterinarian when they first show signs of being “under the weather.” Even a gurgling stomach in dogs may not warrant a vet visit, especially since my dogs will lick the sidewalk if an ice cream cone or chicken drumstick touched it. Just like our own human healthcare – we don’t go to the family doctor at the first sign of a sore throat or tummy ache. But since dogs can’t talk, it is a bit more difficult to assess how bad their injuries are. Here’s what I learned about how to treat a dog’s scratched eye…

According to PetMD, there’s probably a foreign object in your dog’s eye if he is squinting, blinking rapidly and/or avoiding bright lights. That’s exactly what Georgie was doing.

Symptoms of an injury to a dog’s eye

Dog eye scratches or injuries are commonly seen when he:

  • Is pawing at his eye
  • Is blinking rapidly – and his eye is swollen and inflamed
  • Has blood in his eyes
  • Has a blood-fill sac or mass in his eye (subconjunctival hematoma) – which may be leftover from a sealed cut in your dog’s eye
  • Has a foreign object in the eye that you can actually see
  • Has a distorted pupil (the little black part) that reacts abnormally or is shaped differently
  • Has a protrusion of eyeball or the front clear covering of your dog’s eye

Sometimes the only sign of an injury on your dog’s eyeball is his behavior. That’s how it was with Georgie: we couldn’t see anything in her eye, but she couldn’t open it! She was giving us a perpetual wink, which was only cute for one minute. It got even less cute as the hours wore on.

How to look at your dog’s eye

“Keep dog pet calm and talk in a soothing voice,” write the veterinarians in Eye Injuries in Dogs. “It’s important for you to remain calm under the circumstances, because your dog will know if you are anxious. Your anxiety will add stress to the situation. As you talk soothingly, gently lift the upper eyelid and look for debris lodged underneath. Do the same with the lower eyelid. Be careful not to force or slide your pet’s eyelid open because you don’t want to drag the foreign object over his fragile cornea. Instead, softly pull the eyelid away from the eyeball.”

How to Treat a Dogs Scratched Eye

How to Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye

You probably won’t be able to see a scratch on your dog’s cornea, retina, or eyeball because it’ll be teeny tiny. My veterinarian used a special dye to see Georgie’s scratched eye; I describe it below.

But, when you look into your dog’s eyes and see an object, the Pet MD veterinarians recommend flushing it out with room temperature water. If that doesn’t work, try to gently ease it out with a damp cotton swab.

I’d never be able to do this with my dog Georgie, but could probably get something out of Tiffy’s eye. In fact, I’ve had to take two tiny pine needles out of that dog’s eye! It was a pain, but it seemed to work. If you stay calm and keep your wits about you, you may be able to flush a small object out of your dog’s eye. But if you can’t remove it quickly and easily yourself, don’t risk further damage to your dog’s eye. Cover it with a bandage and take your dog to your veterinarian right away.

Signs of a scratched eye in a dog

If your dog’s eyes are bloodshot or if he’s squinting or tearing up a lot, he may have a scratch on his eye. First, gently lift your dog’s eyelids and check for debris. If you don’t see anything, cover the eye with a clean damp cloth and bandage the cloth to your dog’s head. Like a mummy! I’m kidding – but make sure he can see.

Remember the collar your dog wore when he was neutered? It’s called an Elizabethan collar; now is would be a great time to dig it out of the garage. If you don’t have one, bandage your dog’s paws so he won’t paw or scratch at his eye. Get thee to the vet!

According to Pet MD, other signs of a dog’s scratched eye or eye injury include a watery, green or yellow discharge coming from his eyes. These symptoms may indicate a foreign object trapped under the eyelid, abnormal eyelash growth, blocked tear ducts, an eyelid defect, an eye infection or allergies. In all cases, seek professional veterinarian advice. Your veterinarian will be able to treat the problem and tell you how to manage a dog with an injured eye when you take him home.

Now that the official veterinary advice on how to treat a dog’s scratched eye is behind us, here’s the real story. You searched for “dog scratched eye” – or even scratched cornea – and you may find my experience helpful.

How to Treat Scratched Eyes in Dogs

The best way to treat a dog’s scratched eye is to take him to the veterinarian. I know it’s financially and in all other ways a pain, but it’s important to take care of your dog’s eye scratch the right way. Like I said, I waited for three days before taking Georgie to the vet. I regretted it – but thankfully, she didn’t lose her eye or eyesight. I don’t think…because how would I know?

Eye scratches are extremely painful for dogs

This is important to remember, because you dog can’t tell you that a cornea scratch really really hurts! I’ve never scratched my eye, but the veterinarian said that dog eye scratches are terribly painful. How do you treat a painful eye scratch? Take your dog to the veterinarian for painkillers. Don’t give your dog baby aspirin or other painkillers unless you are 100% sure it’s safe.

One of my most popular articles is Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Dog’s Death. I’m not trying to scare or worry you! I just want you to know that feeling guilty because of a dog’s injury or death is normal – and you have somewhere to go if need be.

Watch your dog for signs of pain

Our veterinarian gave us painkillers for Georgie, and said to “take as needed.” When I asked how I know my dog is in pain because of the eye scratch, the veterinarian said dogs paw at their eyes, duck their head down, go off and sleep, and may not eat. The only thing Georgie did was paw at her eye once in awhile, but I thought that was because her eye scratch was itchy. I didn’t even know veterinarians gave painkillers for cornea scratches – I guess that’s one of the most important ways to treat a dog’s scratched eye.

Take your dog to the veterinarian

We didn’t take Georgie to the vet for three days after we saw she had an eye problem, because we thought it was a simple eye infection. We put antibiotics in her eye so it didn’t get infected, but decided to wait it out. She’s had eye infections before, without a known cause, and all the veterinarian did was give us antibiotic eye drops.

Vetericyn Ophthalmic Gel is a very popular eye ointment for dogs. It’s safe, and may help keep a dog’s scratched eye free from infection. Infection is the scariest thing about eye scratches in dogs, because an infection could cause eye loss. And that would put my dog at a serious disadvantage at the dog park!

But from this experience, I’ve learned that a dog’s eye scratch needs to be taken care of as soon as possible by a veterinarian. Dogs feel things, but can’t tell us how it feels. It’s better to be cautious, not neglectful.

Be prepared for a green eye test

eye scratches in dogs

How to Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye

I didn’t catch the name of the eye test for scratched eyes in dogs, but it consists of squirting stuff into your dog’s eye to so the veterinarian can peer inside the eyeball with a light. The stuff turns the eye lesion green, making it easy for the vet to see a dog’s eye scratch.

The last time the veterinarian did this test on our dog, there was no lesion. It was an eye infection caused by a piece of sand. The first time I took Georgie to the vet for an eye problem was a waste of a trip because it worked itself out. But, the second vet trip was valuable and necessary.

Treat your dog’s eye scratch with fresh prescription medication

Don’t give your dog old medication or antibiotics without checking with the veterinarian first. When we first adopted Georgie, a friend told me she almost never takes her dogs to the vet. She gives her dogs leftover medications, and when they’re sick she always waits for four or five days before a trip to the veterinarian. I don’t know if this is good advice…we take our dogs to vet almost every time they get sick, and the vet usually says to wait it out. Time will heal.

Ask for antibiotic eye ointment, not drops

I don’t know why our vet gave us eye drops for Georgie’ first infection, because drops are SO hard to get into a dog’s eyes! Georgie practically climbs up the wall in her attempts to get away from us. When we went back for the checkup (this wasn’t for the eye scratch, it was for the infection), the veterinarian gave us ointment. Eye ointment is WAY easier to smear on a dog’s eye than drops.

Be aware of the dangers of eye infection

Our veterinarian asked us to bring Georgie back in four days, to re-check her eye. It was fine. It took three weeks for the cornea scratch to heal, but now she’s back to normal.

How My Dog Scratched Her Eye

Georgie woke up one morning and couldn’t open one eye, like a perpetual wink. There was some discharge – not infectious discharge, just some tearing – but mostly the only symptom of an eye problem was her inability to open her eye fully.

This was the second time we had to take Georgie to the vet for an eye problem, but it was the first I’d ever heard about cornea scratches in dogs. How did my dog get a scratched eye? The day before she woke up with her eye problem, she killed a squirrel in a park. The squirrel had a wood chip stuck between its big yellow teeth – I know because I had to pick up the squirrel and take it to the garbage can (after my other dog Tiffy dragged it over to me).

I think my dog scratched her eye when that squirrel fought for its life. The squirrel was frantically scrambling around, and Georgie’s eye must have been scratched by the wood chip, or the squirrel’s claws, or even the squirrel’s teeth.

In Coping With Guilt When Your Dog Kills Squirrels, I describe my dogs’ relationship with those rascally critters. I’m not proud of how my terrier treats squirrels, but I guess it really is a jungle out there.

What is your experience with eye scratches in dogs? Your comments are welcome below….I can’t give advice for diagnosing or treating your dog’s scratched eye, but you may find it helpful to share the symptoms of your dog’s eyeball injury. It can help to write about your experience – and it’ll show other readers that they’re not alone.


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35 thoughts on “How to Safely Treat a Dog’s Scratched Eye”

  1. It’s encouraging that you said it took 3 weeks for the corneal abrasion to heal. I had my lab in the vet last Thursday for what I suspected was a scratch on his eye. They gave me two different drops (he’s great with with them and comes over and lays down when I get the drops out). We were back on Monday for a recheck and now have the gel as well. We go back again on Friday. I’m frustrated and vet broke, but maybe they are just expecting too much, too soon. Crossing my fingers!!

  2. Lily of the Valley

    My dog Frank has a corneal tear. He got it by roughhousing with our girl, Molly. I took him to the vet the next morning and he’s been on the ointment and pain pills for a week now. I’m not too sure what his prognosis will be because during the 3 day follow-up, his vet did a debridement and made the tear bigger in order for it to heal better. I did the responsible thing and took him to the vet as quickly as I physically could. I know it’s not cheap to go to the vet, but we choose our pets, not the other way around. Being financially ready and responsible is just the right thing to do. My poor pup is in pain and depressed and I’m riddled with guilt for not going to a 24 hr hospital. I can’t imagine waiting for days to get him help.

  3. Our boxer woke up this morning and to put it hilariously, he looked stoned. His eyes were droopy, and his left eye in particular was squinting. Poor baby has had the yellowish-green discharge typical of this stuff, but we don’t have a lot of money to afford taking him to the vet right now. I’ve looked for anything that might be lodged in his eyelid, but to no avail. From what I’ve read, we’re going to have to take him in.

  4. Our 6 1/2 yr. old terrier/shepherd/wolfhound? mix has a “corneal ulcer” most likely caused by getting poked in the eye in the woods. I first noticed her squinting a couple of weeks ago. We brought her to the vet this week. The day before we brought her in, her eye looked fine, bright, open, no one noticed anything amiss. After the vet’s examination consisting of lifting the third eyelid up, putting the dye in, the wash, etc., her eye looks worse than ever. We’ve been putting neomycin ointment in as prescribed, and her eye looks red, goopy from the ointment, and her third eyelid is always visible now. Grr. It’s been only three days, but we consulted the vet again, and she prescribed tobramycin ophthalmic solution instead of the ointment. I shouldn’t go online because I read scary things about all this. Help.

  5. My dog is aspringer/lab cross and 2 years ago I noticed that she started winking and tearing in her right eye and like you I left it thinking it would clear up on its own, but after two days I took her to the vet. It turned out that she had an indolent ulcer, which the vet had to operate on. Then almost to the day the same thing happened again but this time in her left eye, so again another operation had to be performed. So the moral is, don’t ignore any eye problem as your dog could lose their sight.

  6. My 2 year old Shih Tzus Thunder is his name all of a sudden started scratching above his eyelids and now it’s pink. He’s constantly scratching, what can I do to stop him from scratching.

    1. Hello I have a Maltese he’s two years old and I took him to to PetSmart to get his haircut and a bath and when I picked him up and when I got home I noticed that he was blinking his eye and scratching at it and it was tearing up I don’t know what happened at the PetSmart grooming but I tried to wash his eye out but that wasn’t helping so what should I do cuz someone please help me by in the morning if it’s not better I’m going to take him to the veterinarian if they can have an appointment where they can see him

  7. Our pembroke welsh corgi has a scratch on her cornea & hates hates to have drops put in. It’s been 2 weeks tomorrow since all began & my husband & I are crazy trying drops with her fighting us …
    Rosie Red is 12, 13 yrs. old in December & was 8 was. when brought her home . We’re retired so she’s our heart !!!!
    Please let me know if other things can do instead of drops . Vet bills are there each time walk in the door cause they know we’ll spend what takes.
    Oh yes could Rosie have dry eye that causes this to get worse ? She sleeps under a fan in her room

  8. After going on a hike, My dog couldn’t open his left eye fully when we woke up, I took him to the vet that and they gave him some ointment because it looked irritated but nothing major, the next day it looked worse so I called the vet and went back, they did the yellow taint exam an he has apparently a superficial cornea scratch it breaks my heart to see him so sad. Just started the pain medication and I’m hopeful that he’ll be back to his normal self before our vet follow up next week…. Thanks for the post, makes me feel better

    1. My sweet puppy was just dx w a superficial cornea scratch. Cone, drops and ointment. She goes back in 1 week. How is your dog??

  9. Hello Victoria,

    I don’t know of any cone alternatives, I’m sorry. But if you try searching for “dog comfort collar” or “dog cone alternatives”, you might find something. I’d also call the veterinarian, and ask how to stop your dog from scratching her already-scratched eye! They might have more ideas.

    The Comfy Cone Pet E-Collar on Amazon got over 2,500 positive reviews; maybe it’ll be helpful?

    Maybe by now your dog’s eye has healed, or is healing??

  10. My dog has an eye scratch and we are going to the doggy eye doctor asap per the vets recommendation. However, I saw tonight she has figured out how to scratch her eye with the cone where you close the cone. Do you have any recommendations on cone alternatives or something I can do that if she does it while I’m at work it won’t make her eye worse?

    1. Did you find an alternative? We are dealing with the same issue. Our Dachshund is in a cone but is using the inside of the cone to rub on her eye, ugh!

  11. Dear Ilgın,

    I wish I could tell you that yes, your dog’s eye scratch will heal completely! But I don’t know what the future holds — though I do know that my dog’s scratched eye did heal 100%, and that our dogs are built to heal. Especially if they’re young, and if the wound or eye scratch isn’t too bad.

    Keep putting those eye drops in your dog’s eye, and do whatever else the veterinarian told you. Healing is natural, and I believe most dogs do recover from their eye injuries.

    I’ll keep you and your dog in my prayers. And Turkey! My husband and I were there a couple years ago, and just loved it.


  12. Hello,
    I would like to ask one quick question.
    My dog got his eye scratched two days ago and as soon as we realized it, we took him to the vet and got him some antibiotic eyedrops. Although they are pretty hard to apply and drop inside his eye, we are kind of getting used to it. There is still a bloody view around his pupil and there is this one white-looking area on his cornea where his eye got scratched.And my question is,
    Is it possible to heal his eye and his ability of sight completely? Is that white area going to be healed and disappeared completely? Is his eye going to get back to normal as it used to be?

    Thank You, Lots and lots of love from Turkey.

  13. Hi Kelsey,

    If I were you, I would take my dog to the vet as soon as possible – especially if you know that the eye scratch is causing a lot of pain. The veterinarian can give you painkillers to give your dog, so that the pain won’t be so bad. That’s what my vet did for our dog. In fact, our dog was on painkillers for four or five days.

    I know it’s expensive to have to take your dog to the veterinarian, but it’s the most important thing to do in some situations – especially ones like this.

    I wish you all good luck with it. I hope you get painkillers soon, and that your dog’s scratched eye heals quickly.

  14. My dog has a scratched eye and she’s in so much pain. Thankfully she’s an amazing dog and let’s me put eye drops in her eye but she keeps on scratching at it and reading this I don’t think it will heal with just eye drops? And I don’t want her to loose her eye we’ve been so upset with it and we just don’t know what to do ..

  15. Hi Tracy,

    That’s the exact same struggle I have every time my dog gets sick! I don’t want to pay for an extra veterinarian trip, especially since most of the time the vet just says it’ll heal on its own. But yet I don’t want my dog to be in pain, especially since a scratched is supposed to be pretty painful.

    I don’t know if you should wait it out or take your dog back to the vet. I have a hard enough time deciding what to do with my own dogs, much less somebody else’s. Do you think your dog is in pain? That would be the deciding factor for me. I know it’s hard to tell if a dog is in pain, but that really is the bottom line.

    I wish I could be more helpful. What are you going to do?

  16. I believe my dog scratched her eye running though some bushes; I took her to the vet after 3 days of her perpetual wink and eye running/discharge and they confirmed it was a scratch with the dye test. They said to bring her back in a week. She was prescribed 3 meds: a medication to keep the eye dilated, an antibiotic, and an artificial tears lubricant. I used them the first few days but she fought me pretty hard and also freaks out with the cone, so I have been trying to just let it heal. It has been 2 weeks and there is no oozing or discharge, but I can still see the scratch on the eye surface. I really would prefer not to have to pay for the vet again if possible. Should I just wait it out?

    1. You can see the scratch!? Oh that poor baby! Maybe you’ve never had an eye injury, I have, it’s pure agony! The eye has soooo many nerves in it. Please do what your vet recommends for the sake of your dog not being in pain!

      1. I didn’t realize it was that painful. I did take her back to the vet and they said it is healing but very slowly. They gave me a different antibiotic which doesn’t seem to burn her eye like the other one did, and this Dr. also gave me pain meds for her since it was still bothering her. She seems a little better, hopefully just a few more weeks and she will be back to herself.

  17. Dear Joanne,

    I’m sorry to hear that your dog could possibly be put down because of the eye scratch and cost of surgery. That’s scary, and I really do hope your veterinarian is wrong about the healing process. I hope your dog’s eye heals faster than expected, and that his eyelid returns to normal quickly and painlessly.

    How are things progressing with your dog?

    – Laurie

  18. Last year one of my dogs had a scratched cornea and had to lose the eye. Now, my other dog has a scratched eyelid and the vet states he’ll have to lose it if it doesn’t heal in 5 days but we can’t afford that surgery..has anyone else gotten this response from their vet? These comments make a scratched eyelid seem like no biggie but I’m possibly going to have to put my dog down for it someone help!!

  19. Dear Cindy,

    How’s your dog’s scratched eye now? Did it go away on its own, or did you have to take him to the veterinarian?

  20. My dog was fine this morning. But when my husband came home from work he let them outside.he said he came back in and looked ok then our son feed him a piece of fish which he knew better. Then I came home to his eye closing and him pawing at it.I washed it out no vet are open around her on weekends. So what do I need to do.

  21. Oh gosh! My Lucy has a scratched cornea right now!! She was miserable!!! I think she may have scratched it out in the field sniffing around. She is an English bulldog. We used ointment and I thought it was better. Then after thanksgiving, it got 10 times worse!!! I think she scratched it again with her dewclaw!! We now have to do 3 eye treatments 3x’s a day and she is also on a heavy pain med! But alas, I think she is starting to her better. Oh ya, she is also wearing a cone!

  22. Thank you it was very helpful although its happened to my dog and the vet has told me a scratched cornea can lead to blindness if not treated apparantly the iris can fuse to the cornea there is some special cream to stop this happening

  23. Treating a dog’s scratched eye is difficult because not many dogs sit still and let us peer into their eyeballs! Taking your dog to the veterinarian really is the safest way to treat an eye scratch – especially if your dog can’t open her eye. Georgie was perpetually winking at me, and I think I waited too long to take her to the vet.

  24. We recently moved to the country, out in the wilds. My little Maltese got an eye infection from a fox tail. Now, she has an infection or possibly scratched the cornea. I found a small fox tail on her eye brow, when she woke up unable to open her eye. I’ve been using the fresh ointment left over from the first infection for 5 days. It still isn’t healed. I’m taking her to the Vet again. Thank you for the advise!

  25. I’m sorry it took so long to respond – I was in Haiti on a missions trip, and didn’t have internet access.

    Yes, a cone would definitely stop your dog from rubbing the scab on her eye. I hope you successfully learned how to treat a dog’s scratched eye, and that she is all healed now!

  26. Im dealing with a scratched eyelid on my dog. She keeps rubbing off the scab, the antibiotic cream, the antibiotic bandaid so its not healing properly. What do i do? Use the CONE? HELP?

  27. Thanks for the advice, I’m dealing with this same issue right now. My little Yorkie dug her way into and out of; not 1 not 2 but 3 backyards to pick a fight with several very large dogs (really only 40-50lbs each) and chased into a cactus ?