Puppy Puzzlers - Swollen Eyes, But Not Open Yet?

Raising the perfect puppy includes watching the eyes when they are still closed. Puppies are born premature compared to other mammals, so their eyes are still forming and prone to infection. If the eye is swollen or pus is coming out of the corner of the eye, the eye is infected. This can start with a bacteria or virus, but the pus is bacterial. These are critical issues and quick treatment will prevent problems later in life.

The infection causes damage to the lacrimal glands that make tears, decreasing tear production. Tears protect the eye physically by lubricating it, plus the immune components in tears prevent infection. Lack of tears results in KCS (dry eye), increasing the likelihood of infection and permanent lifelong damage to the eye. Early treatment will prevent permanent scarring of the eye and damage to tear production.


At the first sign of any discharge or swelling under a sealed eyelid, the eye should be opened. A warm cloth on the eye for a few minutes will soften the sealed eye and ease the opening of the eyelid. Flushing the eye removes debris and bacteria, plus it wets the damaged eye, enabling a visual look at the damage. Do not use water here or you may make it worse – use an eye wash or a saline solution used as a flush works great. After flushing the eye with saline solution or eye wash (Vetericyn VF Opthalmic Wash or Eye Irrigating Solution) for 5 minutes, examine the eye. Upon examination, the eye should be clear with no milky look to the cornea. If they are milky or have vessels coming from the side into the clear corneal area, you need to seek veterinarian help.

No matter what the eye looks like, you should start treatment by flushing the eye three times a day and follow with an antibiotic for the eye (Gentamicin Ophthalmic Solution or Vetericyn Animal Ophthalmic Gel). Don’t wait to treat! Start treatment immediately as you don’t want them to lose their vision or have scarring in this eye. If the eye gets damaged at this age, it is damaged for life, and it will rarely clear up totally. Quick action will prevent that issue. Always have ophthalmic eye treatment on hand in the kennel for this type of eye treatment.

Opening the eyes early will not harm them and starting treatment early protects the puppy’s vision, preventing permanent eye issues later in life.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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