Red Eyes And Beagles – What You Need To Know, When You Need To Worry And What You Can Do To Prevent And Cure It


You can tell by the kindness of a dog how a human should be – Captain Beefheart

One of the best things about adopting a dog that no one ever seems to mention, or tell you about before you let your new best friend into your life, is the opportunity that it gives you to see the world as your dog sees it. 

Spending time with your dog, and seeing the world as he sees it, gives you the chance to recharge your batteries, relax and enjoy life with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Owning a dog really does make you a better person, in more ways than most of us will ever be able to fully understand or appreciate. 

But being given the chance to see how wonderful the world can be through a beagle’s eyes, is one of the greatest, and guiltiest, pleasures that we’ve ever had. Their boundless enthusiasm for life, eternal optimism, and unfailing can-do spirit make the beagle unique amongst his canine brethren, as he’s almost always happy.

Everything is an adventure to a beagle, and every moment is a chance to bounce from one thing to the next without pausing to catch his breath and being able to share that with him changes the way that you view life, the universe, and the whole ball of wax that ties it all together, forever. But when that vision and that picture of the world that your beagle sees isn’t quite as clear as it used to be, it can be more than a little worrying. 

For the most part, beagles are hardy dogs, who aren’t hampered by inherent health problems, but just as every other dog does, they have their own peculiar, breed-specific Achilles heels. As well as being susceptible to ear infections, beagles are also prone to eye problems, so if your boy’s eyes start to look like they’re bloodshot and suddenly become red when they were once white, it can be incredibly frightening.

And because we’ve been there with our beagle and we know just how scary it can be, we’re going to explain what might be causing his red and bloodshot eyes and tell you how you can treat your best friend and when it’s time to take him to the vet. 

Red And Bloodshot Eyes

The first thing that we need to clear up is what your beagle’s eyes should look like.  As beautiful as those big brown orbs are to stare into, the sclera (the part of the eye that isn’t the pupil or the iris, or the back of the eye as most people are want to call it) should always be white. 

There shouldn’t be any discoloration, regardless of what you might have been led to believe about beagles, and if that part of your boy’s eye is bloodshot or red, then it could be caused by a number of different issues and could be symptomatic of a more serious problem. 

So what makes your beagle’s eyes change from white to red, and why do they become bloodshot? We’re glad you asked, and we’re happy to tell you why and what you can do to help your boy get better and get rid of his crimson ocular stains. 

Cherry Eye

It isn’t just beagles who can suffer from cherry eye, it’s a health issue that can affect any dog at any point in their life, and usually, the only way to correct a cherry eye is with surgery. If you’re wondering what cherry eye is, and whether or not it’s as worrying and troublesome as it sounds, then you’re probably not going to like what we have to tell you. Yes, it really is something that you worry about if it manifests itself in your dog, and there are a couple of reasons why you should be concerned. 

Beagles, like all dogs, have a hidden third eyelid that sits in the corner of their eye and it contains the tear gland that dogs need in order to produce, you guessed it, tears. Cherry eye occurs when the tear gland in their third eyelid (or, to give it its scientific name, the nictitating membrane) emerges and becomes inflamed, red, and swollen. And the reason it’s called Cherry Eye? That’s because the tear gland after it pops out and starts to become problematic looks like a cherry. It’s not very inventive, but it is an effective and surprisingly accurate description of the condition. 

Unfortunately, Cherry Eye isn’t one of those wait and see conditions that you might be tempted to try and wait out. If you see the cherry in the corner of your beagle’s eye, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately and arrange for your boy to be seen as soon as possible. Much as we don’t want to add any gasoline to the Cherry Eye fire, there are only two ways for a vet to treat it. 

Steroids – The initial treatment that a lot of vets will suggest as a first step, is steroid eye drops. They’re designed to encourage your beagle’s tear gland to return to its normal position without causing too much undue or unnecessary stress or discomfort. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, and if they don’t your vet will be forced to recommend that you try the only other alternative treatment available. 

Surgery – And the only other treatment that’s available for Cherry Eye is surgery. It’s a common, straightforward procedure that is guaranteed to successfully treat (although your boy might have to undergo it a couple of times to make sure that it works) and cure Cherry Eye. The surgery will also be followed by a course of antibiotic eye drops that minimize the chance of any bacterial infection and increase the speed at which your beagle’s eye(s)will heal. 

While we mentioned earlier that Cherry Eye is a condition that can, and does affect, every dog, Beagle is one of the seven breeds (a list that also includes Bulldogs, Great Danes, Cocker Spaniel, and Bull Mastiffs) who are most likely to suffer from Cherry Eye.  The most worrying thing about the condition is that it can happen unexpectedly, for no apparent reason, and can occur at any time during a dog’s life.  It won’t be caused by anything that you’ve done or didn’t do, it’s just one of those ill-fated things that can, and does happen. 

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca

More commonly known as Dry Eye, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca is a particularly painful and irritating condition in which the tear gland stops producing the moisture that the pupil and iris need in order to deal with the everyday debris that the eye encounters, and thanks to the film of moisture that coats it, usually deals with.  Because it can’t manage to successfully eliminate problematic irritants, they remain on the surface of the eye, and are not only incredibly painful but can also scratch the cornea, which, over time, can lead to scarring and impaired vision. 

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or KCS usually manifests, at first, as a red, angry irritation, which will probably make your beagle blink excessively as he attempts to try and stop it itching, and in the hope that he can kick start his tear gland and get it to stop his eyes hurting.  After he’s done that, he might try and keep his eyes closed for as long as he possibly can in order to stop them from hurting. 

Both of those symptoms are cause for concern and more than enough reason to schedule a trip to the vet for your boy, but if they’re also accompanied by a watery, yellow mucus-like discharge that seems to come from the corner of your beagle’s eye, then you need to try to jump the line and get your boy to the vet as soon as possible. The only way that Dry Eye can effectively be treated, is with medication. 

The good news is that Dry Eye isn’t life-threatening and that if your boy is treated quickly, it shouldn’t impair his vision. The bad news is that there is no cure for KCS, and once your beagle starts treatment, he’ll be on a course of lifelong medication. The medication he’ll need, and you’ll need to treat him with, uses two sets of eye drops, which will have to be admitted every four to six hours, and are designed to act as a tear film replacement and encourage tear production. 

And, it won’t hurt if you gently wipe your boy’s eyes with a warm damp cloth a couple of times a day either, in fact, he’ll probably be grateful if you do, as it will make feel a lot better. 

What Causes KCS? 

That’s a question for the ages, as the condition is usually a primary effect of an auto-immune disease that actively attacks and destroys dogs’ tear film, and is thought to be a genetically inherited condition.

While the genetic condition is the number one cause of KCS, it can also be a secondary effect of hyperthyroidism, canine distemper, and related viruses or middle ear infections associated with the nervous system. Just like Cherry Eye, KCS can appear out of nowhere and is impossible to effectively treat without veterinary intervention. 

Is There A Surgical Cure For KCS? 

There is a surgical cure for KCS, but as it involves rerouting the saliva gland, it’s a highly invasive procedure that isn’t suitable for all beagles. But by all means, you should discuss the option with your vet to see if it could be beneficial for your boy. 

Allergies And Bloodshot Eyes 

Okay, we’ve discussed and explained the major causes of red eyes among beagles, so let’s spend a little time talking about why your boy might have bloodshot eyes. 

Now that the big guns are out of the way, we can focus on the more specific, and likely cause of minor eye irritation. If your beagle’s eyes are bloodshot rather than red and are watering more than they usually do, in all likelihood, the cause of those red spirally lines in his pretty brown eyes is an allergy.

That’s right, just like us, dogs can suffer from allergies, and the two most common allergies that can cause bloodshot eyes in beagles are: 

Pollen, Dust, And Hayfever –  As much as humans like to believe that we’re unique and special, we have a lot more in common with our animal neighbors than we’d like to admit. One of these is hayfever, and your beagle might be just as prone to it as you are. Or, just like you, it could be a specific form of pollen that he’s allergic to, or he might be allergic to house dust, and the symptoms of his allergies as well as sneezing, might present themselves as bloodshot eyes. 

Household Goods –  And we’re not the only species that can be allergic to the multitude of plastics and chemicals that are involved in the production of household goods, like bowls and soap powder. Beagles can also be allergic to some of the core components of twenty-first century life.  Keep an eye on your boy and if his symptoms get worse while he’s around a particular blanket or bowl it should be fairly easy to identify what it is that he’s allergic to and which household item is causing his allergies to flare up. 

Helping Your Beagle To Manage His Symptoms

While we’ve already pointed out that the best thing you can do for your boy if he has a chronic condition like KCS is to wipe his eyes down with a warm, wet cloth a couple of times a day, this is also a surprisingly effective way to help him cope with the symptoms of his possible allergies.

If his eyes are bloodshot and sore, the relief that a wipe down will bring him will be gratefully and warmly received and remembered. 

Herbal Remedies –  We’ve never really placed much faith in the power of holistic medicine and herbal remedies, but even skeptics like us have to admit that sometimes, they really do work.  You can actually make your own eye drops at home using a herb called eyebright that’s beagle safe and will help to ease any irritation or swelling that might be caused by allergies. 

It’s easy to do too, just leave an ounce of the herb in a jar of warm water overnight, and by the time you’ve woken from your slumber, the eyebright will have infused with the water and you’ll have your own homemade eye drops and you can then use them to help your beagle get over his allergies. One or two drops in the morning and evening, using an eyedropper should provide all the relief that he’ll need. 

Diet –  It might sound wacky and crazy, but sometimes, just changing your beagle’s diet can have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. If he is prone to suffering from eye problems, or allergies, increasing the level of Omega Three fatty acids and fish oils in his diet might help him to overcome the symptoms and reduce the occurrence of bloodshot eyes and the problems associated with them. 

Holistic diets and the introduction of superfoods (yes, they do exist for dogs – Solid Gold were the first brand to start producing specialty holistic diets for dogs and they’re still one of the best at what they do) can also help your dog to stave off the symptoms of, and problems caused by, his allergies. 

Seeing Clearly – Other Beagle Eye Problems

While we wish that we could say that was it, and that we’ve already covered all of the eye problems that might trouble your beagle throughout his long and happy life, there are a few other potential ocular disorders that you should be aware of, and these include: 

Sleep Dust – If there’s one thing that beagles enjoy almost as much as running, playing, eating, and cuddling, it’s sleeping. When they wake up though, the sleep dust that can gather in the corners of their eyes can be problematic for them. If you do notice an unusual amount of dust in your boy’s eyes, it’s always worth wiping them clean so that the collected dust doesn’t become an issue throughout the rest of the day. 

Ingrowing Eyelashes – Something else that dogs have in common with humans, is their susceptibility to ingrowing eyelashes. They can irritate and scratch the surface of your boy’s eyes, and cause him a great deal of pain. But a quick trip to the vet should take care of the problem and your dog’s doctor will also be able to advise you on how to best avoid potential repeat occurrences. 

Entropion – A fairly common condition among beagle puppies, Entropion causes the eyelid to fold in and the hairs on it to rub against the cornea, which can cause a great level of discomfort and distress. However, almost all of the beagle puppies who do suffer from the condition outgrow it by the time they’re ready to leave their mother.  

And Finally…

It might seem like we’re trying to unduly panic and worry you about any possible eye conditions that your beagle might suffer from, we’re not, and please don’t think that we are. We just want to make sure that you have all the knowledge that you’ll need should one of these conditions ever rear its ugly, bloodshot head in your beagle.  

After all, you know what they say, right? A little know-how can go a long way, and you now know everything that you’ll need to in order to help to keep your beagle’s eyes bright and shiny.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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