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Dog can’t keep eyes open (What to do)

You love looking into your dog’s eyes. You see the love in them, and they even seem to smile at times. However, now their eyes are closed. They won’t open them, or won’t keep them open. What’s going on? How do you help your pooch?

Why can’t my dog keep his eyes open?

If your dog can’t keep his eyes open, it’s natural to be concerned. Are they hurt? Tired? In most cases, your dog will not keep their eyes open because opening their eyes causes them pain or discomfort. 

Eye Infections

If your pooch won’t keep their eyes open, they may have an eye infection. If your dog has an eye infection, you will notice other symptoms as well. These can include redness of the eye, swelling around the eye, and pawing their eye or rubbing it on the ground. 

You may also notice discharge coming from the eye. This can be watery, or thick and smelly. You may also notice pus or matter in the corner of your dog’s eye. 


Dogs explore the world with their mouth and nose, so their eyes are often close to the ground or objects they are investigating. This can lead to getting debris in their eyes.

The symptoms can be similar to those of infection. In fact, debris in the eye can lead to an infection. Your dog will keep their eye closed because opening their eye is painful. 

You may see debris or an object in your dog’s eye. You may also notice swelling, redness of the eye, excessive tearing, discharge, and sensitivity to light. 

You may also notice the third eyelid protruding, pawing at the eye, and sensitivity to light. 


An injury is another issue that can cause your dog to keep their eye closed. This can be because opening the eye causes pain. It can also be because the eye is swelled, and they physically can’t open their eye or keep it open. 

Eye injuries include puncture wounds, trauma to the eyelid, injuries to the eye socket, or the eye bulging from its socket. 

Symptoms of an eye injury vary based on the type of injury. You may notice blood, swelling of the eye or around the eye, cloudiness, or the eye bulging. 

Other symptoms are similar to other eye issues, and include pawing at the eye, excessive tearing, and discharge. 

Corneal Scratch or Ulcer

A corneal scratch or ulcer is a common type of eye injury. It can be caused by debris in the eye, contact with chemicals, or running into something. Even rubbing the eye on the ground or carpet can cause a corneal ulcer. 

This type of injury is painful for your dog. They will keep their eyes closed most of the time. They may paw at the eye, rub it on the ground, or whine frequently. 

You may notice swelling and discharge as well. 

Anterior uveitis or iris inflammation 

This is inflammation of the iris and the anterior chamber, which is between the cornea and the iris. This can be caused by infection, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. 

Symptoms are similar to those of other eye conditions, and include squinting or not keeping the eye open, eye redness, discharge, and avoiding bright light. 

Orbital Inflammation 

Orbital inflammation leads to swelling of the orbital cavity, which is the bone surrounding the eye. This can be caused by foreign objects or infection. 

It’s common in large breed dogs and hunting dogs, and less common in other breeds. 

The common signs of orbital inflammation include pain when opening the mouth, swelling of the eye and eyelid, and the eyeball bulging. Your dog may find it difficult to close their eye. 

Dry Eye

Just like humans, dogs can develop dry eye. The scientific name for this is Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It’s a common condition that is caused by low tear production. 

Dog tears have three components. These are the lipid, or fat layer, aqueous or water, and a mucin layer. Dogs with dry eye typically produce the  lipid and mucin components, but not the water component. This causes the eyes to be dry and full of mucus.   

The symptoms of dry eye in dogs include irritated, red, or swollen eyes. Your dog may squint or not keep their eyes open because they are painful. Frequent blinking is another sign of dry eye. 

The eye may appear dry, or have a mucus discharge. You may also notice abnormal coloring or blood vessels in the eye. Dry eye can cause your dog have poor vision as well. 

There are many things that can cause dry eye. These include a problem with the immune system, that causes it to attack the tear production glands. Some dogs inherit the condition, Other causes include medication side effects, endocrine dysfunction, and neurological disorders.  


Glaucoma is another condition that can affect both humans and dogs. As mentioned with dry eye, your dog produces fluid to keep their eyes moist and clean. 

When the eye functions properly, this fluid is constantly being created and drained from the eye. Glaucoma occurs when the fluid doesn’t drain properly. This causes excess pressure in the eye.

Glaucoma can be caused by structural abnormalities in the eye. These are typically present from birth and inherited. It can also be caused by injury or disease of the eye. 

The symptoms of glaucoma include eye pain which can cause them to kep their eye closed, and even avoid having their head touched. Swelling of the eye, watery discharge, and redness are also signs of glaucoma. 

The disease can be gradual, or very sudden. If it progresses quickly, it can lead to blindness without treatment. 

What to do if my dog can’t keep his eyes open?

If your dog can’t keep his eyes open, there are some things you can do to help. In most cases, you’ll need to visit the vet. However, you can provide symptom relief at home. 

Visit the Vet 

If your dog is having signs of eye problems, it’s best to get them to the vet. Eye problems can quickly lead to loss of sight or blindness without treatment. Even simple conditions like infection or dry eye pose a risk to your dog’s vision. 

Saline Solution 

Saline solution is salt water in simple terms. However, you don’t want to mix your own. Instead, purchase saline solution designed for eyes. This will ensure the solution is sterile and in the right proportions. 

This is helpful for removing mucus or discharge due to infection. It can also remove small bits of debris by flushing it from the eye. 


A warm or cold compress can reduce the pain and discomfort of eye conditions. They can provide relief for dry eye, and remove mucus or discharge. 

A cold compress will reduce inflammation, which can provide pain relief as well. This is helpful for eye injuries and infections. 

Tea Bags 

Cold tea bags work similar to a cold compress. In addition to being cool, the tannins in tea have healing properties. They also further reduce inflammation. 

Both green and black teas work well. Make yourself a cup of tea. Allow the tea bags to cool, and then place them on your dog’s eye. You can also simply wet the bags well, and then cool them. 

E Collar 

If your pooch is scratching at their eye, they may need an e collar. This prevents them from scratching their eye or rubbing it on the ground, which can cause further infection or injury.