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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Red Eye - Neonatal (Neonatal Conjunctivitis )




Condition Overview

The eyes of newborn puppies open at 10 - 14 days of age. Infection behind the eyelids, called neonatal conjunctivitis, can occur before or after the eyelids separate. Neonatal conjunctivitis may affect several puppies in the same litter.


Suspect this problem if the eyelids appear swollen and / or the eyelids bulge. A puss-like (purulent) discharge may be present if the infection occurs when the eyes are beginning to open. The discharge may cause the eyelids to stick together.


This form of conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria that gain access to the space behind the eyelids during or shortly after birth.

A condition called ankyloblepharon, in which the eyelids do not open as widely as they should, can predispose a puppy to conjunctivitis.


Diagnosis is made by physical examination.


Notify your vet immediately if you suspect neonatal conjunctivitis. Delay in treatment can lead to corneal damage and blindness. The eyelids (if still fused) should be opened to allow pus to escape. With puppies older than 7 days, this can usually be done by gently pulling the eyelids apart. In puppies younger than 7 days, your vet may need to open the eyelids with a surgical instrument.

Once the eyelids are open, the surface of the eye and the eyelids should be cleaned to remove purulent discharge, as described in purulent conjunctivitis. repeat as necessary. Eye lids that stick together should be manually separated to facilitate drainage.

Solutions or ointments prescribed by your vet that contain broad-spectrum antibiotics should be applied to the eyes several times a day. Artificial tears should also be used frequently, as newborns do not make tears before their eyes would naturally open. The artificial tears prevent the drying of the cornea.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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