Can Eye Infections Be Passed Among Cats & Dogs?

Some eye infections can pass among cats and dogs, and even humans.
i The spitz-dog and cat on a neutral background image by Ulf from

Your cats and dogs can share eye infections with each other. The degree of infectiousness varies by viral and bacterial strain -- some are species specific, while others aren't -- so it's best to treat every eye infection as if it were highly contagious. A veterinarian can confirm specific risks.

Playing it Safe

Your cats and dogs can get eye infections from a diverse menagerie of viruses and bacteria. Many are quite contagious within species, and a notable amount are contagious across species.

Redness and inflammation of the eye are nearly universal conditions (conjunctivitis and pink eye are the generic terms), as are watery discharge and excessive squinting and blinking.

As soon as your pet shows eye infection symptoms, isolate the animal from other pets. Treat every eye infection as if it were highly contagious. There's no way to be sure it isn't.

An Eyeful of Conjunctivitis Considerations

Conjunctivitis is a description of a symptom, not a disease itself. Although it presents in almost all cases of eye infection, it is not itself an eye infection. Eye discharge and consistency can help clue you in.

Serous conjunctivitis involves clear eye discharge. This typically results from physical irritants, not disease. Conjunctivitis induced by allergies falls into this category.

Follicular conjunctivitis involves mucus-like eye discharge. Although the mechanism involves the immune system, this also typically involves physical irritants.

Purulent conjunctivitis involves pus-like discharge. This is more serious and often indicates an eye infection.

Your pet's eye infection symptoms overlap with a number of other medical conditions and, as such, veterinarian diagnosis is necessary to determine appropriate treatment.

Viruses, Bacteria and Other Contagia

Eye infections pass via eye fluid. The severity and contagiousness of an eye infection varies by viral and bacterial strain.

Common causes of cat and dog eye infection the cause conjunctivitis include versions of calicivirus, herpesvirus, chlamydia and acute trauma or injury. Corneal infections also are common.

Wash your hands after handling a pet with an infected eye, especially if you come into contact with fluids from around the eyes. You can spread the infection to other animals or even yourself through touch.

Treatment and Other Considerations

Most eye infection treatment regimens begin with broad topical treatments for conjunctivitis, which typically ebbs by day two of medication. If symptoms linger, tests often confirm underlying conditions.

Vaccinations can help prevent eye infections. Stray and newborn pets who haven't got their their shots are more infection prone.

Humans can contract many diseases from their pets through licks, bites and scratches, as well as fleas, ticks and fecal matter -- the same ways in which cats and dogs pass disease among each other. Collectively, these pet-to-human diseases are called zoonoses, and their scope isn't fully understood.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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