The moment you saw those tiny black dots jumping up and down your pup, it was off to the bathtub.
While the fleas were quickly decimated as expected, what you probably didn’t foresee was redness and irritation to your dog’s vision that resulted. Flea shampoos typically contain ingredients that can be aggravating to the eyeball, whether they are chemical or organic.
When you find that you accidentally got flea shampoo in your dog’s eyes, there are a few different things that you can do to reduce stinging and make your pooch more comfortable.
The first thing to do is to rinse the eyes with clear, clean water- but not for too long! Tap water will eventually become an irritant in itself, so after a few minutes of rinsing, replace it with a saline solution instead.
Keep rinsing with saline or contact solution until your dog appears visibly more at ease. Then, a few drops of sensitive, moisturizing artificial tears that you can find over-the-counter, such as Genteal or Refresh, will complete the process.
Canine shampoos will have been tested extensively for sensitivity issues, so more likely than not your dog will be absolutely fine after a bit of rest. Still, monitor it over the next few days for signs such as swelling, redness, watery colored discharge, or a closed eye(s).
If any of these occur, the best course of action would be to take it immediately to the vet for further inspection, as an infection or corneal damage may have occurred- making it a much more serious scenario.
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Flea shampoos usually come in 2 different types: insecticide/chemical-based…
Regardless of which type that you choose to use, they can be equally irritating to a canine’s eyes.
Insecticide-based flea and tick shampoos are specially medicated with active ingredients called permethrin and pyrethrins.
Permethrin and pyrethrins are both commonly used in insect repellents and topical ointments for human beings. They are derived from chrysanthemum flowers and therefore can be considered somewhat natural.
However, they are usually combined with the compound piperonyl butoxide, which is used as a synergist component that enhances pesticide potency. Pyrethrins work by causing hyperactivity of nerves in insects, resulting in a complete loss of motor function and paralysis.
Pyrethrins and permethrin are some of the safest insecticides available, and are considered safe for topical use in human beings over 2 months of age. With that said there are still side effects, with mild skin burning and irritation being noted.
When people get permethrin or pyrethrins get in their eyes, it also results in pain, redness and a burning sensation. Children using lice shampoo that contains the chemicals experience tears, blurred vision, and scratches to the eye when exposed. The same applies for dogs too.
Though it may be logical to assume that natural or organic flea shampoos would be much gentler on skin and eyes, this isn’t automatically true.
In fact, organic flea shampoos like the one shown above usually contain some combination of the following ingredients:
- Peppermint oil
- Clove oil
- Cinnamon oil
- Rosemary oil
- Cedarwood oil.
All of which, despite being natural, are irritating to eyes and mucous membranes. Therefore, it’s not so much what’s in the flea shampoo, but whether or not you get any in your dog’s eyes.
Though the back of the flea shampoo container no doubt instructs the user to be careful near the nose and eyes, in reality this is much easier said than done- as you have already found out for yourself firsthand.
With all the squirming and fidgeting going on in a slippery bathtub, it’s pretty much inevitable that the shampoo is going to get to places where it ideally shouldn’t be going.
So, what happens then if some flea shampoo gets into your dog’s eyes?
One point of reassurance when this occurs is that the shampoo has unquestionably been tested thoroughly for safety before being put on the market. Therefore, in most cases- and unlike with caustic or corrosive substances- no serious damage should occur to eyes.
Still, the ingredients are bound to have a mild to moderate topical irritating effect that can result in redness, tears, swelling, pain, and squinting.
This should be clearly visible as the tissue around the eye becomes pink and enlarged.
This is simply a defensive response of the conjunctiva to prevent further irritants entering the eye. It could also mean that there is residual shampoo on the eye that is causing an aggravated response.
In dogs with particularly sensitive eyes or those that are allergic to the compounds, flea shampoo may have the ability to cause corneal ulcers or chemical burns. Significant secondary damage can also occur if a dog is allowed to continuously paw at the affected eyes.
If your dog’s eyes have become progressively more squinted and shut even days after the incident, it is possible that it has developed a painful ocular ulcer.
In this case, you should take your pup to the vet ASAP as it needs to be addressed with topical antibiotics. Not doing so promptly could result in its vision and the health of the eyes becoming compromised.
There are a few different, easy things you can do to soothe your dog’s eyes if you accidentally got flea shampoo in them.
All of the products needed for treatment (sterile saline solution, artificial tears, Polysporin ophthalmic ointment, Benadryl) can be easily bought over-the-counter at your nearest chemist or drug store.
Here are the 5 simple steps to soothing your dog’s eyes:
The first thing to do when there is flea shampoo in your dog’s eyes is to wash it out thoroughly with running, clean water. Hold your dog under the tap and rinse until there are no visible suds, bubbles or liquid in or around the eye.
However, do not rinse for too long! Make sure to keep the actual washing duration only a few minutes at most. While it’s fine to use tap water to flush in an urgent situation, it is actually an irritant in the long term due to chlorine and other chemicals present.
Also, the pH level of water is indefinite and ranges from 6.5 to 9.5. This can be uncomfortable to the naked eye, which has a natural pH level around 7 to 7.3.
The lesson is simple: Don’t over rinse the eyes with water! Instead, the majority of cleansing should be done with a sterile saline solution.
After you have rinsed briefly with water, you will want to irrigate the eye more thoroughly and make sure all of the shampoo is washed out with a saline or plain contact lens solution. The pH level of saline is around 7.3- perfectly compatible with the pH of the dog’s eyes.
Saline is both mildly antiseptic and an astringent. Both these qualities are helpful in preventing bacterial infections from occurring if there have been any cuts or ulcerations to the cornea caused by shampoo or secondary contact such as flushing or rubbing.
It is completely possible to create a saline solution at home. Simply dissolve salt into warm water at a ratio of 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups of water. Otherwise, using a pre-packaged contact solution is always ideal since you do not have to worry about dissolving.
Saline solution can be found at any drug store or chemist. However, do make sure that you only buy plain solution, and not products like Visine that have additional ingredients which reduce redness.
In order to properly wash out your dog’s eyes, you may need someone else to hold your dog securely so that it doesn’t squirm and dodge during application. Rinse for at least 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and repeat this flushing process every 4 hours while the eye remains irritated.
After flushing your dog’s eye(s) out with saline, apply 2 to 3 drops of artificial tears to keep them moisturized, hydrated and more comfortable.
A few of the brands that are suitable for use include Genteal, Poly Tears, Refresh, or Celluvisc- choose the versions that state they are moisturizing or for sensitive eyes.
All are available at most pharmacies and drug stores, and as with saline solution make sure not to use any eye drops that reduce redness. While these make the eyes look better, in actual fact they incur more damage to the eye.
If the eyes still appear to be very irritated and red even after flushing and placing eye drops, you can administer a small amount of Zoetis Animal Health Antibiotic or Polysporin Ophthalmic ointment to them. This will help to soothe them and prevent potential bacterial infections.
Benadryl can also be given orally at a dosage of 1mg per pound of body weight every 12 hours while the eye appears to be aggravated. This has the effect of relieving any swelling and itching that may be present.
Furthermore, a moist towel kept in the freezer and applied can help to provide numbing, cooling relief as needed.
Continue the use of Ophthalmic ointment and Benadryl for as long as mild irritation persists, but keep a constant watch for if conditions worsen at any point.
In order to prevent further damage from occurring to the eyes, you must not allow your dog to paw or rub at them. Rubbing can create ulcerations of the cornea and cause even more swelling.
If your dog is constantly scratching at his eyes, you may need to make it wear an E-collar temporarily to protect it from itself. Though your dog most likely won’t be a fan, decreased contact will allow the eye to settle and heal quicker.
Continually monitor the irritated eye and perform Steps 1 through 4 over the next few days.
TOP TIP: Did you know that there is a way that you can protect your dog’s eyes from flea shampoo during a bath?
Put a drop of mineral oil, glycerin or olive oil into your dog’s eyes next time you give it a bath. The oil will stop the shampoo from reaching the cornea, reducing a significant amount of irritation.
Though it won’t form a complete shield against the stinging and aggravating ingredients, it will go a long way in making your dog feel more comfortable.
If at any point your dog’s eyes don’t look normal, or if they just aren’t improving, it would be a good idea to take it to the vet ASAP.
Signs that the eyes are deteriorating can include:
- Increased swelling
- Increased tendency to rub at the eyes
- The eyes become closed and the dog is unable/unwilling to open them
- Red, bloodshot, watery eyes
- Yellow or green discharge at the corner of its eyes.
The vet will be able to examine whether there is something more serious going on, such as an ulcer or scratch on the cornea. This can be evaluated through a staining technique, which will reveal any existing corneal trauma.
If damage to the cornea is found, the vet will be able to provide safe anti-inflammatory medications like Rimadyl or Metacam, which will help to reduce conjunctival swelling and irritation.
It’s important to realize that eyes are one of the most delicate external structures on the body, and are prone to infection. Very serious cases can lead to loss of vision, so don’t hesitate to consult with your vet if anything seems abnormal.
Usually, the most serious outcome to occur from getting flea shampoo in a dog’s eyes is a few hours or days of redness and irritation. Regardless of whether the shampoo contains pyrethrins, permethrin or essential oils, they all have equal capacity to aggravate the cornea.
You can help your dog feel more comfortable by firstly washing out any residual shampoo with water and saline. Saline works best as it is minimally abrasive when compared with tap water, which contains chemicals such as chlorine.
Follow this with a few drops of lubricating artificial tears that you can find at any drugstore, and if the irritation looks especially bad you can also apply some Polysporin Ophthalmic ointment to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
Benadryl can also be used at 1mg/pound to minimize swelling.
Prevent your dog from scratching at its eyes with an E-collar, and repeat this process for as long as you need to (over the next few days) until your dog’s eyes return to normal.
If the eyes don’t improve or if they get worse, take it to the vet for further evaluation and treatment. Your dog may have corneal trauma which needs to be treated with anti-inflammatory medication and specialist care.
Maybe next time, try a flea collar!
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.