Having a dog lick your eye may seem harmless, but it can actually pose some health risks. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine whether it’s dangerous to have a dog lick your eye and what you should do if it happens.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, it can be dangerous if a dog licks your eye. A dog’s mouth contains bacteria that could cause an eye infection. Seek medical attention if your eye becomes red, painful, or has discharge after a dog licks it.

We’ll cover the potential risks of a dog licking your eye, what to do right after it happens, when to see a doctor, how to clean your eye properly, ways to avoid it in the future, and more. We’ll also answer related questions like: Can a dog’s saliva blind you?

Can you get rabies from a dog licking your eye? Read on for a complete overview of what to expect if a dog licks your eye.

Risks and Potential Consequences of a Dog Licking Your Eye

Eye infections

One of the most common risks of a dog licking your eye is developing an eye infection. A dog’s mouth harbors all sorts of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. When a dog licks your eye, these microbes can be transferred directly onto the eye’s delicate mucous membranes, leading to nasty infections like conjunctivitis (pinkeye) or even keratitis, an infection of the clear outer layer of the eye called the cornea.

These eye infections can cause redness, itching, swelling, discharge/crusting around the eyes, and even impaired vision. Left untreated, they can potentially lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss.

According to veterinary studies, 89% of dogs carry infectious pathogens in their mouths that can be spread through licking.


As mentioned, eye infections caused by a dog licking the eye, if severe enough or left untreated long term, could potentially lead to permanent damage of the cornea and internal eye structures. This could cause impairments like corneal scarring, cataracts, optic neuropathy, or even total blindness if vital eye tissues become badly infected.

Any dog-lick related eye issues should be seen promptly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist before vision issues become uncorrectable.

Rabies transmission

Though rare, rabies can be transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected animal. According to the CDC, rabies in dogs causes over 59,000 human deaths annually worldwide. While transmission often involves bites or scratches, the rabies virus has been shown to be present in dog saliva, so direct contact with mucosa like the eyes also poses a small level of risk if the dog is infected.

Vigilance about a pet’s rabies vaccine is crucial.

Other risks

Some other potential issues that could stem from eye contact with dog saliva include:

  • Allergic reactions – Dog saliva contains substances like glycoproteins that can trigger allergic reactions or hypersensitivity in some, causing eye swelling, hives, etc.
  • Toxic reactions – On very rare occasions, toxins or poisons on a dog’s fur/skin could be accidentally introduced to the eye through licking, leading to chemical irritation or burns.
  • Injuries – Scratches to the eye surface from a dog’s teeth or nails are also possible if the dog paws at or vigorously licks the face.

While extreme outcomes are very uncommon, it’s always best practice to gently discourage dogs from making direct eye to mouth contact, both for pet and human wellbeing. Any concerning eye symptoms after dog interaction should be evaluated by an ophthalmology specialist right away to prevent chances of lasting visual impairment as much as possible.

What to Do Right After a Dog Licks Your Eye

Rinse eye with clean water or saline

If a dog’s tongue comes into contact with your eye, it’s important to rinse the eye right away. This helps flush out any dirt, debris, or bacteria that may have been transferred. The best options for rinsing are clean water or a sterile saline solution. You can buy saline eye wash at any pharmacy.

Simply tilt your head back, open your eye wide, and flush generously with the clean water or saline. Rinsing well is key – you want to make sure you remove any potential contaminants. Be gentle but thorough.

Don’t rub eye

It can be tempting to rub your eye if it feels irritated after a dog lick. But it’s important to avoid rubbing. Rubbing can further irritate the eye and potentially drive contaminants deeper. Let the rinse water do the work instead.

Resist the urge to rub – this can cause additional inflammation and trauma. The less you touch and rub the eye at this point, the better.

Apply cold compress

Applying a clean, cold compress can provide relief from irritation and inflammation. Wrap an ice pack or a washcloth filled with ice cubes in a clean towel and apply to the closed eyelid. Do not press too firmly. Apply the compress for 10-15 minutes at a time, taking breaks in between.

The cold temperature constricts blood vessels, helping to reduce swelling and redness. Be sure to use a clean compress to avoid risk of infection. You can reuse the same compress if you keep it chilled in the refrigerator (not freezer).

The cold compress should provide soothing relief while your eye recovers from the dog lick.

In most cases, promptly rinsing the eye and applying a cold compress is all that’s needed after a dog lick. But if symptoms like pain, vision changes, redness, or discharge persist, see an ophthalmologist right away.

An eye doctor can properly evaluate the eye, identify any damage, and prescribe medication if needed. Leaving contamination, injury or infection untreated can lead to permanent vision problems. So don’t hesitate to get medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve or you have any concerns.

While dog licks are typically harmless, it’s understandable to be alarmed when one licks your eye. By immediately rinsing with saline or clean water, avoiding rubbing, and using a cold compress, you can effectively treat that icky wet feeling.

Usually the eye recovers quickly and you can go back to puppy kisses in no time! Just be sure to watch for any lingering or worsening symptoms. And try your best to avoid direct eye contact during future lick attacks.

When to See a Doctor After a Dog Licks Your Eye


If the area around your eye appears red after a dog licks it, this could indicate irritation or infection (American Academy of Ophthalmology). The dog’s saliva may contain bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye).

See your doctor promptly if the redness persists for more than a day or gets worse.


Feeling pain in or around the eye after a dog licks it may also signal infection or injury. The dog’s tooth could have scratched the eye. Or bacteria from the mouth could be irritating or infecting the eye (VCA Hospitals).

Seek medical care right away if you experience eye pain after a dog lick so the underlying cause can be diagnosed and treated.

Blurry Vision

Sudden blurry vision or changes in vision could mean the eye itself is injured or infected from the dog lick (All About Vision). Left untreated, damage to the cornea or other eye structures could occur.

Consult an eye doctor promptly if blurry vision arises so they can check for corneal abrasions, inflammation or other issues.

Pus or Discharge

Yellow or greenish discharge or pus draining from the eye signals infection (American Academy of Ophthalmology). Dog saliva may have introduced bacteria that multiply, causing swollen eyelids and creamy eye discharge.

See an ophthalmologist right away if you notice pus coming from the eye so they can diagnose the type of infection and prescribe antibiotic eye drops to clear it up.

In rare cases, dog licks to the eye area can cause dangerous infections. Seek prompt medical attention for redness, pain, vision changes or discharge after a dog licks your eye. Early treatment can help prevent permanent eye damage from scratches, irritants or bacteria.

How to Properly Clean Your Eye After a Dog Licks It

If a dog licks your eye, it’s crucial to properly clean the eye to prevent infection. Here are some effective methods to safely cleanse your eye.

Saline Spray or Wash

Using a sterile saline solution is an excellent way to flush out your eye after it’s been licked by a dog. The saline helps remove debris, allergens, and bacteria that could lead to infection. You can buy a saline wash or spray at any pharmacy.

Gently press the applicator tip near your eye and apply as needed. Saline is gentle enough to use as often as required with no side effects.

Warm Compress

Applying a warm, wet compress can also help soothe irritation and flush out contaminants after a dog licks the eye. Simply wet a clean washcloth with warm water, wring out excess moisture, and press it gently on your closed eyelid for about 5-10 minutes as needed.

The compress should be wet but not dripping. The warmth helps stimulate blood flow while the moisture flushes out impurities.

Antibiotic Ointment

If irritation persists after using saline and a warm compress, applying an antibiotic ophthalmic ointment can prevent infection. These over-the-counter ointments contain antibiotics that combat bacteria. Carefully apply a small amount along the affected eye’s lash line 2-3 times a day.

Popular options include Polytrim and Neosporin. Use the ointment for up to 1 week unless irritation worsens.

It’s essential to see an eye doctor if vision changes, pain intensifies, discharge develops, or symptoms persist beyond a few days – even with proper at-home treatment. Dog saliva contains bacteria that can cause infections like conjunctivitis or inflammation.

Quick cleaning and using saline, warm compresses, and antibiotic ointment can help prevent issues – but don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if problems develop after a dog licks your eye.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Licking Your Eyes

Train your dog not to lick faces

Dogs lick faces as a sign of affection, but allowing them to lick near your eyes risks injury. Train your dog not to lick faces by gently pushing their muzzle away each time they try. Say “no licking” firmly, then redirect their energy to a toy or treat.

With consistency, most dogs will learn that licking faces leads to no reward. For tips, check out this AKC article on teaching puppies not to lick.

Keep face clean of food or tears

Dogs are tempted to lick eyes if they smell food or tears on the face. Always wipe your face after meals and avoid crying in front of your dog. Tears contain salts that dogs find appealing. Remove these eye-area temptations so your dog has no reason to get close.

Trim hair around eyes

Some long-haired dog breeds have hair that falls into their eyes. They lick their eyes to try removing the bothersome hairs. Check that the hair around your dog’s eyes isn’t irritating them. Gently trim the hair if needed so your dog stops excessively licking that area.

Use gentle correction

If your dog tries licking near your eyes, immediately but gently block them. Say “no” firmly and, if needed, distract them with a treat tossed a few feet away. Never yell or punish physically. This will make them fearful and likely to react defensively if you bring your hands near their face.

Stay calm and patiently reinforce good behavior.

Muzzle training

For dogs that persistently try to lick eyes despite training, a mesh muzzle worn temporarily may be needed. Introduce the muzzle slowly, with positive reinforcement. Never simply force a muzzle onto your struggling dog.

With careful acclimation, most dogs will tolerate short periods of muzzle wear without stress. Check out this AKC muzzle training guide to learn the proper technique.


While it’s common for dogs to innocently lick their owner’s faces, a dog licking your eye does carry some risks like eye infections. Take quick action like rinsing if it occurs, and see a vet if your eye has any concerning symptoms afterwards.

With training and prevention, you can minimize eye licks in the future. But ultimately, the rare doggy kiss on the eye usually isn’t cause for major concern as long as you take sensible precautions.

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