July 24, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

Dog Eye Discharge: Types, Causes, and Treatment

5 min read

Dogs may have eye discharge occasionally, and cleaning those eye boogers is part of being a dog parent, much like wiping up drool and brushing teeth. While experienced owners might not worry, there are times when eye boogers warrant a second glance.

We spoke with veterinarians to find out what causes dog eye discharge and what pet parents should do about it, including tips for treating your pup’s peepers.

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Types of Dog Eye Discharge

Dog eye discharge varies in color and consistency, and its appearance can help determine why it’s happening.

Small Tan-Colored Crusts or Boogers

It’s normal to see small eye goobers that you can easily remove with your finger. “Dog boogers are a normal part of being a dog,” says Angelica Dimock, DVM, managing shelter veterinarian at the Animal Humane Society in Minnesota. “The discharge is made of debris, skin cells, and tears, and is usually tan or brown.”

Much like the way humans develop “sleep” in the corners of their eyes, dogs’ eyes often get a little crusty, too. A normal dog eye may accumulate brown or rust-colored discharge, and boogies are often more apparent in certain pups.

Clear or Watery Discharge

Mild to moderate tearing may be normal for some dogs, but excessive tearing could mean the eye is irritated. Poodles are especially prone to watery eyes and tear staining, known as epiphora, says Mike Petty, DVM, past president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and owner of Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital in Michigan. Droopy-eyed dogs, like bloodhounds, and brachycephalic breeds with smushy faces, such as shih tzus and pugs, may also be more susceptible, Dimock says.

Yellow or Green Mucus

Yellow or green mucous discharge may indicate an eye infection or another serious eye condition. The mucus may dry and form a thick crust around the eyes. Contact your veterinarian if you notice mucus or thick crusting that has this color.

White or Gray

Dogs with cloudy or white eye discharge likely are experiencing eye inflammation rather than infection—usually with allergies to blame. Eyes might also be inflamed due to corneal ulcers, dry eye, or a foreign object irritating the eye.

Red or Blood-Tinged

Bloody discharge is never normal and requires immediate veterinary attention. Potential causes include injury, extreme inflammation, glaucoma, or a tumor, Dimock says.

Causes of Dog Eye Discharge

Many eye problems will cause a dog to have eye discharge. They may also show accompanying signs, such as eye redness, cloudiness, squinting, or rubbing at the eyes. Some of the more common eye problems that lead to discharge include:

Of course, when humans think of eye infection, we often think pink eye. But dogs don’t get pink eye in the traditional human sense, Dimock says. Dogs with pink eyes (conjunctivitis) are most likely experiencing another cause of inflammation.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog has significant eye discharge. Anything more than small eye boogers or crust should be reported to your vet, especially if it lasts more than a few days. Left untreated, eye problems can quickly become serious.

Treatment for Dog Eye Discharge

Mild eye discharge may be managed at home without a visit to the veterinarian. “Home treatment for eye discharge that is causing no discomfort includes wiping with a tissue or damp cloth,” Dimock says. “OTC drops such as contact solution (sterile saline) can be used as well every 2–4 hours. If using drops, make sure not to touch the tip of the bottle to the eye to prevent contamination.”

This may go without saying, but even in a pinch, never use eye drops prescribed for humans on your dog’s eyes. Additionally, you should consult with your vet before using any leftover doggy eye drops you have on hand from previous infections because not all eye infections are treated with the same medication.

If your dog is clearly in pain, showing other signs of eye issues, or the discharge returns soon after cleaning it and does not seem to be improving after a couple of days of at-home treatment, it’s time to check in with your vet and formulate a second course of action.

Vets will typically prescribe medicated eye drops or ointment to treat the eye condition. Though less common, some cases will warrant oral medications as well. Your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist if they suspect a severe eye condition.

How to Put Eye Medication in Your Dog’s Eyes

To administer eye drops at home, Petty suggests facing your pup forward, rather than tilting his head up, for optimal delivery. “If you are right-handed, hold the bottle of drops in your right hand and rest your wrist on top of the dog’s head,” Petty says. “Never tilt the dog’s head up so that they can see the eye drop coming, you should have the dog look forward as you put the drop in. It makes for a slightly smaller target, but I promise the dog will blink each and every time that it sees the drop on its way.”

Eye ointment is applied similarly, but you’ll need to squeeze a small strip of medication onto the surface of your dog’s eye.

If multiple eye medications have been prescribed, apply drops before ointments and wait five minutes between each type of application.

And Dimock recommends making it fun for your dog. Be generous with treats, make sure he knows what a good boy he is, and follow up the ordeal with something he enjoys, like a walk or game of fetch.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Eyes Healthy

The most important thing a pet owner can do to protect their pup is keep their human eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. Remaining vigilant in response to abnormal dog eye discharge and signs of pain, followed up with a visit to the vet, can prevent more serious issues down the line. If those puppy dog eyes lose that special sparkle that makes your heart melt, you’ll know.


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