Eye discharge, or what we pet parents like to call "dog eye boogers", happens often for a common reason: your dog’s eyes & tears are flushing out dust after a long night of sleep. This eye gunk can differ in texture, fluidity, and color depending on the dog or scenario. For example, you may notice your dog’s eye boogers range from a little crusty to mucus-y and can appear green, yellow, or clear. Some of these signs, however, can indicate an underlying eye infection.
If you noticed gunk or eye discharge in your dog's eye and found yourself Googling, "My dog's eye is goopy" you're not alone.
But how can you tell if your dog needs to see a vet, or if this is just normal? In this article, we will break down the signs of concern and signs of when you can tackle your dog’s eye boogers at home.
If you’re reading while eating, here’s your warning: we’re about to get into the sometimes icky details about the causes of eye discharge. Read on for more—plus five care tips you need.
What Does Normal Dog Eye Discharge Look Like?
The medically correct term for dog eye gunk is discharge. Clear to whitish-grey eye boogers with a watery consistency are normal in most dogs. You may notice some dust in them as well.
Be aware that discharge can change in appearance. If your dog’s eye gunk looks more pus-like, with a tendency to crust, this could be a sign of a bigger problem.
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The Four Causes of Dog Eye Discharge
*If you’re unsure about the cause of your dog’s unusually runny or sometimes crusty eyes, always consult with your vet for a professional opinion.
Or, as we humans call it, pink eye. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and inner layer of the eyelid. This eye infection is often paired with:
dog eye gunk that appears as a yellow-green pus
yellow eye discharge that crusts overnight
bloodshot or pink eyes
excessive blinking or itching
pawing at the eyes
Conjunctivitis has many causes. Some cases are viral, others are bacterial, and some can be attributed to allergies or even eye tumors. The key? Seeing the vet at the first sign of symptoms to nail down the source so it can be treated properly. The most common treatment likely includes antibiotics and soothing washes to keep any serious damage at bay.
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2. Watery Eye (a.k.a. Epiphora)
Some dogs—and humans, for that matter—have constant watery eyes. But with epiphora or excessive tearing, the eyes are, well, just that: excessively wet.
The problem originates from the eye duct not being able to properly dispose of excess tearing, which is especially common in flat-faced dog breeds such as Bulldogs or Boston Terriers. Sometimes, the stream of tears can even result in tear stains, aka the darkened fur around the eyes, especially for light-colored dogs. The overabundance of tearing can also lead to infected, smelly skin.
Causes of excessive tear PRODUCTION AND EXCESSIVELY WATERY EYES really run the gamut, from:
a tear duct problem
an eyelash growing where it shouldn’t in a dog's eyes
Always talk to your veterinarian to figure out what’s causing the dog eye discharge, then treat accordingly—in some cases, relief from epiphora will require tear ducts surgery.
Our tip for cleaning eye stains: Use PRIDE+GROOM THE SWIPE gently under the eyes and around the face on a daily basis. This reduces tear staining.
3. KCS (a.k.a. Dry Eye)
The opposite of constant watery, teary eyes? Dry eye. The official term? Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS for short. Most canine patients develop dry eye due an immune-mediated (auto-immune) inflammatory attack on the tear glands.
Uncomfortable, itchy, dried out eyes lack lubrication and therefore the ability to flush away irritants or infections. That could actually cause some serious harm to your dog and their eyes. Without tears, in an effort to protect the eye, the whites of the eyes turn brown and yellow-green discharge appears.
Common causes for dry dog eye include:
tear duct issue
side effects of anesthesia or antibiotics
Blindness can occur if untreated, so make sure to visit your vet if these symptoms crop up.
4. Eye Injury
Dogs love to play and explore, but sometimes they are just clumsy, which can lead to unexpected and sometimes serious eye injuries. The eye can be scratched (from activities like running through bushes or wrestling with another dog) or a foreign body such as dirt or debris can get lodged in their eye.
Even exposing the eye to a chemical may cause changes in your dog’s eye discharge. Anything related to your pet’s eye health is cause for concern.
In addition to changes in discharge, other signs can include a visible foreign object, scratching or pawing at the face, or a bloody or bloodshot eye. Eye injuries can have serious complications, so we recommend seeing a vet immediately if you suspect your dog has hurt or injured their eye.
If you can see something in your dog’s eye, don’t try to remove it yourself. Always ask your vet to do so.
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When You Should Call the Vet
If your dog's eye is goopy you should also be thinking "Should I contact my veterinarian?". Is this completely normal? In general, if your dog has watery, clear eye discharge for a day or two but their eyes look otherwise normal and they are not scratching the eye and are keeping their eyelids open, it is likely nothing to be worried about.
Reach out to your vet if your dog has watery eye discharge that lasts more than a few days or if you notice any of the following:
Excessive rubbing of the eye(s)
Blocked tear ducts or tear duct problems
Squinting or excessive blinking
Head shy behavior
Colored eye discharge
Excessive tear staining
Tips for Preventing Future Eye Problems
Remember to always give your vet a call if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. To prevent future eye problems, tear stains, and eye discharge in dogs, while maintaining good eye health, the Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recommends the following:
Avoid using irritating soaps or sprays near your pet’s eyes
Gently wipe discharge or mucus out of your pet’s eyes using a clean, damp cotton ball (use a different cotton ball for each eye). You can also use a damp cloth with warm water.
If you have a dog with long hair, keep it trimmed around their eyes
Make sure they have access to natural light
If your pet is outdoors a lot, make sure they have access to shelter and shade at all times
A balanced diet that includes antioxidants that support eye health
Sometimes a vet will prescribe eye drops or pain medication
Don’t forget to ask for routine eye exams during your dog’s annual checkups. Most eye boogers are harmless and can simply be wiped away without worry. If a dog has an underlying eye issue, such as corneal ulcers or corneal wounds, then the prognosis will depend on the cause of the ocular discharge.
Eye health is an important factor for your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. The eye's surface is extremely delicate, as is your dog's eye health. With the right precautions and care, your dog’s eyes will be a vision to behold!
Another important prevention method of note is to not let your dog stick its head out of the window during car rides. The wind can dry eyes out, leading to irritation. Debris and insects may also fly into their eyes, causing pain and injury.
Eye infections and more serious eye conditions that sometimes produce eye boogers, such as dry eye, will require and eye examination and treatment from your vet, or preferably a veterinary eye specialist.
However, if you’re just looking to treat or prevent common eye boogers when your dog wakes up in the morning, there’s not a ton you can do to prevent this. Since they're caused by tears, and tears are a natural way that the eye keeps itself healthy, you don’t really want to interfere with this process too much.
Getting rid of dog eye boogers is simple, the best thing to do is clean your dog’s eyes briefly when you both wake up in the morning. You can do this with a damp washcloth or cotton balls. Sometimes eye drops can also help.
Keeping your dog well groomed and the hair around the dog's head and eyes regularly trimmed can prevent irritants like dust from accumulating. Keeping potential allergens and irritants away from the eyes will also help keep their eyes healthy. Aside from that, monitor your dog to make sure they are not displaying any eye illness symptoms, like redness, discomfort, or bloody discharge.
WHO IS PRIDE+GROOM?
PRIDE+GROOM was born because 4 New York City dog lovers wanted the same level of grooming products for their dogs that they themselves enjoyed. They looked (hard) but nothing was up to snuff. Or sniff. Like so many, we love our families and take pride in our homes, and we consider our pets to be integral parts of those entities. That said, we could not find an effective way to coif them that was on par with the way we tended to our children, our homes, or ourselves. These beloved pets are allowed on the furniture and in our beds, and yet even when fresh from the groomer, we knew they did not smell or feel as good as they could.
With the development of our coat-specific shampoos, conditioner and deodorizing spray, we think we found just the way to say thanks for being the best and the sweetest MVP of the house.
PRIDE+GROOM is the first dog grooming brand launched under a beauty platform, with formulas made in a clean beauty and scent lab. We know beauty is not only skin deep. We did a ton of research to create the entire line. Each product is formulated with its own unique blend of essential oils sourced from around the world.
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