It's not uncommon for dogs to develop some kind of eye discharge at some point in their lives. If you're reading this, your doggo likely has a grungy gooey situation around its eyes, and you need to know what to do about it.
We’ll start off by saying that not all discharge is a sign of an eye infection. But, it's good to know what to look for and how to react when your dog shows signs of some kind of eye situation.
Some dog breeds are more prone to eye conditions that can lead to infection. Breeds with loose, droopy skin, like mastiffs and bulldogs, are prone to eyelid problems, while dogs with short snouts and bulging eyes (pugs, we're looking at you) are more likely to experience issues with their corneas.
As a dog pawrent, knowing what's normal for your doggo is just as essential as knowing the symptoms of dog eye infections to look out for. So, let's take a good look at dog eye infections – causes, symptoms, and treatments.
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
5 types of eye discharge
There are varying levels of eye discharge that dog owners need to be aware of.
- Crusts and goop: small amounts of eye gunk and crusts are normal and related to tear production, which maintains a healthy eye. There’s no reason to worry as long as the amount of discharge remains consistent and there is no sign of redness or discomfort.
- Watery eyes can indicate various issues, from allergies, blocked tear ducts, injuries, and even glaucoma. Mild tearing can be normal, but sudden changes in volume, color, or thickness should be taken seriously.
- Tear staining is common in light-colored dogs and appears as reddish-brown discoloration of the fur at the corner of the eyes. Usually, this is a harmless condition and really only causes a cosmetic issue. Wiping the eyes regularly with a warm cloth and keeping fur around the eyes trimmed short can help to minimize the staining.
- White-grey mucous signifies that your dog may suffer from dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). This condition is often a result of an immune response that attacks the glands that produce tears. This lack of moisture from tears causes the body to compensate by producing mucous to assist with lubricating the eyes. Red, painful eyes result, which can sometimes develop ulcers and even blindness. Treatment is available for this, so the sooner help is sought, the better.
- Yellow and green discharge indicates an infection and is usually accompanied by redness and sensitivity. If you suspect an eye infection, seek treatment as soon as possible.
Read more: Can Dogs Cry? 6 Reasons Why Your Dog’s Eyes Are Watering
Dog eye allergies vs. infections
Telling the difference between dog eye infections or allergies is quite tricky. The symptoms are very similar, and dog eye infections are often mistaken for allergies.
Allergies are caused by external substances that your dog encounters. Red, itchy and watery eyes are usually because of allergies.
Eye infections can sometimes result from untreated allergies. The irritation and rubbing of the eye can introduce bacteria into your dog's eye, causing an infection. Pus, swelling, and light sensitivity are indicators of infection.
Types of eye infections in dogs
There are a few types of eye infections that can affect your dog. According to research, eyeballs are fiddly and intricate organs, so inflammation and irritation can occur in various structures inside and outside the eyeball.
The four most common types are listed below:
- Tear gland issues and eyelid problems.
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis) – inflammation of the mucous membrane that covers the eyeball and inside of the eyelids.
- Uveitis – inflammation of internal structures of the eyeball like the iris.
- Inflammation of the cornea.
Causes of dog eye infections
- Foreign substances like grass, dirt, and even hair;
- Trauma or injury like a scratch;
- Bacteria that cause diseases like leptospirosis and Lyme disease;
- Viruses like herpesvirus and distemper virus.
Symptoms of eye infections
- Thick or increased discharge;
- Increased blinking;
- Sensitivity to light;
- Continuous pawing at the eye;
Treatment of dog eye infections and home remedies
Because vision is such an important sense, we wouldn't recommend treating an eye infection at home. Your dog’s sight is best left in the hands of a trained professional. Sometimes, eye infections could indicate a more serious underlying condition, so it is essential to consult your vet as soon as you can.
Things that can tide you over until you can get to a vet include cold compresses to assist with swelling. Chamomile tea can also help calm irritation in the short term and is an affordable and easy-to-find remedy. Simply steep the tea bag in hot water and allow it to cool. Then simply hold the bag against the infected eye for around 5 minutes.
A saline solution made from a quarter cup of water and a quarter teaspoon of salt can help, especially when there's excessive tearing or discharge that dries into crusts. Wipe the solution across the eye from the inside corner to the ear, making sure to not use the same cotton swab twice.
Treating eye infections will depend largely on what's causing the infection. Your vet may prescribe topical or oral medications or both.
Antibiotics will most likely be prescribed if the infection is bacterial, while allergies will require some antihistamine. In the case of eye and eyelid deformities or a foreign object in the eyes, sedation and surgery may be necessary to correct or remove the cause of the infection.
Online Vet by Petcube
When you're unsure if your pet is seriously unwell or if there's some way you can help them at home, it helps to have a team of trained veterinarians on hand 24/7. With Online Vet by Petcube, you can avoid unnecessary vet visits and costly after-hours care that might not even be necessary.
Sign up for just $20 a month, and when you're in doubt about your pet's health, pop the team a message any time, day or night. You're able to attach videos and photos to help the Online Vet team give you the advice and reassurance you need in real-time. It's that simple and will certainly save you in the long run.
How to treat a dog eye infection at home?
A dog eye infection should always be seen by a vet to rule out more severe conditions and to ensure that the best treatment is given before permanent eye damage results.
If there's mild redness with clear discharge, a saline rinse can be helpful. Chamomile tea can be used to soothe irritated eyes temporarily. But ultimately, a vet visit is recommended.
What's the best dog eye infection medicine?
There's no one best medicine for dog eye infections. The cause of the infection will dictate the treatment. For example, a bacterial infection is best treated with antibiotics, but these medications will be ineffective against an infection caused by a parasite or a fungus.
Your vet will prescribe the best treatment for dog eye infections based on the origin of the infection.
Is an eye infection in dogs contagious?
Some eye infections in dogs can be contagious to other pets in the household. Usually, those infections caused by viruses and bacteria have the potential to be transmitted to other animals.
If you suspect one of your pets of having an eye infection, it's best to proceed as if it may be contagious just to be safe. Avoid sharing food and water dishes as well as beds.
You can make sure your pets don't communicate much when you are away from home with the help of Petcube's interactive dog camera. Simply talk to your pets and toss treats to distract them from each other.
It's unlikely your dog can pass an eye infection to you or other humans.
What about apple cider vinegar for dog eye infections?
Apple cider vinegar has natural antibacterial properties, but we wouldn't recommend using it on your dog's eyes. If your dog's eyes are irritated, the vinegar may worsen this and potentially cause more pain.
I don't know about you, but the thought of getting vinegar in my eyes doesn't sound like fun. If your dog's eyes are already irritated, introducing vinegar would be a pretty unpleasant thing to do to your companion.
Can a dog ear infection spread to the eye?
Allergies in dogs can present as irritation in the ears and red, watery eyes. Treating allergies early can prevent them from becoming an infection resulting from persistent scratching of itchy ears and eyes that aids in introducing bacteria.
Your dog may be allergic to various things, from food to fleas and pollens. Your first step in treating any allergy in dogs is to identify the offending allergen and limit your dog's exposure to it if possible.