Let me set the scene: You’re about to bend down for a good old nose-boop with your precious pooch when you realize there’s a huge load of eye boogers dangling from the corner of their eye. Squidgy, a bit gross, and sometimes quite common, runny eyes in dogs can seem normal for some breeds. It can also indicate that something else is going on with your pet’s health, however.
Why don’t we take a closer look at runny eyes in dogs, what causes it, and what you can do about it?
- What Causes Runny Eyes and Discharge in Dogs?
- Eye Discharge Color Table
- How to Clean Dog Eye Boogers
- When Should You See a Vet About Dog Eye Boogers?
What Causes Runny Eyes and Discharge in Dogs?
There are several things that can cause a dog to have runny or weepy eyes. As you might expect, it is sometimes a direct result of an eye issue, such as an infection or a foreign object. There are times when it is a symptom of something else. However, something that has nothing to do with the eyes at all.
Allergies, a cold, and other similar afflictions can cause runny eyes in dogs in much the same way they cause runny eyes in humans. Usually, this will go away by itself when the allergen is removed — a certain type of pet food, for example, or spring/summer pollen problems.
Weepy-Eyed Dog Breeds
Some breeds have weepy or runny eyes a lot more than others, and this is said to be because of the shape and design of the skull and face. Brachycephalic breeds, also known as flat-faced breeds, commonly experience runny eyes, including Boston terriers, bulldogs, Pekingese dogs, and pugs.
Cold and Windy Weather
Have you ever gone out in freezing cold temperatures and had a cause of runny eyes? The same thing can happen to dogs. As well as cold weather, high winds can have the same effect.
This is natural. The eyes are watering to protect themselves from foreign bodies and external forces — wind, rain, cold, etc. It should stop quite quickly once the pet has been removed from the cold/wet/windy conditions.
Injury or Trauma
If your dog has recently run straight into a wall, door, or other objects, hitting their face in the process, a weepy eye could be a symptom of that trauma.
There is a range of eye-related conditions that cause runny or crusty eyes. These include:
- Conjunctivitis and other eye infections;
- Exposure keratitis;
- Nasolacrimal duct issues;
- Ulcers of the cornea.
Non-Eye Related Causes
Some quite serious doggy conditions can cause runny eyes and eye boogers, including canine distemper. Kennel cough is also associated with discharge from the eyes, along with a range of other cold-like symptoms.
Eye Discharge Color Table
Although each case will be different, here are some of the common eye complaints plus the color of eye discharge that usually accompanies them:
|Common eye complaints||Color of eye discharge|
|Blockage of the tear duct||Green, yellow|
|Conjunctivitis||Normal, green, yellow, or white/off-white|
|Corneal ulcer||Thick, green, yellow|
|Dry eye||Normal, light or dark brown, green, yellow, white|
|Foreign object||Normal, milky, slightly dirty (from substance)|
|Infection||Normal, milky, yellow, green|
How to Clean Dog Eye Boogers
There are dog-specific cleaners that are designed to get rid of those eye boogers, so you could consider buying and using those to flush the messy bits away. Make sure that you always read the label and use it as directed.
Alternatively, some vets recommend/will provide a saline solution for the job — a mixture of salt and water.
If you are unsure, use a bowl of warm water without salt or washing solution, and clean the eyes gently with moistened cotton wool balls. Some dogs will not sit still for this, so you may need to grab a friend or family member to lend a hand!
Flushes and similar eye treatments will not treat the underlying cause (if there is one), but they can remove some of the gunk and alleviate unpleasant symptoms, such as itching and irritation. If there is a foreign object in the eye, such as dust or an eyelash, flushing the eye will help to get rid of it.
If your poor pooch is experiencing eye discomfort, you can use a towel or flannel that has been doused in warm (not hot) water and pressed against the affected area. As well as alleviating pain and irritation, this can also break down bits of eye booger and clean out pores.
When Should You See a Vet About Dog Eye Boogers?
According to research, eye boogers – also medically known as discharge – should be transparent in the shade. If it changes color to either green or yellow, it is usually a sign that the pooch has an infection, either viral or bacterial in nature. Conjunctivitis, for example, is often accompanied by green-yellow pus-like gunk. As its nickname – pinkeye – suggests, it also causes one or both eyes to turn bright pink.
If your dog’s eye boogers have changed color or are yellow/green, you should have a chat with your vet. The same applies if your pet’s eyes are very red or pink or look in any way different from how they usually would.
If your pet has other symptoms alongside runny eyes and discharge, such as being lethargic, not eating or drinking, changes to peeing or pooping, or behaving aggressively/differently, you should seek medical advice. Although these symptoms could be something relatively benign, such as the common doggy cold, they also could be a sign of other conditions, such as canine distemper or tumors.
If you are concerned about your pet, monitor them, and note down any other symptoms. This will be much easier if you have cameras at home, such as Petcube’s interactive pet cameras. You can monitor your pets in real-time, even when you’re not around, catching any potential health problems as soon as they arise.
Can I use human eye drops for dog eye booger removal?
No, you should NOT use human eye drops, or other forms of human medication, to treat dog eye boogers or other conditions. Human medication has not been designed for canine use, so you could make your pet very unwell or make the symptom worse.
Can I use Vaseline for dog eye boogers?
Some people do use Vaseline to clean eye boogers, but you shouldn’t do this until you have asked your vet whether they would recommend it. Some dogs do not respond well to the formula, which can be quite drying. Your pooch might end up with dry eyes after having runny eyes!
Can I use makeup remover wipes to clean my dog’s eyes?
No, you should not use makeup remover wipes or baby wipes to clean your dog’s eyes. In fact, it is not recommended to use human wipes on any area of your dog unless specifically directed by your vet. Human products are not designed to be used on dogs!