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Dog’s Eye Discharge: Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on February 5, 2016

Protect Your Dog's Eyes

Symptoms and Treatment of Dog's Eye Problems
Symptoms and Treatment of Dog's Eye Problems

When is a Dog's Eye Discharge Serious?

It’s easy to dismiss watery eyes or mild eye discharge in your dog as a passing eye allergy or sensitivity to dust or pollen. While most dog eye discharge problems will clear up on their own, knowing the symptoms and treatment of common eye disorders will keep Fido looking great and seeing well. A dog's iris is larger than a human's iris, giving the dog a greater range of vision but also creating a higher risk of vision problems from an eye disorder or injury.

Examing Your Dog's Eyes

  • Examine the size and configuration of both of your dog’s eyes. Does one tear duct appear swollen or red? Cherry eye is a common abnormality in dogs that results in a large angry-looking bulge in the tear duct. While cherry eye looks bad, it rarely causes a dog permanent vision damage if treated by a veterinarian promptly. Cherry eye can be the result of an infection somewhere else in the dog’s body so your vet might prescribe medications to clear up the underlying problem. If the medications do not reduce the size of the bulge or the watery discharge, a simple surgery will correct the problem.
  • Notice the inner eye lining. Does the dog’s eyelid roll inward? If it does, the likely cause of the eye discharge is the eye’s natural defense to a foreign body…the eyelashes that are scratching the eyeball. An eyelid that rolls in can be corrected with one-stitch surgery at your vet’s office. Lubricating dog eye drops can help soothe the irritation temporarily but the surgery is the only permanent way to treat the problem.
  • Is your dog sneezing in conjunction with his watery eye discharge? If so, the problem could be an eye allergy. Unfortunately, it can be tough to determine what’s causing a specific eye allergy, if your dog hasn’t been introduced to a new environment or situation. Like humans, dogs can suffer from pollen allergies during different times of the year when a plant they’re allergic to is producing pollen or seeds. Windy days carry pollen from one place to another, making eye allergies worse.

Attentive Dog Owner Poll

What is Your Reaction When Your Dog has Eye Discharge Symptoms?

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Keep Your Dog's Eyes Healthy

Protect your dog's vision.
Protect your dog's vision.

The Best Thing You Can do to Help Your Dog

Okay, I'm assuming that every responsible dog owner wants his or her dog to stay healthy and to have the best vision it can have. While each dog is different, the right answer to the poll is to pay close attention and call the dog's vet if the symptoms don't improve. But, that's just for mild eye discharge symptoms. If the dog's eyes are matted, bloodshot or if the dog has additional symptoms, including lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite or a fever, call your veterinarian immediately.

For minor dog eye discharge, here are some good ways you can alleviate itching or discomfort and prevent further eye damage. Your vet is the best source of dog health information.

Keep canine eye wipes in your purse or in your vehicle if you take your dog in the car with you. These soothing wipes will clear away dried discharge and matter and wipe away allergens that could be on your dog’s fur near its eyes.

Get prescription dog eye drops from your vet. Don’t use human eye drops, which can burn your dog’s eyes. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to get a drop or two into the dog’s eye. Hold its head gently, but firmly, with its muzzle upwards, and drop a couple of canine eye drops into the inside corner of the eye. Don’t try to drop them into the center of the eye, which can startle the dog. It will blink its eyes and the drops will spread.

Don’t let your dog ride in the head with its head out the window. Most dogs love to do this, but their temporary enjoyment could create hours of itchy burning eyes and eye discharge. A dog’s eye is not designed to take wind speeds in excess of 20-30 miles an hour. Instead, roll up the window and stop at a dog park to let Fido enjoy himself without endangering his eye health.

Tearstains are more noticeable on white dogs.
Tearstains are more noticeable on white dogs.

Clean Away Dog Eye Discharge the Right Way

Daily cleaning prevents tearstains.
Daily cleaning prevents tearstains.

Do Tear Stains Indicate an Eye Discharge Problem?

Like humans, all dogs produce tears to lubricate their eyes and wash away dust and pollen. On dogs with brown or black fur, tearstains are not noticeable, but on white or light-colored dogs, tearstains can form angry red or brown streaks down the dog’s face.

The first step is to determine whether your dog’s tearstains are normal or a sign of an eye problem. If the stains are occurring with normal tearing, you have some safe options for removing the stains. Knowing tear staining symptoms and treatment options will keep your pooch looking fresh and alert.

Deep Red Tear Stains can be a sign of a red yeast infection. This can occur if your dog has an eye allergy that produces excessive tears, which keeps the fur beneath the eyes constantly damp. Warmth and wetness are the two catalysts for bacteria and yeast to get a foothold.

Head Shaking could be a sign that your dog has an ear infection that’s causing increased tearing and tear stains. An infection in one ear tends to increase tearing in the eye on the same side of the dog’s head. Scratching at an ear is another sign of infection. A vet should make an initial exam of your dog’s ears and recommend an ear cleaner that you can use at home.

It’s Just the Breed. Some dog breeds are just more prone to excessive tearing, including Maltese and Pomeranian dogs. If your dog is genetically predisposed to excessive tearing, keeping its eyes and face clean by daily wiping with prepared eye wipes is essential.

Puppy Chewing and Tearing. Puppies chew. They chew and they chew and they chew. During the time a puppy is cutting its teeth, its tear ducts are also undergoing changes and you may notice episodes of excessive tearing. This is normal and wiping the eyes frequently will reduce tearstains. Once your puppy cuts all its teeth, the tear ducts will also mature and the tearing will lessen.

Shampoo will irritate a dog's eyes.
Shampoo will irritate a dog's eyes.

Eye Safety During Dog Bathing

Veterinarians recommend bathing your dog at least twice a year to remove ground-in dirt and stimulate new fur growth. Some dog owners bathe their pets more frequently, which can lead to dry skin and eye irritation. Bathing is an important part of dog grooming, but if you bathe your pooch often, you can take steps to minimize eye irritation, which will reduce dog eye discharge.

  • Wash the dog’s head with baby shampoo or tearless dog shampoo. A dog’s eyes are very sensitive to chemicals and regular dog shampoo can irritate your dog’s eyes and damage his eyesight. Except baby shampoo, never use human shampoo on dogs.
  • Use a soft washcloth to gently scrub your dog’s face, but don’t get water in its eyes. Just a dab of baby shampoo on a washcloth is sufficient to rub away dirt and gunk from your dog’s face.
  • Rinse downward. Your dog will naturally lower its head during a bath to keep water from running into its eyes. When rinsing your dog, direct a gentle spray of clean water from the top of its head downward. Its forehead will keep the water from running into the eyes. Immediately after rinsing, use your hand to wring excess water off the dog’s face by rubbing from its forehead down over its muzzle.
  • Don’t spray water into your dog’s ears, which can trigger an ear infection that spreads to one or both eyes and increases eye discharge and irritation.

What Steps Do You Take to Protect Your Dog's Eyes?

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    • profile image

      Christina Martinez 8 months ago

      When I wipe my little pomeranian eyes it looks like it's bloody why is that

    • HowardBThiname profile image

      HowardBThiname 5 years ago from Midwest

      I've heard that used before by dog owners and as long as it's safe for human eyes, it's probably safe for a dog's eyes. One breeder of champion Standard poodles told me that the problem is not in the initial product as much as it is in the handling of the product. She said that pet owners will put a washcloth or soft rag over the top of the eye wash solution bottle and tip it upside down to saturate. She suggested using only sterile cotton balls or pad - a new one every time. If something that is not sterile is used, bacteria can grow in the solution. And our dogs' eyes are much to valuable to take chances with.

    • profile image

      lisa 5 years ago

      Lisa says she washes the brown eyetearing with makeup removed taking care to avoid eyes