- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Dog eye gunk. Yuck. If you’re reading while eating, here’s your warning: we’re about to get into the gory details about the common causes and symptoms of your dog’s eye discharge. Read on for more—plus care tips you need.
What is dog eye gunk, anyway?
Actually, the medically correct term is eye discharge. It can range from a clear, watery discharge (likely caused by allergies or a foreign body in the eye) to a pus-like discharge with a tendency to crust, which is a sign of a bigger problem.
If you’re unsure of whether or not it’s eye discharge you’re dealing with, take your dog to the vet and get a professional opinion.
Common causes of eye discharge
Conjunctivitis. Also known as pink eye—the dreaded king of eye infections. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and inner eyelids, often paired with that yellow-green puss-like discharge that crusts overnight, as well as bloodshot whites and excessive blinking or itching. Some cases are viral, others are bacterial, and some can be attributed to allergies or even tumors. The key? Seeing the vet at the first sign of symptoms and nailing down the cause so it can be treated—it’ll likely include antibiotics and soothing washes to keep any serious damage at bay.
Epiphora. Some dogs—and humans, for that matter—have constant teary eyes. But with epiphora or excessive tearing, the eyes are just that: excessively wet. The problem lies in the duct not being able to properly dispose of excess tear production, which is a common problem amongst flat-faced dog breeds. Sometimes, runny eyes can result in the darkened fur—known as “tear staining”—around the eyes sometimes seen in light-colored dogs. It can also lead to infected, or smelly, skin. The cause? It really runs the gamut—it could be a result of conjunctivitis or allergies, a duct problem, corneal ulcers, or even glaucoma. Visit the vet to figure out what’s causing it, then treat accordingly—in some cases, epiphora requires surgery.
Dry eye. The official term? Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS for short. The opposite of constant teary eyes? Uncomfortable, itchy, dried out eyes that not only have no lubrication but also lack the ability to flush away foreign material or infections that could cause some serious problems. Without tears, the whites of the eyes turn brown in an effort to protect at all costs, and that yellow-green discharge appears. Causes range from infections to tear duct issues to side-effects of anesthetics or antibiotics. Serious health issues, like blindness, can occur if untreated, so make sure to visit your vet and get the eye care your dog needs.
What’s normal, and when should I worry?
Our eyes and our dogs’ eyes need lubrication to function normally. When was the last time you thought about the consistency of your own eyes’ lubrication? Probably the last time they were excessively wet, or excessively dry, or excessively gunky. And you were probably blinking, squinting, touching them, showing physical signs of infection or irritation, etc.
The same holds true for your dog. It’s normal until it’s not. Keep an eye out for changes in your dog’s eye discharge or pawing at the eyes, and seek vet care to make sure your pup’s eyes are healthy and happy.
Cleaning and care tips for your dog’s eyes
1) Try a dog tear stain remover
These gentle liquids are designed especially for use with smaller dogs and lighter-haired dogs. They can be very handy for routine grooming, as well as stubborn stains and bogies.
2) Use a pet ‘eye comb’
While it seems like a strange idea, “eye combs” are actually quite wonderful. They’re sturdy, easy, efficient, and help you avoid using chemicals to clean your dog’s eyes.
3) Give a quick trim around the eyes
If your dog has long hair that may be contributing to the problem, clean the hair and trim it regularly—this is an issue especially in flat-faced or smaller toy dogs. Try a simple pet grooming kit at home, or visit the groomer if you’re not confident about your trimming skills!
4) Keep your dog’s eyes moist with a pet eyewash
Eye drops designed for canine use are a miracle invention, as far as we’re concerned. They’re non-irritating and non-toxic, so it’s okay if your dog takes a lick. They’re great for eye lubrication, flushing out irritants, and soothing allergic reactions. It may take a handful of treats to administer them, though!
5) Don’t use your fingers to clean it
Be careful! It’s a sensitive area. If it’s run-of-the-mill gunk, start with a clean, damp towel rather than bare fingers. However, if there are signs of a serious infection, take your dog to the vet and have the pros work on it. From there, special products exist to help you remove stubborn stains, bogies, and gunk from your dog’s eyes.
Top image via Instagram.