Eye Discharge in Dogs

Eye discharges can sometimes indicate bacterial or viral infection, or allergies

Another common question asked in everyday small animal veterinary practice is, “Why does my dog or cat have runny eyes?” Both canine eye discharge and feline eye discharge can have many causes. In some breeds of pets such as the Persian cat or Boxer, the flattened conformation of the face often leads to tear buildup in the skin folds in the corners of the eyes. Many times these mild discharges bother the owner more than the pet, and so I often advise clients to leave such issues alone.

Other times eye discharge can sometimes indicate bacterial or viral infections, or can be commonly seen in pets with allergies. If the discharge is thick or discolored yellow or green, then a veterinary exam is certainly recommended. Sometimes such pets can also have upper respiratory symptoms of sneezing and nasal discharge, which is usually best diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian. Many other pets can have eye discharges because of clogged tear ducts, which again is best evaluated by your veterinarian who can often flush the tear ducts to allow the tears to flow easier, avoiding buildup in the corners of the eyes.

Many dilute colored breeds will often have dark staining under their eyes because of certain pigments in the tears and/or clogged tear ducts, and many clients will often ask about medications to improve the dark discoloration under these pets’ eyes commonly seen in breeds like the Maltese. There is a very effective product called Angels’ Eyes for dogs and cats that does in fact work quite well; however, it relies on the use of using an oral antibiotic called Tylosin, which in my opinion if used long term can lead to imbalance of bacterial populations in the digestive tract and antibiotic resistance of bacteria. That is why I prefer not to use such a product long term. Many dogs develop conditions where their eyes don’t produce adequate tears called dry eye or keratitis sicca, which can lead to a thick mucous buildup on the surface or cornea of the eye.  I have found lubricants such as Puralube Vet Ointment and LiquiTears sometimes a more practical economic alternative than the more expensive Optimmune prescribed by many veterinarians. Also I have learned that using a drop or two of Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil directly in the eyes 3 to 4 times daily, as well as giving it orally can also help soothe inflamed, dry or ulcerated eyes.

If the above treatments do not help or your pets eyes are severely red or light sensitive, or develops a reluctance to open the eyes or they appear in spasm, it’s always best to have a veterinary exam to rule out more serious eye infections or ulcers, as well as deeper diseases of the eyes such as glaucoma or uveitis. For simple infections or eye ulcers, I have found the inexpensive prescription antibiotics such as Terramycin or B.N.P. Triple Antibiotic Ophthalmic Ointment as effective as some of the more expensive prescription drugs. Neo Poly Dex Opthalmic eye drops are wonderful for those allergic eye inflammations, as long as your vet has ruled out corneal ulcers or scratches first.

Due to the importance of the eyes and the potential for more serious eye conditions, if a client is ever in doubt, it is always best to have a proper eye exam by either a general veterinary practitioner, or a veterinary ophthalmologist, who specializes in eye diseases, in order to rule out more serious diseases of the cornea and inner sections of the eyes.

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43 Comments

  1. our spaniel Sheeba is 7 tears old one of her eyes became cloudy and she has a terrible discharge in both eyes now he is running into things as if she can not see what do you think i should use to help her

  2. our spaniel Sheeba started getting nasty mucus in 1 eye we cleaned it every morning with sterile water and I would wipe the outside crust off…now the eye is cloudy and it seems like she can not see she runs into the wall it is happening on the other eye also …what should we use to help her

  3. I would take her to the vet. The cloudy eye and running into things is something a little more complex than an infection of some sort. Almost sounds like a cataract or glaucoma.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 16, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Sounds like vet visit needed for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 16, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Best to have proper vet exam and diagnosis before I can make specfic suggestions.

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 16, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Answered previously.

  7. My small Chihuahua has been keeping her eye closed and today, I have wiped away a mucus like discharge from the eye. I have three Chihuahua’s and the other two are fine. I’m leaning towards it being something airborne that she acquired and I am keeping a close watch on her. Is it okay to administer a basic contact lens solution or a non medicated saline solution to assist in relief? If the situation has not improved by tomorrow, I will be taking her to the vet.

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 8, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I would not use over the counter eye meds without first having an exam and evaluation by your vet

  9. My pit mix has recently started having greenish discharge in both of his eyes, I usually wipe it off with a warm, damp rag and give him a 25 mg Benadryl, it seems to work for the most part but is there anything else that I should do?

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Anwered previously

  11. my labradoodle puppy 5months broke a glass lamp. i found pieces of glass around his mouth. i called the vet and they said just in case he swallowed some very tiny pieces. give him 4 slices of bread. i gave him wheat bread now, 1-2 later he has lots of eye discharge, this am he coulde not open his eyes. could it be the wheat? his food is BLUE and does n ot contain wheat. ps later the first night, he had so much energy at 10pm i was playing frizzbee just to run him

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 19, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Could be allergic eye reaction and/or infection. Best to have vet exam and evaluation and/or possibly eye medicines.

  13. my 2 year old lab male has had big boogers in one eye for the last 2 weeks, and it’s a little swollen. it does not seem to bug him whatsoever, he also has really dry skin. could this just be allergies?

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 26, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Allergies are possible, but with any eye issues. I always recommend direct veterinary exam and diagnosis before suggesting treatments.

  15. I have a standard poodle and also a miniature my standard poodle is having white stuff in his eyes. When I groom him the miniature poodle wants to always lick n clean his eyes. Seems like this causes the standard to get this? Any suggestions on maybe what I could use over the counter eye wash or solution? I have 4 poodles in all none of the others have this problem but standard n miniature sleep together every night thank you in advance for any help.

  16. I have 2 yr old blond lab that has clear goopy discharge in both eyes. I wipe them both with a warm paper towel and few minutes later its back. Is there a pet friendly eye drop or rinse I can use? Can I give him benedryl his eyes seem to itch sometimes?

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Benadryl is fine at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily. You can also try Halo herbal eye drops, from a holistic health food store, but you should have vet exam to evaluate eyes and make sure no infection, etc

  18. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I doubt the white stuff is due to the other dog licking. Could be infection, allergies or clogged tear ducts. Best to have vet exam and appropriate diagnosis for best treatment plan.

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