PetMeds: Managing Eye Discharge (Mucus) in Dogs and Cats
A common concern of many pet owners is the presence of discharge in their dog’s or cat’s eyes. While this symptom is quite common, most of the time it is not significant and does not require medical treatment. The most common cause of discharge (often referred to as “eye crust”) is airborne allergens which can cause weepy eyes as in people. Other times, frequent eye discharge can indicate a clogged tear duct, although in this case the discharge is usually much thicker. Many times these mild discharges bother the owner more than the pet, and so I often advise clients to leave such issues alone.
When asked about eye discharge or mucus, I simply advise clients to wipe it away with a moist cloth or with some mild Visine eye drops. Most cases do not need veterinary attention and/or antibiotic therapy. However, if the discharge displays any of the below symptoms, then a veterinary exam would be recommended for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms to look for with eye discharge in pets:
- Discharge becomes thicker
- Discharge develops a green or yellow color
- Discharge has a bad odor
Many pets with light-colored coats will often have dark staining under their eyes because of certain pigments in the tears and/or clogged tear ducts. As a result, clients will often ask about medications to reduce or eliminate the staining. The product Angels’ Eyes for dogs and cats works quite well; however, in the past this product has relied on the use of 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. Angels’ Eyes Natural Tear Stain Remover has since been reformulated without the use of Tylosin.
Many dogs develop conditions where their eyes don’t produce adequate tears, called dry eye, which can lead to a thick mucus 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 to the more expensive Optimmune prescribed by many veterinarians.
If the above treatments do not help, or your pet’s eyes are severely red or light sensitive, it’s always best to have a veterinary exam to rule out more serious eye infections or ulcers. For simple infections or eye ulcers, I have found inexpensive prescription antibiotics such as Terramycin or B.N.P. Triple Antibiotic Ophthalmic Ointment to be as effective as some of the more expensive prescription drugs.
Due to the importance of the eyes and the potential for more serious eye conditions, if pet owners are ever in doubt, it is always best to have a proper eye exam by either a general veterinary practitioner or a veterinary ophthalmologist to rule out more serious disease of the cornea.