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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  1. Hi Michael

    Should you be recommending the Tylsoin based products such as Angels Eyes given that tylosin is not FDA approved for dogs?

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Tylosin is actually a very common used antibiotic in dogs often for inflammatory bowel disease, or intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Many drugs are used off label in vet medicine. The reason I dont like angel eyes long term for chronic tear stains is that I feel that you can select out for resistant bacteria by using a product like this other than on occasion.

  3. Sorry Michael

    I was refering more to the fact that the FDA say that products such as Angels Eyes are illegal. I think that have started to enforce the law by stopping PetsMart from selling it. have you heard anything about this?

    I do understand the importance of tylosin as an extra label antibiotic and just wanted to point out that IMHO it is illegal for dog owners to self medicate with tylosin. The sellers of these products seem to try to hide the fact that they use an antibiotic so it is nice to see a pro pointing out this fact.

    Thanks for the prompt reply.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I have not heard anything about the petsmart issue, but am in total agreement that such an antibiotic like tylosin should not be abused like that as it is a strong antibiotic, best prescribed by a veterinarian, if medically indicated, most commonly in digestive tract diseases.

  5. Thanks once again Micheal.

    Can you claritfy whether or not it is illegal for home users to purchase tylosin (or tylosin based products) directly with the aim of using it on dogs (and not livestock) in the USA?

    Or is it only illegal in states like California?

    I ask because, owners assume that if you can buy something it must therefore be legal and thus approved by the powers that be.

    Most of the rest of the world prohibits the purchase of antibiotics without a prescription.

    Thanks- and keep up the good work

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 18, 2010 at 12:24 am

    As far as I know, angel eyes has been available without a prescription for years in most states in the USA, even though it does have an antibiotic tylosin in it as a main ingredient.

  7. Hi Michael

    I think that you have demonstrated the point that i am trying to clarify.

    Let me ask the question another way- Is it legal in the USA to purchase antibiotics to be used off label by home owners WITHOUT a prescription?

    Thanks yet again

  8. Pingback: PetMeds: Eye Discharge (Mucus) in Pets | 1800PetMeds Blog

  9. My dog was diagnosed with Pannus in the eyes. The vet prescribed Optimmune and has been taking it for about 4 years. Now I can hardly find the medication and at a reasonable price. Would compounded (in a corn oil base) Cyclosporine Ophthalmic Drops be a good substitue?

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMay 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Compounded cyclosporine should be fine. Check with 1800petmeds pharmacist to see if they can compound it or google stokes pharmacy which you can find on line

  11. My dog has Addison’s, since diagnoses she has had one goopy ear that has not cleared up with diet or meds from ear vets. They want to remove her ear..also since the ear problem she has developed “dry eye”, the cyclosorine in corn oil does not help.
    Do you think these are all related to the Addison’s?

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I think alot of these eye problems are related to immune system not functioning optimally because of inadequate diet and internal imbalances, etc Ear discharges can also be due to dietary issues, imbalances and allergies. Would be great case to do a homeopathic workup on. Many vets who offer homeopathic consults do that type of work by phone like myself. Learn more at http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as http://www.canineworld.com/drdym

  13. our 12 year old chesapeahe bay retriever has always had a white discharge in her eyes, but here lately it is more of a green color. i noticed that she has been wiping the discharge with her paws then licking them. she has seemed a little tired lately and is not eating as much. we just had a baby 2 months ago and are in the middle of a move so i thought she may have been a little depressed due to all the changes going on, but since i saw this thing with her eyes i’m thinking she may have some sort of infection. could she have an infection from ingesting the discharge?

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I doubt infection from ingesting eye discharge. Green color may indicate infection or inflammation. See vet for exam and evaluation.

  15. The vet said my dog had ulcers in both eyes after he did that stain test. He gave me an antibiotic ointment and said come back in a week. When I went back he administered the test again. Then told me to just put lubricating drops in his eyes now and then and keep them clear of discharge. Is this correct? Or should I be doing something more for the ulcers? Did they go away? I don’t understand.

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Your vet should put a fluorescein dye on the eyes to see if ulcer is gone or not. Usually topical antibiotics indicated until ulcers have healed. There is also new product called remend by company called Virbac, which often helps heal eye ulcers if they are persistant.

  17. He did dye the eye but didn’t say if they were gone or not. Since I still see brown spots in my dogs eyes & the discharge hasn’t cleared up so I assume they’re still there. This Remend you speak of, would that be something I could continue to use to prevent the return of the ulcers once they clear? Or should I use the Puralube I just purchased?

  18. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    The puralube is fine to use. The remend is only used when eye ulcers are present. Given your state of confusion, best to call vet to find out if ulcers still present, etc and their treatment plan for you.

  19. Hi
    my 13 y old female dog black lab mix/blue heeler has had some discharge in the corner of one eye, seemed like dust. I clean it with a damp cloth but lately I saw a little bit more and it looks like thick clear jelly just around the corner of that eye and I see a little change on her skin all around that eye – what advice would you give me ? Ty

  20. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Best to have vet exam and evaluation of eye for proper diagnosis and treatment, especially in a pet this age. You could try paralube moisturizing eye ointment in meantime.

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  22. Hi! Our Dachshund Beagle mix has had a goopy green discharge from his left eye for about a week. I have been giving him some natural allergy medicine and it seems to clear his eye up. He isn’t acting like it is bothering him at all, only when the allergy med wears off it will look a tad swollen. Just want to make sure that if he had an infection, I would not see the improvement, right?

  23. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianApril 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Still could have an infection. best to have vet exam and evaluation of eye.

  24. My rottweiller has white mucuous around the bottom of both eyes. What could cause this?

  25. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 5, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Many things from allergies to infections to clogged tear ducts. Best to have vet exam and evaluation for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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