PetMeds: Managing Eye Discharge (Mucus) in Dogs and Cats

Eye discharge is a common pet problem

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.

Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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106 Comments

  1. I have a 1 year old pit bull and for the past two days her eyes have been really red and slight puffy and she’s producing more mucus than normal. I’m thinking it’s just allergies but I’m not sure.

  2. This is useless. All that is said is take your pets to the vet. Why does this even exist?

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 8, 2014 at 7:56 am

    This website is of educational purposes and informational purposes. Always have to cover my bases in recommending vet evaluations as it is difficult to make a definitive diagnosis and prescribe specific medications from a verbal prescription.

  4. I noticed about 2 days ago that my German Shepherd Max has green discharge around both eyes and some sensitivity to light. We’d LOVE to take him to the vet, however our funds are a little low. I’m really worried about him, is there any home remedies that could help? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 19, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    A vet exam and proper evaluation and diagnosis is ideal here. You could try a drop of cod liver oil in each eye 3 to 4 times daily, as well as giving a teaspoon of cod liver oil mixed with each meal

  6. I have a 3 month old poodle mix I just now realized 1 eye he keeps closed I looked at it and it has some white thick mucus I wiped it off with a damp warm cloth but he still keeps it closed. What home remedies or in expensive eye drop can I get him?

  7. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    With any eye issues in dogs, especially at this age, it is best to have a full veterinary exam to check for ulcers of cornea, etc

  8. I have a 9 year old Pomeranian with a heart mummer. He currently takes a low dose of Anallapril. He is constantly coughing but its been regular since hes been on the medicine. He was fine all day, but when we went to feed him tonight we noticed he didn’t come right away. he stayed laying down where he was. When we went over to time we noticed that his eye is red along the top of the area that should be white and his pupil was filmy. there was a bunch of gunk coming out and he was not able to see (he only has one eye). Is there anything i can do to help him until we can get him to the vet?

  9. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Hopefully you got this problem taken care of, as any eye issue needs an immediate vet exam ASAP

  10. I have a 7 month old black with copper eyes male cat little fuzzball 1 white whisker
    On first visit ( got him at 6 months old)
    Asked vet abt eye discharge said drop visine 2 times day on nose but not for how long should also bit of shake head , did quick swap said he’s fine, healthy no big head, toe check up quick baby shot, clip nails 5 minute visit . I looked at ears no discharge still bit gooey eye otherwise head shake just a little

  11. My pug is 8 years old and has a mucus discharge from his left eye only. I seem to have to wipe/clean his left eye all the time. The eye seems irritated and oftentimes he would be itching it. What eye drop can I safely use to cleanse and soothe his eye and why is this discharge happening? Thank you.

  12. Hi. I have a choc. lab. He is 11 years old. Just recently he started to have a very thick, brown mucus in his right eye. It looks like it kind of floats at the bottom of his eye. He has never had this before. I did change his food and he is my one pet who has a tendency to have allergies as with food and all. I use to have a foul odor even within 3 days of a bath. Should I just wait a few more weeks to let the old food kick in?

  13. My one cat is like 13 years old maybe older and he has like a medium amount of like dark thick liquid like substance in the corner of his eye where his teatduck would be I guess and it’s been like this for a while now so is there anything I can do to make it go away ?

  14. My 8 yr old lab has tumors, and thank goodness it is not cancer because our vet extracted liquid from the tumor and tested it. The vet said to monitor the size of the tumor. Lately she has been very lethargic, and she had a hard time breathing last night.. I am wondering if the tumors has grown inside by her organs and is concerned. What should I do?

  15. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I would go to vet for x rays to check lungs for cancer, infection, fluid, etc

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    He needs an exam to make sure no infection, allergies, etc

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Best to have vet check in this type of situation, in case infection or allergies, although a dietary trial like you are doing well worth it to see if food hypersensitivity involved.

  18. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Always best in cases like this to have proper eye exam to make sure no infection, allergy, foreign bodies in eye, dry eye condition, etc

  19. My kitten is coming up on 6 months old. I got her from this local cat rescue organization. When we got her, she was 4 months and had an upper respiratory infection. With antibiotics, she cleared up within a couple weeks. She received her first shots 6 weeks ago. All vaccinations are free through the organization as part of the fee we payed at adoption. However, three weeks after the first shots, we went back to do her second, and the ladies there (not veterinarians, but have much experience) noticed that my kitten has a weepy eye. Her right eye has a discharge, clear in color, that they were concerned could be feline herpes. I’ve had cats with this clear weepy eye before, and it was never an issue. Always just good ol allergens. And she’s had it since we received her, though we thought it to be a symptom of the upper respiratory. Her eyes look healthy and they aren’t ever red or puffy. Now we got her from these ladies, and she is indoor only and a totally spoiled only cat. If she does have herpes, she got it when she was with them, no? Anyway, that was the first we’d been told of it. They are refusing to give her the second shots until she isn’t showing this symptom. Does that make any sense to you? It really doesn’t to me and today is her last day to get the second shots ,or else we’ll need to start over. She shows no sign of depression, she sneezes only here and there, like any human would, and she loves to eat. Does this sounds like feline herpes? (We plan to take her to a vet anyway. The insight just helps and we’re frustrated because we weren’t notified sooner and haven’t been able to plan for it being something serious financially.)

  20. The my dog always have discharge in the morning when he wakes up. But over the last couple of days he has had abnormal discharge in both eyes. At one point it looked as if there was a film over his eye like fish scales. My husband and I laid him down and rinsed out his eye with a saline solution. He has not been scratching or rubbing his eyes and they are not red or pink . Can you tell me why now after almost two years he’s having issues.

  21. Mark Jerome FajardoJanuary 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Our 2 year old shih tzu has been acting differently these past 2 days. There was a change in his behavior. He eats and drinks a little but not as much as before. He also has a lot of yellowish eye discharge. I’m worried as he doesn’t show any other symptoms. He doesn’t even have fever. Any ideas of what this might be?

  22. Hello Dr,
    I have an old Pug (Maxx) that is my Grandfathers and my son’s best friend! He’s very dear to my son and my grandfather isn’t really the best pet caregivers he is old, and jes mostly thinks everything is normal only because he’s cheap. Lol Anyway, I don’t have the funds to take him to the vet. I’ve been bugging my grandpa to give me the money to take him myself to get him a full checkup. I clean his eyes daily, clean his ears from last ear mites, but his left eye seems to be alot more mucus them usual,and I’ve noticed he is itching both eyes by rubbing against his legs. Licks his leg to get it every,then ribs his eyes and repeats. That’s when I step in with the warm rag. Its extra wet around the left eye, and long mucus blobs coming out even after I rub clean. Hes always had boogery eyes but recently past couple days they have progressed and i know he needs evaluation from vet. He also has had dry scabby itchy patches of skin months back that he was brought to vet and was given antibiotic which helped and he had balls spots which grew back. But, his dry skin hasn’t stopped,and looks like he’s always insane,when it’s just excessive dandruff. My gpa has always given them olive oil in their food,and i know its supposed to help their coats, except I’m wondering since its not working, of maybe he happens to be allergic. Here has has tiny crusty spots all over him, dry tummy, and always seems to lobe being scratched ago i know out had to itch. In the meantime while i continue to try and convince my gpa with the seberity of his conditions, what natural products could i use for his scalp/skin, extreme shedding, and extreme eye mucus. ( his eyes dont close shut but you cam tell it bugs him) He’s old so i know he could be going blind also. My my gpa is blind in one eye and has same issue sometimes. Oh! Also, he has a really crusty nose in the tip amd sometimes parts break off like a scab. Ive tried vitamin e, vasoline, but no change. Amd its clise to that wrinkly in his face above his nose which im constantly cleaning because he has has an infection there bedore. I love him amd camt stand the fact i myself camt afford his bet, amd that my gpa is not concerned at all amd has GOOD MONEY but is too CHEAP to let go of some for me to send Maxx to vet and PROPPER WEAKLY GROOMING. Please help. I read all problems and amswers above about eye rinses and certain meds for the eye. Ill the rinses in the mean time but please let le know of other natural helpful remedies for meantime while i try convincing my goa. Ill turn him eventually pretty soon but i cant stand my sons best friend suffering with even an an itch , let alone all the other issues he has. Provided he is old! ,but no animal should suffer from anything like these annoying issues.
    Thanks for reading, thanks for this helpful site, and id appreciate any advice. Especially since youre educated in both vet med practices, and homeopathic vet practices. Thank you,
    Laura

  23. Cont. Also, sorry so long of a letter :/ lol

  24. My kitten is 12 or 13 weeks old. When we got her she had what seemed to be an infection in her eye. No discharge or anything but her eyeball was twice as big as the other one. She was 4 weeks old and we saved her. I took her to the vet and we put her on antibiotics and eye drops. They never shrank the eye but the film that was covering it went away. Anyways, now her eye is still big… But it doesn’t hurt her and she can see out of it. Do you still think we need to have the eye removed? Could we keep her on eye drops? Is there any alternative – i just don’t want to take her little eye out.

  25. 10 yr. Old Cocker spaniel being treated by opthalmologist. She has dry eye and also had surgery on eye for benign autoimmune mass. She gets Tacrolimus abd Cyclosporin drops. She tends to rub her eye after drops then licks the hair on her leg or paw. Is this harmful? She has gastro issues with vomiting at times and diahrea.

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