Dogs’ eye boogers are extremely common. Ask any pet parent, and they’ll be able to tell you how often they have to wipe their pup’s face free of tear stains, crusts, and other materials. But what exactly causes dogs’ eye boogers? When are they normal? And what illnesses can influence them?
Eye boogers in dogs are most common in the morning. Most dogs will get them during their sleep. However, dog eye boogers and discharge can be a symptom of several illnesses. These include keratoconjunctivitis sicca, foreign objects, cherry eye, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, and epiphora.
Ready to find out more about these health issues? Let’s get started.
What is Dog Eye Discharge aka Eye Boogers?
Dogs’ eye boogers are made up of several materials, including debris like dust, dead cells, dry tears, oil, and mucus. Depending on the number of tears your dog produces, and if there is any dust or debris in the eye, your dog may produce more or less discharge than other dogs.
Types of Discharge
Tears are essential for your dog’s eye health, and they will naturally drain through ducts in the corners of the eyes. Here, dry tears, oil, mucus, and dead cells accumulate. This causes small amounts of crusting in the corners. It’s most often seen in the morning and is normal for dogs.
White or light-colored dogs often develop red or brown discoloration below the eyes. This occurs because tears contain porphyrin, which turns reddish-brown after some time. If your dog has no other symptoms, tear staining is normal and poses no risk to your dog. Unfortunately, though, it can take several months for the stained fur to grow out. This is why it’s important to regularly clean your dog’s face of tear stains.
Yellow or green discharge points to a greater problem. A dog with yellow or green eye discharge may have an eye infection, especially where redness and discomfort are also present. Any dog who looks like they have an eye infection should be seen by a vet as quickly as possible.
Many different things can cause dogs’ eye boogers. These range from normal crusting after sleep, to dry eyes to foreign objects in the eye. Whatever the cause, it’s important to get to your vet right away if you think something is wrong with your pooch. While dog eye boogers are normal and common to find, not all cases have benign causes.
Dry Eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS)
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is characterized by dryness of the conjunctiva. This is the membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the whites of your eyes and cornea. With this condition, too few years may be produced, or the tears may evaporate too quickly.
The eyes may become easily irritated and sensitive to light, causing them to burn and itch. Dogs with KCS often have painful, red, irritated eyes that may squint or blink excessively. As a result of the itching and burning, many dogs will suffer from thick, yellowish discharge from the eyes.
But what causes keratoconjunctivitis sicca? One of the leading causes is inadequate tear production. With this type of keratoconjunctivitis sicca, the tear gland does not produce enough tears to keep the cornea and conjunctiva covered.
This condition can arise from hypothyroidism, systemic diseases like canine distemper, and severe inner ear infections (neurogenic KCS). Rarely, though, dry eyes may be a symptom of systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
This is because the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce the tears, resulting in decreased tear production. Several dog breeds are more predisposed to KCS than others, including American Cocker Spaniels, Bloodhounds, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers.
Injury or Foreign Object
Foreign bodies are often found on the outer layer of the eye. For dogs, foreign bodies in the eye, such as plant material or dirt, can be highly irritating and can damage the cornea directly, leading to corneal ulcers as your dog paws and rubs at their eyes.
Also, the clinical signs of a foreign body in the eye include winking, squinting, swelling of the third eyelids, cloudiness over the eyes, rubbing the eyes, and ocular discharge – and the dog eye boogers that come with this. There may also be a visible corneal ulcer.
Luckily, a vet can remove a foreign body from your pet’s eye with relative ease. Your vet may apply a topical local anesthetic to get a closer look at the eye and its tissues, where foreign bodies might be hiding. If a foreign body is lodged in the cornea, your vet may need to put your pooch under anesthesia and make a minor incision into the eye to remove it.
Cherry eye is the common name for the condition where the third eyelid or nictitating membrane prolapses into the eye. The nictitating membrane is usually hidden in the corner of your dog’s eye, but a dog with cherry eyes will have this membrane grow and protrude into a pink bulge that’s easy to see.
So, one of the main symptoms of cherry eyes in dogs is the protrusion of the third eyelid. It may look smooth, round, red, or pink, almost like a “cherry pit” in the corner of the eye. As well as this, many dogs with cherry eyes will also develop thick ocular discharge and will paw at the eye due to discomfort.
Conjunctivitis is the name given to inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. To recap, the conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that serves as a barrier to foreign objects and infection and it covers the eyeball. When inflamed, it’s known as conjunctivitis or pink eye.
The symptoms of conjunctivitis in dogs include clear or green discharge from the eye, redness of the eyes, pawing at the eyes, and squinting or blinking more than usual. This leads to more eye boogers for your dog. The condition can start in one eye and then spread to the other through contamination.
But where an allergy or viral infection is the cause, both eyes may be affected from the beginning. Your dog can also get conjunctivitis due to eye worms, bacterial infections, glaucoma, dry eye, injuries to the eye, or bites in the eye area.
There are three layers to your dog’s cornea. The outermost layer is known as the epithelium and is a very thin layer of cells. Below the epithelium lies the stroma. Lastly comes the Descemet’s membrane. Each of these layers is clear, so you cannot see them without special stains.
This is where corneal ulcers pose a problem. Erosion of a few layers of the eye’s epithelium is called corneal erosion. A corneal ulcer, on the other hand, arises with erosion through the epithelium and into the stroma.
With a corneal ulcer, your dog may develop a cloudy eye. If the erosion goes through the deepest part of the Descemet’s membrane, the liquid inside the eye can leak out, causing the eye itself to collapse and become unrepairable. Your dog might develop a corneal ulcer from dry eye, endocrine diseases like diabetes mellitus, or epithelial dystrophy which is inherited in some breeds like Boxers.
Epiphora is a condition wherein your dog’s eyes produce more tears than normal. One of the main causes of epiphora is the eye shape of many breeds – several are prone to eyelids or eyelashes that turn inwards. Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, Shar Peis, and Pugs are breeds that commonly suffer from these issues.
In dogs, epiphora is evident with the overflow of tears and tear stains on the face. Your dog might also squint, their eyes may appear inflamed, and corneal ulcers may form. Finally, the treatment for this condition depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is due to inturned eyelids, your vet may need to remove the skin from above or below the eyelid to stop it from turning inwards.
Treatment and Prevention
One of the most important things to do to prevent eye problems in dogs is to groom and trim their coat! Trimming your dog’s fur that overhangs the eyes is necessary, not only to allow them clearer vision but to prevent hair from falling against the eyes where it can cause irritation. If dog hair rubs against the eye it can cause damage to the eyes.
You’ll also need to clean your pup’s eyes regularly. You can use a damp paper towel or washcloth to remove discharge and crusts from your dog’s eyes. Doing this becomes much easier if you regularly trim the hair around your dog’s eyes.
And, lastly, it’s very important to keep irritants like medicines, shampoos, and soaps away from your dog’s eyes. Make sure to contact your vet if your pooch gets anything harmful in their eyes.
Dogs Eye Boogers: FAQ
Have any more questions or concerns about dogs’ eye boogers? Feel free to check out our Frequently Asked Questions for more details. If in doubt about your dog’s health, always ask your vet for advice.
It’s extremely common for dogs to get eye crusts, discharge, and stains. The eyes constantly produce tears, which are made up of oily, watery, and mucal components. Some dogs will produce more discharge than others, depending on the makeup of their tears, how much dust they come in contact with, and their breed. As such, you might have one dog who produces little discharge, and another who needs wiping multiple times per day.
To get rid of dog eye discharge, wipe the area a few times a day with a damp cloth. You can also try using an eye cleaning solution to wipe away the discharge. Do not apply any cleaning chemicals to your dog’s face to get rid of stains or hard crusts. For a thorough clean and suitable trim for your dog’s eyes, consider talking to your local dog groomer for an appointment and advice.
Because so many things can cause dog conjunctivitis, it’s important to talk to your vet about it. Viral infections, immune disorders, tumors of the eyelids, tear film deficiencies, and trauma to the eye can cause conjunctivitis in dogs.
Your vet can help to find out which problem is causing your dog’s eye irritation. To do this, a vet will carry out a full eye exam. This might involve a corneal stain test. Additional tests that might be done include bacterial cultures, allergy testing, and nasolacrimal duct flushing.
The signs of eye infection in dogs include weeping eyes, yellow or green discharge, blinking more than usual, swelling, redness, and squinting. If your dog shows any of these signs, be sure to talk to your vet for advice.
Most human eye drops are not safe for dogs. So, do not give your dog any human eye drops, including natural tears, without talking to your vet first. The ingredients that are suitable for humans may not be suitable for dogs, and vice versa.
Dogs’ eye boogers are common and normal. However, not all causes are benign. So, if you think something is amiss with your furry friend, always get your pup to your vet for a thorough eye exam.