What Causes Eye Boogers in Dogs?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 9, 2018

Have you ever wiped something gunky out of your dog’s eye and wondered whether or not it was supposed to be there? You’re not alone. What are they, exactly? Well, doggie eye boogers are just eye discharge, and it’s very common in dogs. The main causes of dog eye boogers are:

1. Allergies/Daily environmental irritants
2. Conjunctivitis (yep, dogs can get it too)
3. Epiphora (“dog tears”)
4. Keratoconjunctivits Sicca (KCS) a.k.a. “dry eye”
5. Glaucoma

What exactly IS an eye booger though?

Most dogs experience eye discharge because of dirt or dust getting into their eye, which is normal. Throughout the day, dogs accumulate debris in their eyes. Their body’s natural response is to clean it out. Each time your pup blinks, tears are released to provide protection and get rid of any irritants (like a piece of fur). So trust me, dog boogers can be totally normal.

Some breeds tend to have more discharge than others, and it’s not always a major medical problem. Many dogs suffer from allergies and like people, it can cause an increase in eye discharge and redness. What isn’t normal is when yellowish discharge starts to form or you notice physical changes to the eye itself – whether it’s starting to cloud, bulge or push itself back into the skull. Below are more detailed explanations about eye booger causes.

1. Allergies

Like humans, dogs experience everyday things like grass, pollen, and dust that their bodies may think are dangerous, leading to a physical reaction, like eye discharge. Even though the dust at the dog park is okay, for your pup it may be a problem causing allergen when it’s inhaled, ingested or comes in contact with the dog’s skin. Breeds particularly prone to allergies are: terriers, setters, retrievers, and dogs with flat faces like bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers.

Dogs are allergic to numerous things. Common symptoms of dogs experiencing allergies are:

  • Itchy, runny eyes (eye discharge)
  • Red or irritated skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Pawing at their eye

In order to treat it, ask your vet. Additionally, flushing the eye out with over the counter sterile eyewash can also provide some relief.

2. Conjunctivitis (aka pink eye)

If you notice your dog has clear or pus-like eye boogers, and/or excessive redness in and around the eye, get it checked out by your vet. Why? It could be conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis (bacterial or viral pink eye) is an inflammation of the conjunctiva. What’s that? The conjunctiva is the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. Watch for red eyes, inflammation, pawing at the eyes, squinting or crusty eyes that can indicate your dog has contracted this condition. Also, just so you know, it is transmittable to humans, so if you think your dog has this, wash your hands after handling them.

3. Epiphora

Be on the lookout for excessively teary eyes, which is known as epiphora. Epiphora means the eyes overflow with tears. Signs of epiphora are: Excess wetness around the eyes, brown staining underneath the eyes, a smelly odor, and/or skin irritation. The condition tends to be more noticeable in breeds with lighter colored fur. But if you wipe your dark colored pup’s eye and the discharge is brown, keep an eye on it and schedule an appointment with your vet.

4. Keratoconjunctivits Sicca (KCS)

Next up on the eye discharge list is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye (the inability to produce enough tears).  Dry eye happens when the tear gland gets infected or experiences trauma. Dry eye symptoms are: Yellowish discharge, inflammation around the eye, excessive blinking and/or swelling of the eyelids. When experiencing this condition, your dog’s cornea is at great risk which can lead to more eye infections and/or corneal damage. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet, as KCS can cause loss of vision.

5. Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when pressure is put on the eye, causing inadequate drainage of ocular fluid. Some breeds like Poodles, Chow Chows, and Cocker Spaniels are more predisposed to glaucoma than others. It’s also common in senior dogs.

There are two types of glaucoma in dogs – primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is when the eye is unable to drain, causing fluid to get backed up in the eye. Secondary glaucoma is when the eye is impacted by trauma (such as inflammation or cancer), which physically blocks drainage. With glaucoma, be on the lookout for excessive blinking, eye bulging, high pressure on the eye, clouded eyes, dilated pupils and/or vision loss. Get your pup to the vet as soon as possible and have the ocular pressures checked to determine further treatment.

How can I help my dog with their eye boogers?

To help your canine companion with drainage, keep the hair around their eyes trimmed. If you have a long-haired dog or they have pesky hairs around their eyes, ask your groomer to trim the area. Use caution with things that could irritate your dog’s eyes like shampoo, flea medication and dust. For dog tears, you can use specific dog eye wipes that are commonly sold in pet stores (you can also use hypoallergenic, fragrance-free baby wipes which tend to be cheaper). After the dog park, dampen a towel to clear any type of debris that might be there. Finally, be on the lookout if you notice anything irritating your pup. You know your dog best, so if you feel their eye boogers are goopier, gloopier, or just plain grosser than normal, get them checked by the vet. Better safe than sorry!

Pit Bull Cuddling Human

For more, check out these articles!

5 Signs Your Dog’s Eye Boogers Are Caused By Something Dangerous Recall Alert: This Everyday Household Ingredient Could Make You Or Your Dog Very Sick6 Things You Can Learn About Your Dog’s Health Just By Looking Into Their EyesWhy Does My Dog Pee On My Bed?My Dog’s Nose Is Always Dripping. Is Something Wrong?

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 9, 2018

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