Runny Eyes in Dogs: How to Treat and When to Seek Help

  • 4 min read

Dog eye discharge — whether in the form of dog eye boogers, green eye discharge or something else — can be completely normal… or not. So it can be confusing for Pet Parents to know what to do.

Have you ever wondered if your dog’s eye boogers are normal or not? A dog’s eyes can leak and tear for many reasons, some of which are normal and some of which are not. Tear stains are unsightly, but more importantly, dog eye discharge might indicate a problem that requires vet attention.

If you see brown tear stains, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. “Dogs with white hair coats (like Maltese, Poodles, etc.) might show the discharge easier than other colors,” says Veterinarian Dr. Don Kimmitt. You can help minimize dog tear stains by wiping the under-eye area frequently and keeping it as dry as possible.  We developed TrueBlue Safe & Sure Eye Wipes with a special all-natural cleaning solution that is both gentle and effective. 

Let’s take a look at five common types of dog eye discharge and what you should do about them.

1. A Little Goop or Crust

Tears play an essential role in maintaining eye health. They provide oxygen and nourishment to the cornea (the clear layer of tissue at the front of the eye) and help remove debris from the eye’s surface.

Tears normally drain through ducts located at the inner corner of each eye, but sometimes a little bit of goop or crust will accumulate there. This material is made out of dried tears, oil, mucus, dead cells, dust, etc., and is typically clear or a slightly reddish-brown color.

It’s most evident in the morning and is often perfectly normal. The amount of eye goop a dog produces each night (or after long naps) should stay relatively constant.

The goop or crust should be easy to remove with our TrueBlue Safe & Sure Eye Wipes. The eyes shouldn’t be red, and your dog should not exhibit any signs of eye discomfort (rubbing, squinting, blinking, and/or sensitivity to light).

If at any point you notice an increase in your dog’s eye goop or other worrisome symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

2. Watery Eyes

Excessive eye watering (epiphora) is associated with many different conditions that run the range from relatively benign to serious. Here are a few common causes of watery eyes in dogs:

If your dog has a relatively mild increase in tearing, but his eyes look normal in all other respects—and he doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort—it’s reasonable to monitor the situation for a day or two.

Your dog may have simply received a face full of pollen or dust, and the increased tearing is working to solve the problem. But if his eyes continue to be watery or your dog develops red, painful eyes or other types of eye discharge, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

3. Reddish-Brown Tear Stains

Light-colored dogs often develop a reddish-brown discoloration to the fur near the inner corner of their eyes. This occurs because tears contain a pigment called porphyrin that turns reddish-brown with prolonged exposure to air.

In the absence of other problems, tear staining in this area is normal and is just a cosmetic concern. If you want to minimize your dog’s tear stains, try one or more of these solutions:

  • Wipe the area a few times a day with a cleaning solution made specifically for dogs, like our Safe & Sure Eye Wipes. In a pinch, you can use a cloth dampened with warm water.
  • Keep the fur around your dog’s eyes trimmed short.
  • Try giving your dog an antibiotic-free nutritional supplement that reduces tear staining.

Keep in mind that it can take several months for porphyrin-stained fur to grow out and for the effects of any of these remedies to become obvious.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian for an eye examination if you notice any of the following:

  • An increase in the amount of tear staining
  • A change in the appearance of your dog’s tear staining
  • Your dog’s eyes become red and painful

4. White-Gray Mucus

Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS) is a condition that usually develops when a dog’s immune system attacks and destroys the glands that produce tears.

With fewer tears, the body tries to compensate by making more mucus to lubricate the eyes. But mucus can’t replace all the functions of tears, so the eyes become red and painful and may develop ulcers and abnormal corneal pigmentation.

Left untreated, KCS can result in severe discomfort and blindness.

If you notice white-gray mucus collecting around your dog’s eyes, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can perform a simple procedure called a “Schirmer Tear Test” to differentiate KCS from other diseases that are associated with increased eye mucus production.

Most dogs respond well to treatment for KCS, which may involve cyclosporine, tacrolimus, artificial tears, and/or other medications.

Surgery can also be considered but should be reserved for those cases when medical treatment is unsuccessful.

5. Yellow or Green Eye Discharge

A dog whose eyes produce yellow or green discharge often has an eye infection, particularly if eye redness and discomfort are also evident.

Eye infections can develop as a primary problem or as a result of another condition (wounds, dry eye, etc.) that weakens the eye’s natural defenses against infection.

Sometimes what looks to be an eye infection is actually a sign that a dog has a systemic illness or a problem affecting the respiratory tract, nervous system, or other part of the body.

Any dog who looks like he might have an eye infection should be seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.