Dog Eye Discharge: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on March 6, 2023 by Woody Pet

We’ve all probably seen tears in our dog’s eyes and thought, “Aw, they’re crying!” As a matter of fact, most of the time, they’re not. Rather, dog eye discharge may be a sign of an illness that ranges from harmless to severe. 

What You Need to Know About Dog Eye Discharge

Tears are essential to a dog’s eye. Just like in ours, they provide oxygen and nourishment to different parts of our eyes, especially the cornea, which is the clear layer of tissue at the forefront of the eye. Tears also help in removing many debris and irritants from the surface of the dog’s eyes. However, not every dog eye discharge is considered tears. Read on to find more information about dog eye discharge!

What are the types of dog eye discharge?

Image From Harrison Kugler

Although there are many common causes of dog eye discharge, this does not mean there is only one common diagnosis. Here are the types of dog eye discharge you should familiarize yourself with:


Seeing crusts in your dog’s eye is usually not a cause for concern. Generally, they are dried up tears that remained in the corner of your dog’s eye. These crusts are also formed from oil, mucus, dead cells, dust, and other external irritants along with dried tears. The amount of crusts your dog produces should be relatively constant each night or after long naps. 

This is usually normal in most cases as long as your dog isn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort when you remove them from their eyes. Additionally, their eyes shouldn’t be red nor showing signs of eye discomfort such as excessive blinking, sensitivity to light, and rubbing. 


Epiphora refers to a dog’s excessive watering of the eyes. There are many causes behind watery eyes in dogs, including: 

  • Allergies
  • Irritants
  • Foreign material in the eye
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Corneal wounds
  • Anatomical abnormalities (prominent eyes or rolled-in eyelids) 
  • Glaucoma

Dog Eye Reddish-Brown Discharge

This is mostly seen in dogs with a light-colored fur coat. The discoloration will appear near the inner corner of their eyes. Their tears naturally have a pigment that turns reddish-brown when exposed to the air for too long, called porphyrin. This is usually normal when there are no other symptoms present. However, more serious complications may be more difficult to diagnose especially since reddish-brown stains will take months to grow out. 

Dog Eye White-Gray Discharge

This is generally what is considered the “dry eye.” It’s when a dog has difficulty producing tears because of a weakened immune system that attacks the glands that produce them. To compensate for the lack of tears, the dog’s body will produce more mucus. However, this does not compensate for the functions of the tears so it becomes counterproductive; the mucus causes the eyes to be red and painful, which may lead to further complications. If prolonged and untreated, this may lead to blindness. 

Dog Eye Yellow or Green Discharge

Dog eye discharge with a yellow or green color usually means the dog has an eye infection. Symptoms that are also associated with this include redness and discomfort in the eye. This is usually not the problem in itself. Rather, it’s a symptom or a result of another problem. These issues weaken the eye’s defenses making them susceptible to infections. This type of eye infection is also commonly a sign that a dog has a problem in their respiratory tract, nervous system or in other parts of their body. 

What can I do to treat dog eye discharge?

dog eye discharge
Image From Joseph Pearson
  • The most basic and easiest way to treat a benign or harmless dog eye discharge is to wipe them off. Use a clean, moistened cotton ball to clean out the dog eye discharge. Make sure to use a new one for each eye. 
  • Apply warm compress over your dog’s eye. Doing so would alleviate the pain your dog might be experiencing. This is most effective for when your dog’s eye is swollen. 
  • Only administer or apply medication that your veterinarian prescribes for your dog. There are necessary components in these prescription medications that cater to your dog’s eye discharge. Applying a random over the counter medicine might do more harm than good. This goes the same for antibiotic treatment, and pain and eye medications. 
  • Once your dog gets diagnosed and their prescribed medicine, stick to the regimen that your veterinarian prescribes for your dog. Eye problems can quickly worsen so it’s important that you follow every step to prevent it from leading to severe, and often irreparable, eye damages. 

When do I need to go to the veterinarian?

dog eye discharge
Image From Pranidchakan Boomrom

As mentioned in the previous sections, there are some types of dog eye discharge that don’t require immediate attention from the veterinarian. However, here are some signs that you should look out for: 

  • Persistent dog eye discharge for more than a few days
  • Increased amount of dog eye discharge
  • Changes in color and/or consistency
  • Excessive squinting, blinking, and pawing/rubbing at their eyes
  • Swollen and cloudy eye/s
  • Inability to open eye/s
  • Dog eye discharge along with symptoms of other illnesses

How do I prevent dog eye discharge?

dog eye discharge
Image From Lum3n

To help avoid harmful dog eye discharge, follow these preventive measures: 

  • Inspect your dog’s eyes for any abnormalities or inconsistencies. Their pupils should be of the same size, bright, crust-free, and there must be visible whites around the iris. The inner eyelids shouldn’t also be visible. To further check, pull down your dog’s lower eyelid and you should see a pink color. If it’s red or white, it may be a cause for concern. 
  • Keep your dog’s face clean. Take your dog to the clinic and have them groomed to keep long hair out of their eyes. You can also do this at home using a pair of round-tipped scissors to trim them. 
  • When washing your dog, keep the shampoo and soap from getting into their eyes as much as possible. This also applies to flea medicine that you incorporate into your dog bathing routine. 
  • Watch out for dog eye discharge symptoms such as excessive pawing or rubbing at the eyes. Once you notice these, do further inspection and take them to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

It’s not easy to diagnose the potential illness behind dog eye discharge, which makes it all the more important to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms every day; symptoms don’t just happen in a day! 

Take a tour around our website and read more practical tips and information you need to know for your dogs! 


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