Have you recently noticed some eye goop on the corners of the eyes on your dog? More likely than not, you have nothing to worry about. These goops are just the accumulation of dried tears and particles of debris like pollen and dust, for example. Tears are made of fats, water and some mucus, and they play an essential role in the overall health of your dog’s eyes. In fact, it’s even more concerning if your dog is lacking tears.
“The tear glands create tears constantly throughout the day to keep the surface of the cornea and conjunctiva lubricated, which is important for eye health and to help flush out any debris,” explains Dr. Diana Pate, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with Upstate Vet Emergency and Specialty Care in Greenville, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.
While water can easily drain down tear ducts (nasolacrimal ducts) into the nose, mucus and debris are too thick, says Dr. Terri Baldwin, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Instead, the discharge—what we sometimes call dog eye boogers—accumulates on the inner corner of the eye.
Veterinarians refer to this buildup as ocular discharge or eye discharge, but terminology can vary. “I tend to refer to it as crusting/discharge,” says Dr. Karen Brantman, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with Northwest Animal Eye Specialists in the Seattle, Washington area.
The types of dog eye goop
There are different types of eye goop a dog can have. The normal eye discharge of a dog is most commonly white to grey in color and consists mainly of tried tears and some trapped debris. It accumulates in the morning because the mucus gets trapped while your dog sleeps as it doesn’t get wiped away by either you or your dog himself.
Discharge that’s excessive or a different color may signify an underlying health issue. “Excessive amounts where the eyes must be cleaned multiple times daily, or green/yellow discharge is likely not normal, and indicates that some form of treatment is needed,” says Brantman.
The most common types of dog eye goop are:
Normal dog eye goop, but in excessive amounts
We see this if there is an irritation like allergies, or something rubbing on the eye such as extra eyelashes or eyelids rolling in and rubbing on the cornea. We also see this if the eyelids don’t have the normal nasolacrimal ducts for drainage or the conformation of the eyelids prevent natural drainage.
Clear and Watery Eye Boogers
When discharge is relatively clear and watery, the causes can include allergies, a simple ulcer, foreign body, or other physical irritation to the surface of the eye such as abnormal hairs or an obstruction of the nasolacrimal drainage.
Green and Yellow Eye Boogers
Yellow or green eye boogers in a dog is most commonly a sign of a corneal infection. An over-accumulation of mucoid discharge can be a sign of dry eye or conjunctivitis. This can accumulate on the eyelids and dry on the skin, causing further irritation.
Keratitis Conjunctiva Sicca (AKA chronic dry eye) is a significant decrease in tear reduction, and is caused by destruction of the tear glands by the dog’s immune system. It can lead to blindness if it’s not treated appropriately, and the condition is very painful. Dogs with dry chronic dry eye may blink excessively, rub their eyes, and keep them shut.
Conjunctivitis in dogs is inflammation of the mucous membrane that covers the eyeballs, and can be caused by a bacteria, virus, or environmental irritants. If your dog has red eyes and eye boogers, swelling and eye discomfort, these may be signs of conjunctivitis. Speak with your veterinarian.
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