Dog Eye Gunk—What Is It, How You Should Clean It, and When to Get Worried


Dog eye gunk. Gross, right? If you’re reading while eating, here’s your warning: we’re about to get into the gory details about the causes and symptoms of your dog’s eye discharge. Yep. Dog eye discharge can be alarming, but it’s not always the sign of a big problem. This eye gunk can be watery and clear, or crusty and pus-like. In brief, the top causes for your dog’s eye gunk include allergiesconjunctivitis, epiphora, anddry eye. Read on for the necessary details.

What is eye gunk, anyway?

Actually, the more medically correct name is eye discharge. It can range from a clear, watery discharge (likely caused by allergies or a foreign body in the eye, like an eyelash or dust) to a yellow-green puss-like discharge with a tendency to crust, which is a sign of a bigger problem. Think of it kind of like your own eyes (or nose!), and always err on the side of caution—without treatment, the worst-case scenario looks like blindness or losing the eye entirely. If you’re unsure, take your dog to the vet and get a professional opinion.

Allergies, infection—what are all the causes?

Conjunctivitis. Or, as we humans call it, pink eye—the tell-tale sign that something seriously isn’t right. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and inner layer of the eyelid, often paired with that yellow-green puss-like discharge that crusts overnight, as well as bloodshot whites and excessive blinking or itching. Some cases are viral, others are bacterial, and some can be attributed to allergies or even tumors. The key? Seeing the vet at the first sign of symptoms and nailing down the cause so it can be treated—it’ll likely include antibiotics and soothing washes to keep any serious damage at bay.

EpiphoraSome dogs—and humans, for that matter—have constant watery, teary eyes. But with epiphora, or excessive tearing, the eyes are, well, just that: excessively wet. The problem lies in the duct not being able to properly dispose of excess tearing, which is especially common in flat-faced breeds. Sometimes, the stream of tears can result in the darkened fur around the eyes sometimes seen in light-colored dogs. It can also lead to infected, or smelly, skin. The cause? It really runs the gamut—it could be a result of the aforementioned conjunctivitis or allergies, a duct problem, an eyelash growing where it shouldn’t, or even glaucoma. Visit the vet to figure out what’s causing it, then treat accordingly—in some cases, epiphora requires surgery.

Dry eye. The official term? Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS for short. The opposite of constant watery, teary eyes? Uncomfortable, itchy, dried out eyes that not only have no lubrication, but also lack the ability to flush away irritants or infections that could cause some serious harm. Without tears, the whites of the eyes turn brown in an effort to protect at all costs, and that yellow-green discharge appears. Causes range from infections to tear duct issues to side-effects of anesthesia or antibiotics. Blindness can occur if untreated, so make sure to visit your vet and get the help your dog needs.

Can I clean it with my fingers?

Yes and no. If there are signs of a serious infection, take your dog to the vet and make sure everything clears out okay. If it’s run-of-the-mill gunk (everyone gets sleepies now and again!), there are special drops for dogs, or you can take a clean, damp towel and gently remove the build-up around the eyes. The key here is to be careful, as it’s a sensitive area. If your dog has long hair that may be contributing to the problem, clean the hair and trim it regularly—this is an issue especially in flat-faced or smaller toy dogs.

What’s normal, and when should I worry?

Our eyes, and our dogs’ eyes, need lubrication to function normally. When was the last time you thought about the consistency of your own eyes’ lubrication? Probably the last time they were excessively wet, or excessively dry, or excessively gunky. And you were probably blinking, squinting, touching them, showing physical signs of infection or irritation, etc. The same holds true for your dog. It’s normal until it’s not. Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs or noticeable changes in your dog’s eye discharge and pawing at the eyes, and seek vet care to make sure your furry friends’ eyes are healthy and happy.



We have had dogs for all of our lives.   Small ones. and large ones.   All of them had some form of eye discharge.    The French Poodle, Shitsu. Lasa, and  Schnauzer were the worst.    But it was normal for these dogs.    Our Doberman Pinchers always woke up in the morning with little balls of eye discharge in each corner – easily wiped away with just a tissue.    Watching the discharge for changing smells or color is very important and clean the area accordingly.

Make sure that you share your love with your pets each and every day!.