Why Does My Dog Have Eye Boogers?

You want your dog to be as comfortable and happy as possible. Sometimes, you notice that he has boogers in his eyes, and you feel bad that he has to deal with them.

Close-up of Australian Shepherd's eye
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You try to wipe them off when you can, but you're curious about why they're there in the first place. Is there anything wrong with your dog, or is it natural? Does it happen to every dog?

Learning about what eye boogers actually are is the initial step in learning how to treat them.

What are eye boogers?

Eye boogers are discharge. When your dog gets something in his eye, such as a foreign body like dirt or a long hair, the eye cleans itself by making an eye booger. Usually, eye boogers are caused by something harmless, but if they are yellow and/or you notice that your dog's eyes look different, he may be experiencing some type of medical issue like an eye infection.

Causes of eye boogers and infections

Aside from dirt and long hair, a few other things can cause eye boogers or an eye infection in your dog. He may have contracted a virus, or fungus or bacteria may be causing him problems. Your dog may also have allergies to indoor allergens like cleaning products and dust, or he may be allergic to pollen and dander outside.

If your dog's tear ducts are blocked, that could be causing the eye boogers. This typically happens to dogs with eye sockets that are shallow. It's also possible that your dog has epiphora, or overly teary eyes. If there are brown stains under your dog's eyes or the area around his eyes is always wet, epiphora might be occurring.

Close-Up Of Dog Looking Away
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Pink eye is another possibility. Eye boogers that resemble pus, as well as redness around the eyes, could mean that your dog has pink eye. If your dog is pawing at his eyes or you notice him squinting a lot, pink eye could be the culprit.

Dry eye, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, shows up in the form of thick mucus around the eyes. Your dog may also have crust in the corners of his eyes if he is dealing with dry eye.

Glaucoma, which frequently occurs in senior dogs, could be affecting your dog as well. Clouded eyes, vision loss, and eye bulging are all signs of glaucoma.

Cleaning your dog’s eyes

If you're only noticing eye boogers and no other symptoms, then you can do a simple eye cleaning on your dog. Wet a washcloth with warm water and wipe around your pup's eyes. Remember to use different parts of the washcloth for each eye, just in case one eye has bacteria in it. You don't want it getting in the other eye accidentally. Also, don't wipe the eyes themselves, only the areas around them.

You can also use wipes that are made for dogs. Never use scented wet wipes, because these could irritate your pup. Again, don't attempt to wipe your dog's eyes.

Give your dog regular baths using dog shampoo, and ask your groomer to clip any long hair around the eyes to prevent it from irritating your dog's eyes and causing boogers. You can even buy special goggles for your dog to prevent eye problems.

As long as the eye boogers don't signal that there's an infection, and your dog doesn't seem bothered by them, you can also leave the eye boogers alone.

Close-up of a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog's eye.
credit: Kent Sampson/iStock/GettyImages

Going to the vet for eye boogers

Once you've noticed yellow discharge, inflammation, cloudy eyes, and eye bulging, it's time to call the vet. You'll also want to take note if your dog is pawing at his eyes, rubbing them on the ground, or seems like he's uncomfortable or experiencing pain. Likely, your vet will do a bacterial culture, allergy tests, visual eye exams, and a Schirmer Tear Test to see if your dog is producing the normal amount of tears.

If there are any issues, your vet will likely give you medicated eye drops and/or ointment to treat your dog. With a little bit of preventative care and vet-directed treatment when issues arise, you can keep your dog from experiencing eye boogers in the future.

Conclusion

Eye boogers alone are normal and not a cause for concern. If your dog only has eye boogers and no other symptoms, you can wash their eyes with a washcloth and warm water. However, if your dog has other symptoms, like inflammation, yellow discharge, cloudy eyes, or eye bulging, call your veterinarian to make sure your dog does not have an eye infection.