Why Do Dogs Get Eye Boogers?

Are you constantly wiping dog eye boogers?

Dog eye discharge can be a tricky thing to deal with. What is normal? When should we start worrying about our puppy’s eyes?

This article will talk more about why dogs get eye discharge and when it’s time for concern.

Dog eye boogers (aka eye discharge) are relatively common and typically NOT a cause for concern. As a Labradoodle owner, I spend a fair bit of time cleaning my dog’s face! This is because of a specific breed trait (from the Poodle side)

why do dogs get eye boogers
Why do dogs get eye boogers? And how to prevent (and clean tear stains)

Causes of Dog Eye Discharge

Dogs get eye discharge because of allergies, dry eyes, or irritation from the environment. Some breeds are more prone to getting it than others. 

It could just come from the dog’s natural body fluids, or it might have something to do with their allergies and/or infection in that area.

The most common cause for this type of buildup, though, are overactive tear ducts. The majority of dog eye discharge is breed-specific normal discharge. 

How To Clean Dog Eye Boogers

If your dog has eye discharge, it’s essential to clean the area around their eyes. Cleaning them will help prevent infection and keep things looking healthy! 

There are a few different ways you can do this: You could use warm water (with or without soap) on cotton balls, gently wipe away any buildup with Q-tips dipped in cleaning solution, or just use a budget-friendly impregnated eye wipe.

Some people wait for the eye booger to dry then use their nails to tease it away from the hair. This is not a great way to approach it, though, as the hair has a tendency to become knotted or discolored. There is also a higher risk of undesirable bacteria lurking in the booger. Yuck!

cleaning puppy eye stain
Cleaning the tear stain (and eye gunk) away from a puppy’s eyes is simple in theory… harder in practice.

6 Steps to Clean Dog Eye Gunk

  1. First, wet the cloth with warm water (plain water works or using explicitly pet-friendly soap or shampoo)
  2. If you do use eyewash soap (dog formula), it will help break down any dirt or debris that may be in their eye area and reduce staining or smell
  3. Gently wipe away anything around your dog’s eye area to remove it from fur (deeper down close skin). 
  4. You can also use cotton balls for this step if you prefer them over using an actual rag/cloth
  5. Rinse out whatever was used on their face frequently as you don’t want to spread the gunk or bacteria back to the eyes
  6. Gently dry off everything thoroughly before letting your dog enjoy itself again

Don’t use tissue or paper towels to clean dogs’ eyes cause they can either be too rough or disintegrate. This can make the cleanup more difficult, abode the gentle skin near the eye – or worst case, get little bits caught in your dog’s eyes. Not worth the hassle – stick with cotton or wipes.

Angel's Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes for Dogs and Cats - 100 Ct - Presoaked Textured (AEGTSW100)
  • FEATURES: Presoaked and textured wipes used to remove dried mucus, secretions, and tear stains
  • USE: Apply daily to your dog or cat to keep eye exterior clean
  • BENEFITS: Reduces eye irritations and itching in your pet
  • SAFE TO USE: Can be give to puppies or kittens over 6 weeks
  • EASY TO USE: No rinsing needed

Dealing with Poodle Eye Stain

a gray poodle in the grass outside
A Miniature gray Poodle enjoying the outdoors.

Eye stain (known as Poodle eye stain even though it affects many breeds) is a widespread problem for dogs. It is caused by a buildup of oils and debris in the hair around their eyes. Lighter-colored coats are more susceptible to tear staining, which can be a nightmare to remove.

If you have a dog with tear stains, many products on the market can help. There is no one product to rule them all. Some work better than others depending upon your particular needs or preferences. Still, it’s worth trying out different ones until something works!

Some common treatments for Poodle tear stains include: 

Tear stain remover wipes – These pre-moistened cloths come in handy when cleaning up after walks. Hence, they’re perfect if eye staining has become an issue recently (or even just as part-time maintenance). These wipes don’t require any rinsing afterward, which makes life easier too because we know how much some dogs dislike water other face

Whitening shampoo – some dogs need specific shampoo designed to remove darker stains around the eyes. Maltese dogs and other white and clear white coated dogs sometimes need these treatments. Read the instructions carefully, as these are sometimes more caustic than the ultra-gentle puppy shampoos we are used too.

I try to avoid tear stains by using wipes (we use premade one for convenience, but water and a clean cloth works too). The aim is to avoid having to use any tear-stain removal products. The extra work or more frequent eye cleaning reduces the frequency of tear stain treatments.

Angel's Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes for Dogs and Cats - 100 Ct - Presoaked Textured (AEGTSW100)
  • FEATURES: Presoaked and textured wipes used to remove dried mucus, secretions, and tear stains
  • USE: Apply daily to your dog or cat to keep eye exterior clean
  • BENEFITS: Reduces eye irritations and itching in your pet
  • SAFE TO USE: Can be give to puppies or kittens over 6 weeks
  • EASY TO USE: No rinsing needed

For knotting or severe tear stains, a trip to a dog groomer is a great option to knock the stains away in one fell swoop. They will have heavier duty (but dog safe) products and equipment on hand and can deal with it for you. From there maximise routine preventative care and stop excessive eye boogers.

When to worry about Dog Eye Boogers

tear stains and dog eye boogers
Tear stains and eye boogers can leave dark staining on lighter coats

If your dog has eye discharge, it is essential to know if they are in any pain or discomfort. Suppose the eyes have a greenish-yellow coloration around them. In that case, this could indicate infection that needs immediate attention from their Vet! 

Medical Causes of dog eye discharge include Epiphora, Conjunctivitis, Canine Dry Eyes, or Entropion

Although we are health and dog experts and health writers – we are absolutely not Veterinarians. For advice about medical conditions we take our dogs to the qualified experts and trust their advice. You should too! The motto with dogs (our best friends and family members) is that if something is not right – seek professional health advice from a Vet – and no one else.

Epiphora as a cause of dog eye discharge

Epiphora is when the tear ducts are overactive. This results in excess tears and a watery eye. This can be caused by allergies, stress or a blockage in their eye which needs to get cleared up with medical attention from your veterinarian.

Epiphora is also known as “watery eyes” and often causes dogs discomfort because of all that extra liquid. If the discharge is less eye booger and more persistent moisture – this may be a cause! This is an obvious candidate for a fast trip to the Vet.

Conjunctivitis as a cause of Dog Eye Discharge

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which are tissues that line and protect your eye. It can be caused by a virus or bacteria in some cases but it’s usually from allergies (like pollen). The symptoms for this include redness around their eyes as well as persistent discharge coming out.

Just like for people – any suspicion of this condition ill require medical care. If eye discharge is out of the ordinary then seek that Vet help!

Canine Dry Eyes as a cause of Dog Eye Gunk

Inadequate tears (known as keratojunctivitis sicca) can cause the eyes to become inflamed and produce eye boogers in your dogs eyes. 

The most common cause of canine keratoconjunctivitis sicca are allergies or inflammation in their tear ducts (autoimmune or otherwise). Sometimes it is temporary and other times it is permanent.

Treatment ranges depending not he cause of the chronic dry eye. Symptomatic treatment is sometimes eye drops. For acute or speicif causes Vets sometimes prescribe medications or antibiotics.

This is another condition you don’t want to delay diagnosis and treatment.

boy with pug puppy
A boy with a Pug puppy

Dog Entropion Causing Eye Discharge

Entropion is a condition where the dog’s eyelid turns inward and rubs against your dog’s eye. It can cause inflammation, ulcers, or scarring of their cornea, resulting in discharge (boogers or gunk) from their eyes! 

This kind of eye issue needs to be treated by an experienced veterinarian right away because it could lead to permanent damage. The condition is genetic and can effect many dog breeds.

What if its allergies that cause your dogs eye boogers?

Allergies in dogs are a common cause of excess tear duct production, runny eyes or watery discharge, tear drainage block, and indeed eye boogers.

Signs that your dog may have an allergic reaction to something include 

  • Excessive licking, scratching or rubbing of the dog’s face and eyes (this includes pawing at the eyes)
  • Redness on their skin around nose area (rhinitis) and/or ears that is not caused by a bacterial infection such as ear mites 
  • Runny eyes with discharge or excessive tearing

Some allergies are environmental (like dust) and others are from the diet (and require special dog food to avoid). Terriers, Setters, and Pugs are some of the breeds prone to allergies.

5 Dog Breeds that Get More Eye Problems

Dogs with short noses like Pugs, English Bulldog, and Shih Tzus are more prone to eye problems. These breeds have a higher risk of developing dry eyes because their shorter nose makes it harder for them to get enough air flow over the surface area in front on its face, leading to tear production or infection! 

Other dog breed get eye problems due to large eyes or genetic issues that result in unprotected eyeballs. Some more breeds at risk for eye problems include Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. 

Some dogs have a higher chance of developing dry eyes or eye infection because their large eyeballs can’t blink as often to protect the surface area from drying out!

puppy at the vet with owners one adult one child
A cute puppy enjoying a Vet visit

Why Do Dogs Get Eye Boogers Conclusions

As the owner of a Labradoodle – I am used to cleaning up a little eye booger. It is part and parcel of owning a dog!

Many dogs will experience tear stain or eye boogers. For some it will be an “all the time” thing. For others it will be seasonal. What you don’t want to see is any rapid change in eye discharge. If you do suspect an eye problem – grab a phone and call your Vet.

Luckily most of the time it is routine boring Poodle eye/eye gunk – and it can be easily cleaned using just water and cloth – or the dog friendly products mentioned above.