When everything is working as it should, your dog's eye washes itself. Tears bathe the surface of your dog's eyes, keeping them lubricated and washing away dirt and debris that gets in the eye. Sometimes, however, debris, hair, or noxious substances contaminate the eye or overwhelm your dog's natural ability to clean the eye with tear production. Also, if a bacterial infection gets in the eye, or if there is an injury, tears may not be able to adequately bathe the eye or may overflow, leaving unsightly stains around the corners of your dog's eye and down his nose. In these cases, your dog may need your assistance to wash out his eye. An isotonic solution can be used to wash your dog's eye out prior to applying medication for injury or infection or to rinse out a substance or debris in the eye. This may need to be repeated 2 or 3 times daily, depending on the condition, until the issue is resolved. Because eyes are delicate structures you will need to be careful and make sure you are using an appropriate solution for cleaning. It is always advisable to seek veterinary advice if your dog is experiencing an injury or condition in his eye, before using eye washes, to ensure appropriate treatment is obtained.
No one likes having their eye washed out! Not only is having a solution applied to the eyes uncomfortable, but if your dog is experiencing an injury or infection in the eye his eyes will be extra sensitive. You will need to convince your dog to let you wash out eyes to make it a more positive experience, especially if you will need to be repeating the procedure over several days. Treats and positive reinforcement is always appreciated. Work slowly and carefully, and do not poke your dog's eye with applicators, which will make your dog avoid future eye washing procedures.
Working around your dog's eye can be intimidating for him and for you. Sometimes, however, eye washing is necessary to prep for medication, wash out gunk or a harmful substance, or to rinse out excessive dust and hair your dog has been exposed to. Taking care to ensure that your dog is properly immobilized, and working in a secure area with good light and sterile tools, will help you ensure that your dog's eye is washed in a safe manner. Take your time and reassure your dog--it's not a race, after all! Better safe than sorry, when working around your dog's eye.