Your dog's eye, like yours, produces discharge in the form of tears to clean the eye and remove debris, such as dust, dirt, and pollen from the eye surface. This is part of a natural process where tear ducts produce tears that wash the surface of the eye each time your dog blinks and is necessary to keep the eye healthy.
However, excessive discharge of “healthy” tears, or discharge as a sign of infection or disease need to be addressed. Your dog can experience problem discharge from any of a host of reasons. Allergies are most common, but serious disorders can also be responsible, such as bacterial infections or glaucoma, which is a buildup of excessive pressure in your dog's eye that can result in loss of vision.
Sometimes, a natural buildup of excess tears results in a reddish brown stain on your dog's nose, extending from the corner of their eyes, that can prove unsightly. Pet owners whose dogs are experiencing problem eye discharge need to determine if it is just a cosmetic issue that needs to be addressed or if an underlying medical condition that requires treatment is responsible. The following signs are indicative of a medical condition that needs addressing:
Yellow or green discharge that signifies infection
Eyelids crusted over
Red inflamed eyes
Presence of nasal discharge
Foul smell to discharge
Pain, indicated by your dog interfering with or rubbing eyes
Because your dog's eyes are delicate structures, critical for sight, any disorder present in the eye should be examined and addressed. Regularly monitoring your dog's eye health is advisable for pet owners, and obtaining treatment for medical conditions affecting the eyes is important. There are several things pet owners can do to promote their dog's eye health and reduce the likelihood of their dog experiencing problems with eye discharge.
Causes and Prevention Eye Discharge in Dogs
Your dog naturally produces tears to bathe their eyes from irritants and dirt that affect the eye. If tearing is excessive it may be that your dog’s eyes have been exposed to an excess amount of debris. Ensuring that your dog's eyes are protected on windy days from dust, pollen, and other contaminants will help reduce an excess production of tears. Keeping your dog indoors or providing him with doggy “goggles” to protect his eyes can reduce contaminants from affecting your dog eyes. Providing lubricating eye drops to your dog's eyes may help alleviate this condition, and regulate his natural tear production so excess tears are not produced.
Some dogs are just genetically prone to producing excess tears. Certain breeds, such as brachycephalic breeds, spaniels, and terriers may produce excess tears and experience reddish brown staining or crust buildup in the corner of their eyes. Examining your dog's eyes regularly to ensure that discharge is not indicating a more serious disorder and cleaning away excess discharge will help prevent unsightly stains and crusts from forming. Warm water and a sterile cloth should be used, and any work around the eyes should be done gently and carefully to prevent injury to these delicate structures. Removing excess hair from your dog's eye area may also help reduce irritation in the area and eye discharge, but remember some hair around the eye may also help trap dirt and debris before it enters your dog's eye, so finding a happy medium that works best for your dog may be necessary.
Another common cause of eye discharge in your dog is allergies. Dogs suffer from allergies, like humans do, although not usually to pet dander, thank goodness! Pollens, mold, and food are common allergens in dogs. Dogs tend to experience skin inflammation as part of their allergies, but can also experience nasal and eye discharge. Allergy discharge is usually clear and runny. Allergies can be prevented or treated with antihistamines, steroids, or avoidance of the allergen. Treatment of the allergy and associated symptoms, will prevent eye discharge from allergens.
An injury or foreign body in your dog's eye can result in your dog's body producing an excessive amount of tears to lubricate the eye surface in an attempt to wash out the object or lubricate the injury to allow healing. Injuries can result in bacterial infections and need to be monitored, and infections treated if they occur. If a foreign body is stuck in your dog's eye, using eye drops to help flush it out, or seeking veterinary assistance to remove the object may be necessary.
Eye conditions such as conjunctivitis (inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva of the eye) or infection of the eye structures can cause red, inflamed eyes and colored yellow-green discharge. Antibiotic eye drops are usually successful at treating bacterial eye infections. Discourage your dog from rubbing or scratching their eye to also prevent infections from occurring.
Serious disorders of the eye, such as cherry eye, or glaucoma, may result in excessive production of tears. If symptoms of these disorders appear, veterinary intervention and medication is necessary to address the condition and eye discharge.
Diet and Nutrition
Providing your dog with a healthy diet and supplements to promote eye health such as vitamins D and C, and beta carotene, may help avoid eye disorders that cause eye discharge. Also avoiding using collars that put pressure on the neck and contribute to pressure in the head and face area will help avoid eye disorders and excessive pressure in, and discharge from, the eyes.
Tear Duct Anomalies
Genetic anomalies with the eye or tear ducts can result in an excess discharge of tears. Preventing this is difficult; choosing a dog from a reputable breeder that has screened for such disorders and promoting your dog's general health and eye health may reduce issues associated with eye discharge.
Dry eye from a disease such as distemper, an injury, or immune system disorder attacking tear ducts can occur. Although it sounds like dry eye would be an absence of discharge, what eventually occurs is that a thick sticky discharge occurs. Getting your dog vaccinated for distemper and other preventable diseases, protecting your dog from eye injuries, and monitoring your dog's overall health to identify immune system disorders and address overall health can prevent the development of the condition
Importance of Preventing Eye Discharge
Eye discharge can be messy and associated with a medical condition, which can be both painful and damaging to your dog's eyes and overall health. Monitoring your dog's eye health to identify medical conditions not only prevents eye discharge and eye disorders, but will have benefits to your dog's overall health if conditions are identified early. If eye disorder is not prevented, it can have permanent effects on your dog's vision, resulting in caring for a dog suffering from permanent vision loss, which can be difficult for both the dog and owners.
More than Meets the Eye
Your dog's eyes are delicate, complex structures which have their own mechanism, tear production, for maintaining a clean, disease-free eye surface. However, if this system becomes impaired or overwhelmed by irritants, disease, infection, or injury an overproduction of tears, lack of drainage, or signs of disease in eye discharge such as discoloration or odor, can result.
Monitoring your dog's eye health to address and prevent problems with your dog's eyes is important for preventing eye discharge. Many diseases and disorders such as glaucoma, allergies, dry eye, cherry eye, conjunctivitis, and injury or trauma to the eye can result in discharge. Preventing these disorder will preserve eye health and vision and prevent eye discharge from occurring. Some dogs and some dog breeds are more prone to eye disorders, or natural production of eye discharge. In these dogs, extra vigilance to identify conditions and regular cleaning of the eye area may be necessary.