Eye discharge in dogs – what does it mean if your dog has runny eyes?

Many dog owners will be familiar with their dogs sometimes having runny eyes and largely, this is nothing to worry about – but sometimes runny eyes can be associated with more serious health conditions.  Holidays4Dogs finds out more about what to look out for and when to be concerned.

Tears in animals play an important part in helping to maintain clear, healthy eyes and vision.  Not only do tears remove debris from the surface of the eye, they also provide oxygen to the cornea, (the layer of clear tissue that covers the surface of the eye).

Sometimes however, the tubes (or ducts) that tears drain though can become blocked with dry tears, dust, dead cells and mucous and this can produce a crusty deposit around the eyes – in humans many people refer to this as having ‘sleep’ in their eyes as it often occurs after a long nights sleep.

Flakiness around the eyes is normal if the dog has been sleeping, but if this happens frequently or is accompanied by excessive discharge, red eyes and obvious discomfort such that the dog constantly rubs his eyes on furniture or carpets, it is time to make an appointment to see the vet.

Excessive watering of the eyes, (clear liquid) can be due to a number of things but is usually associated with allergies, irritants, wounds or a foreign body lodged in the eye.  If your dog’s eyes are watering a lot this is just the body’s way of trying to clear the obstruction – pollen or dust for instance – and usually this clears up within 24 – 48 hours.  If the runny eyes persist and your dog appears to be in discomfort, it is sensible to seek the advice of a vet as this could be related to other more serious conditions such as in growing eyelids or, glaucoma (an increase in eye pressure).

If your dog has reddish brown tear stains on his fur (more noticeable in light coloured dogs) this is due to tears containing a pigment called porphyrin.  Rather like the marks a dripping tap makes on a sink or bath over time – porphyrin turns reddish brown after prolonged exposure to the air.  As long as this is not accompanied by red, itchy, gloopy eyes this is usually nothing to be worried about.  To minimize the build up of stained fur, bathe your dog’s eyes several times a day with a damp cloth and keep the fur trimmed short around the eye.  You can also purchase nutritional supplements to reduce to the occurrence of red/brown staining.

Dry eye is a condition where fewer tears are produced and to compensate, the body instead produces mucous.  However, excessive mucous production can make the eyes become red and sore and there is more probability of ulcers and infections developing.  The mucous produced with dry eye is usually greyish white and if left un-treated it can result in a great deal of pain for the dog and ultimately, blindness.

Finally, yellow or green discharge from the eyes is usually a sign of infection and needs prompt veterinary attention.