You’re probably used to your dog’s eye boogers … but do you ever find yourself wondering why he gets them so often, and if they’re always healthy and natural?
Let’s break down what causes eye boogers in dogs, and what your options are when it comes to treating or preventing them.
What Causes Dog Eye Boogers?
The vast majority of the time, dog eye boogers are natural and nothing to worry about. However, there are times when certain kinds of eye boogers might have more serious implications.
Here are the different causes of dog eye boogers, and how to tell these causes apart from one another:
1. Common Eye Goop
The most common cause of dog eye boogers is just harmless eye goop or a bit of crust that forms from dried tears, usually while your dog is sleeping.
Tears are essential to eye health as they provide oxygen to your dog’s cornea and help clear debris from the surface of the eye. Tears usually drain from tear ducts at the inner corner of each eye. When these tears evaporate, sometimes a little bit of goop or crust (AKA eye boogers) can accumulate in this area. These dog eye boogers are perfectly harmless: a mixture of mucus, dust, dried tears, etc. Usually, they appear clear in color.
Eye goop is especially common in the morning or after long naps. As long as your dog’s eyes aren’t red and he isn’t showing signs of discomfort (squinting, rubbing his eyes, highly sensitive to light, etc) it’s likely his eye boogers are of this harmless variety.
2. Allergies Or Irritants
Allergies and irritants can cause watery eyes and may lead to excess eye goop. So if you notice a large increase in dog eye boogers, it’s possible he’s had a reaction to an allergy or irritant.
If he simply received a face full of dirt, pollen, or dust, extra tearing is natural and is just helping clear his eyes out and keep him healthy. The real problem is if his eyes continue to stay teary, or if he develops red eyes, discharge, or discomfort. In this case, you want to speak to your veterinarian.
Generally speaking, if you notice your dog has a slight increase in tearing, but his eyes look normal apart from that, you can monitor the situation for a day or two. If it doesn’t resolve or worsen, or he develops other symptoms, then contact your veterinarian.
3. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Just like humans, dogs can develop conjunctivitis or pink eye. This is an infection of the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eyeball.
One common conjunctivitis symptom is eye discharge, which can sometimes look similar to dog eye boogers. However, the big difference to watch out for is that eye discharge caused by conjunctivitis will usually be green, yellow, or cloudy, rather than the clear colored dog eye boogers that you’re used to seeing. Usually, the eye will also be red and uncomfortable.
While pink eye is common, and you can treat it using home remedies, you may want to get a vet exam if your dog gets pink eye often. Eye infections that recur can be a sign of a weakened immune system. So … sometimes what appears to be an eye infection is a symptom of a bigger problem elsewhere in the body.
4. Tear Stains
When your dog’s tears dry and evaporate, sometimes they’ll leave more than just eye boogers behind. Dogs with a light-colored coat can get red or brown “tear stains” around the same area where eye boogers appear (the inner eyes). Again, this is just a cosmetic concern, and nothing to worry about. It’s actually caused by a pigment in your dog’s tears known as porphyrin, which turns reddish-brown when exposed to the air for prolonged periods.
If the appearance of the stains bothers you, you can try to minimize them by wiping the area a few times a day with a warm, damp washcloth, or keeping the fur around your dog’s eyes trimmed shorter.
Changing diet can also help. Commercial kibbles contain many ingredients that can aggravate tear stains, so switching to a fresh, whole food diet can often reduce tear stains. Just remember that it can take some time for the stained fur to grow out, so don’t expect changes to be obvious and immediate.
5. Dry Eye
Finally, there is a condition known as dry eye, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS. This is when a dog’s immune system attacks the tear glands. It’s a serious condition, as KCS can produce discomfort and even blindness if left untreated.
With dry eye, the eyes become red and painful from a lack of tears. Ulcers may also develop. Since there are fewer tears, the eyes try to overcompensate and produce more mucus. This mucus can appear as dog eye boogers, which in this case they usually have a white-gray appearance.
So if you notice lots of white-gray mucus accumulating around your dog’s eyes, make an appointment with your veterinarian or veterinary eye specialist … especially if there are other symptoms of dryness, like redness and pain.
How To Get Rid Of Or Prevent Dog Eye Boogers
Eye infections and more serious eye conditions that sometimes produce eye boogers, such as dry eye, will require treatment from your vet, or preferably a veterinary eye specialist.
However, if you’re just looking to treat or prevent common dog eye boogers and goop when your dog wakes up in the morning, there’s not a ton you can do to prevent this. Since the boogers are caused by tears, and tears are a natural way that the eye keeps itself healthy, you don’t really want to interfere with this process too much. Getting rid of dog eye boogers is simple, the best thing to do is clean your dog’s eyes briefly when you both wake up in the morning. You can do this with a damp washcloth or cotton balls.
Keeping your dog well groomed and the hair around his eyes regularly trimmed can prevent irritants like dust from accumulating. Keeping potential allergens and irritants like cleaning products, shampoos, soaps, and more away from the eyes will also help keep his eyes healthy. Aside from that, monitor your dog to make sure he isn’t displaying any eye illness symptoms, like redness, discomfort, or discharge.