Why are my dog's eyes goopy?

Why are my dog’s eyes goopy?


            When answering this question, I need to ask a question of my own— What breed is your dog?  Certain breeds of dogs are known for having a‘normally’  increased eye discharge. Rottweilers and English Bulldogs have more goopy eye discharge and small breed dogs such as Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas often have a brownish or clear discharge. This may be normal. If your dog’s eyes have suddenly started producing more goopy tears, then there is most likely a problem we need to figure out!


            Breed Predisposition?:  When we see this type of discharge in certain breeds, it might not be a health issue— as long as the dog seems comfortable (not blinking or squinting a lot) and the white of his eyes aren’t really irritated (bloodshot.)


            There are also certain breeds that are known for having extra skin folds under the eyes (English Bulldog and Shar Pei, for example), and this may cause the eyelids to swell and rotate inward— resulting in the eyelashes rubbing directly on the eye. This may be a very serious problem that can result in corneal ulcer and even blindness if not addressed quickly and correctly.


            Environmental Causes:If your dog is blinking and squinting a lot, or his eyes or eyelids are red and inflamed, then he probably has a problem we need to treat. Sometimes eye problems just occur in one eye, and other times they may occur in both.


            Exposure to wind, dust, smoke or hanging his head out the car window mayirritate a dog’s eyes.  So, if your dog’s eyes seem extra irritated, it’s time to ask “What could be causing it?”


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            In these cases, there may be enough swelling of the eye’s normal drainage pipeline (the nasolacrimal duct), that the tears cannot drain into the nose as they’re supposed to.  The use of ear flushes and anti-inflammatory ointments can be quite helpful.


            Allergies.  You don’t have to have allergies to react when the air quality is poor. If you do have allergies . . . well, you’re going to probalby have dry, itchy and irritated eyes on bad days. The same is true for dogs.  During peak Hay Fever season, the air quality also tends to decrease— there is often more dust and other irritants (including allergens and pollen) in the air.


            Dry Eye.Some dogs may develop an abnormally dry eye for a number of reasons. Dry eye is always a surprising diagnosis for the owner, because a “dry eye” is actually extra goopy!  In these cases, the eye has stopped producing the watery tears that provide nutrition to the eye and isover-producing mucous tears to compensate.  Some cases have Dry Eye have underlying causes such as Underactive Thyroid Gland, Drug Reaction and Allergies.  Once correctly identified, these conditions are treatable!


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            Serious Infections.Eye problems are not something to be trifled with. The clear part of the eye (the cornea) does not have a healing blood supply, so an eye problem can go from mild to vision threatening very quickly.  Glaucoma, eyelid tumors and other abnormal conditions of the eye need to be identified and treated quickly for optimal results.

            Don’t mess with the eye!  Even if your pet’s problem isn’t serious, it is still irritating and may even be painful. Remember, pet’s don’t display pain as readily as people do. If your pet is showing even mild signs of an eye issue, it may be a major problem.  


This is not a complete list of possible eye problems!  Whole textbooks are dedicated to the eye.

by Dr. Jon Klingborg, DVM