The stuff that weeps out of your cat’s or dog’s eyes goes by many names: tears, discharge, mucus, eye boogers, eye goo, and eye gunk. While occasional liquid discharge from the eyes is normal, regular discharge may signal that something more serious is going on. We’ll go over what you need to look out for and how to care for your pet’s runny eyes.
What Causes Runny Eyes?
Runny eyes in dogs and cats are often caused by an allergic reaction or else something physical, like a stuck eyelash or dust or wind blown into the eyes. When something irritates the eye, it becomes lubricated to protect the eye and move the foreign body out. However, that lubrication may result in an overflow that causes tears and staining.
More serious causes of runny eyes include conjunctivitis (pink eye), dry eye, brain or nerve injury, tumors, glaucoma, corneal ulcers, ectropion, entropion, and other eye disorders. In addition, certain breeds are more susceptible to draining issues.
For example, dogs and cats with flat faces -- such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Persian cats -- often have shallower eye sockets, protruding eyes, and eyelid problems that may result in excess drainage. And dogs with loose skin -- like Bloodhounds and Cocker Spaniels -- often have eyelids that roll outwards and are more prone to cherry eye, a condition in which part of the inner eyelid bulges out. Both of these issues can cause tearing and infection, and may require surgery.
What to Look Out For
If the stuff coming out of your pet’s eyes is watery and light in color and your pet’s eyes look otherwise normal, chances are there is no reason for concern. However, if tearing is continuous -- even if it is watery and light in color -- contact your veterinarian.
If the stuff coming out of your pet’s eyes is yellow, green, or pus-like, you may be looking at an infection. Redness, inflammation, cloudiness, bleeding from the eye, squinting, rubbing, or pawing at the eye may also signal an infection or other problem.
What to Do About Runny Eyes
If the “goo” coming from your pet’s eyes is yellow, green, or pus-like or if they are exhibiting any other symptoms, contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s symptoms, come up with a diagnosis, and design a treatment plan.
If the stuff coming from your pet’s eyes is watery and light in color, wipe it away with a warm, wet towel, damp cotton ball, or eye wipe. Remember that bacteria feeds on mucus, so you don’t want to leave it lingering on your furball’s face for too long. Wipe outward from the cornea and be careful not to touch the eyeball, as you could scratch it.
To deal with tear-stained fur (common in pets with white or light-colored fur), use eye wipes or a tear stain remover.
How to Prevent Runny Eyes
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent runny eyes in your dog or cat:
- Long-haired breeds can suffer eye problems and tear staining when hairs irritate the eyes and cause drainage. Avoid this problem by trimming the hairs around the eyes with small, round-tipped scissors.
- Shampoos, soaps, and topical medications/treatments can irritate the eyes. Protect your pet’s eyes when bathing them or applying topical treatments.
- Don’t let your dog hang their head out the window while you drive. It may be fun, but it’s the perfect opportunity for dust, wind, and debris to irritate your pal’s eyes.
- Keep an eye on your pet’s eyes and look out for symptoms. Your pet’s eyes should be clear, white around the iris, and crust-free. The pupils should be the same size, there should be little to no tearing, and the inner eyelids shouldn’t be visible. Also look out for behavioral symptoms, such as pawing the eyes or squinting. If you notice any symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
- Take your pet for regular check-ups at the veterinarian. This will give your vet an opportunity to examine your pet’s eyes and catch any problems before they become serious.
More on Eye Conditions
When Dogs Get Cataracts
Cat And Dog Glaucoma
Dealing With Your Dog's Dry Eye