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 the 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 feed 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for dogs to have watery eyes?
Some degree of tearing or watery eyes is normal in dogs, just like in humans. Tears help to lubricate and protect the eyes and also flush out any irritants or foreign particles that may enter the eye. Some dogs may produce clear, yellow, or green discharge from their eyes, and the color and consistency of the discharge can provide clues to the underlying cause. However, not all dogs with excessive tearing or discharge necessarily have an eye problem. Some dogs, especially those with certain breeds or facial features like flat noses or prominent eyes, may produce more tears than others. Additionally, environmental factors like wind or dry air can cause increased tear production in dogs, and emotional stress or excitement can also lead to watery eyes. If you're concerned about your dog's tearing or discharge, it's always best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if there is an underlying problem.
What can I give my dog for watery eyes?
The treatment for watery eyes in dogs depends on the underlying cause. If the cause of watery eyes is an eye infection or inflammation, your vet may prescribe eye drops or ointments to help reduce inflammation and kill any bacteria or viruses. If your dog's watery eyes are due to allergies, your vet may recommend giving antihistamines or other allergy medications to relieve the symptoms. In some cases, a dog's tear production may be insufficient, leading to dry eyes and increased tearing. Your vet may prescribe medications to stimulate tear production and help alleviate the symptoms. If the cause of watery eyes is a structural problem like entropion (inward rolling of the eyelids) or ectropion (outward rolling of the eyelids), surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.
How do I get rid of my cat's runny eyes?
The treatment for runny eyes in cats depends on the underlying cause, so it's important to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian before attempting any treatments. If the cause of the runny eyes is an eye infection or inflammation, your vet may prescribe eye drops or ointments to reduce inflammation and treat the infection. Applying a warm, damp cloth to your cat's eyes can help soothe and clean the area. Hold the cloth gently against the eye for a few minutes at a time, several times a day. Regularly cleaning your cat's eyes with a damp cloth can help remove any debris or discharge that may be causing irritation. If your cat's runny eyes are due to allergies, your vet may recommend giving antihistamines or other allergy medications to relieve the symptoms. If the cause of runny eyes is a structural problem like a blocked tear duct or eyelid abnormality, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.
Is it bad if my cat's eye is watering?
It's not uncommon for cats to have watery eyes, and in some cases, it may not be a cause for concern. However, if your cat's eye is watering excessively or if the discharge is discolored or has an odor, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. Watery eyes in cats can be caused by a variety of issues, including eye infections, allergies, irritation, foreign bodies, or structural problems like blocked tear ducts or eyelid abnormalities. In some cases, excessive tearing can also be a sign of a more serious condition like glaucoma or a corneal ulcer. If your cat's watery eyes are accompanied by redness, swelling, or discharge, it could be a sign of conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye), which is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the tissue lining the eyelids and covering the white part of the eye). Alternatively, if your cat's watery eyes are accompanied by dilated pupils, cloudiness, or haziness in the eyes, or if your cat is squinting or rubbing their eyes frequently, it could be a sign of glaucoma, which is a condition that causes increased pressure within the eye and can lead to vision loss if left untreated. Other symptoms that may accompany watery eyes in cats include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, or loss of appetite, depending on the underlying cause.
How to clean a dog's eyes?
Cleaning your dog's eyes can help keep them healthy and prevent eye infections. You will need a clean cloth or cotton ball and a bowl of warm water. Dip the cloth or cotton ball in warm water and squeeze out the excess water. Hold your dog's head steady with one hand, and use the other hand to gently wipe the area around the eye with a damp cloth or cotton ball. Be sure to wipe away any dirt or debris, but avoid rubbing or applying too much pressure to the eye itself. Use a dry cloth or towel to pat the area around the eye dry gently. Repeat the process on your dog's other eye. Lastly, give your dog a treat and lots of praise to reward them for being still and cooperative during the eye-cleaning process.
More on Eye Conditions
When Dogs Get Cataracts
Cat And Dog Glaucoma
Dealing With Your Dog's Dry Eye