Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian) (2023)

Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian) (1)

So, your dog has mucus in the eyes?

Dogs can have all kinds of discharges from their eyes, commonly called mucus. In medical terms, this is a sign of a possible problem.

But is it a true medical problem?


After the sign that there is mucus in the dog’s eyes, we need to look at the symptoms of that mucus discharge.

  • Is there a change in color or consistency of the discharge?
  • Are there any changes in the eye itself? (Very important.)
  • Is the dog showing signs of discomfort, pain or irritation?

When a Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes

There are many dogs of different ages, breeds and conformations who develop a bit of gray discharge in the corner of the eyes.

People often call these “sleepies” or something more gross like “eye boogers” or just plain old “yuck in the eyes.”

Your veterinarian should do a complete physical exam when you come in for your regular visit and do a basic ophthalmologic exam.

This will often determine if your dog has a normal, acceptable amount of discharge in the eye or if it is abnormal.

Eye Conformation

Conformation of the eyes has a lot to do with whether or not normal ocular discharge or mucus will collect in the corners.

For example, dogs with deep-set eyes, such as Chow Chows, will naturally collect mucus and you will have to help by gently cleaning out the mucus from the inner corners.


Many dogs simply produce more mucus< than others, and the discharge may collect not in the corners of the eyes but on the skin just beneath the eyes. Gently clean this away with warm water so the skin doesn't become inflamed.

Color and Consistency of Mucus in the Dog’s Eyes

The color and consistency of the mucus is extremely important in determining whether or not the discharge is normal or abnormal. Your vet can tell a great deal simply by observing your dog’s eyes.

Normal Ocular Discharge

A gray, soft mucus discharge is usually normal.

If your vet does an eye exam and determines the eyes are completely normal with no inflammation, no conjunctivitis, etc., then the gray mucus may be normal and no treatment except gentle eye cleaning is needed.

Abnormal Ocular Discharge

  • Any change in color or an acute change in the quality of the ocular discharge means there is a problem.
  • Yellow or green discharge is not normal.
  • A crusty consistency or an abnormal amount of discharge is not normal.

Frequently, with an abnormal discharge, there will be an obvious eye problem such as conjunctivitis.


Inflammation of the lining of the eye, called conjunctivitis, is a common eye problem in dogs.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis are often obvious:

  • Green/yellow discharge
  • Red eyes
  • Inflamed conjunctiva
  • Pain or itchy eyes
  • Squinting or keeping eyes closed
  • Third eyelids prominent

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Dogs

There are many causes of conjunctivitis, and you’ll need to get a diagnosis from your vet to solve the problem. In more complicated cases, you may be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Conjunctivitis is basically inflammation, so almost anything going on in the eye can result in conjunctivitis.

Here are some of the most common causes of conjunctivitis:

This is not an exhaustive list.Once the cause of conjunctivitis in the dog is diagnosed, proper treatment can begin.

Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian) (2)

Epiphora: When Your Dog Keeps Tearing Up

Epiphora is an interesting word that simply means excessive tearing. There may or may not be discharge associated with the excessive tears.

Dogs with excessive tearing must go to the vet.

Why? Because there is frequently a tiny ulcer on the cornea, an eyelash abnormality or a foreign body in the eye — or the tearing is an early warning sign that the problem will only get worse.

Most of us have said, “Ouch! There’s something in my eye!” From itchy to annoying to pain, we don’t want to wait 2 minutes before we get some relief in that eye.

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If your dog has excessive tearing, inflammation, abnormal discharge, keeps an eye closed or shows any evidence of discomfort like pawing at the eye, please see the vet right away.


Dry Eye in Dogs

Dry eye usually results in a sticky, thick discharge that is often hard to remove from the eye. For a variety of reasons, dry eye results because your dog is not producing enough tears.

Besides causing your dog discomfort, if dry eye is not treated, it only gets worse.

There are great medications available to treat this upsetting, chronic condition.

Many people just keep cleaning out this yucky discharge and don’t bring the dog in for a diagnosis. But early treatment saves your dog discomfort and saves you money and vet bills in the long run.

Diagnosing Eye Problems at Home

It’s a great idea to get a firm notion in your head of what your dog’s eyes look like when they are normal.

Some people don’t notice subtle to moderate changes in their dog’s eyes and can’t answer simple questions from the vet like “How long has there been mucus in your dog’s eyes?” “Or how long have the eyes been inflamed?”

  • Look for perfect symmetry — both eyes should look the same.
  • Eyelids should look identical.
  • Pupils should be the same size.
  • Eyes should be bright with no crusting or excessive discharge.
  • The sclera, meaning the white around the eyeball, should be white and bright without any redness or discoloration.
  • Assess the color of the conjunctiva and how much of it you can see when the eyes are normal.
Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian) (4)

All Dog Eyes Are Not the Same

There is huge variation in what is considered a normal dog eye. Much of this has to do with breed conformation.

What might be normal in a Basset Hound, for instance, with droopy eyes, would not be normal in another breed. “Buggy eyes” are normal in a Lhasa Apso but not necessarily in a Labrador Retriever.

Think about the incredible variety in our fabulous canine buddies! Here are just a few extreme examples of breeds with unique eye conformation:

Brachycephalic Breeds

These are our little pushed-in face characters like Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers and Shih Tzus, to name just a few.

Brachycephalic breeds and mixes are popular. These pups are prone to eye problems simply because they have the “bug eye” look and their eyes have more exposure to the environment, resulting in anything from inflammation to injury to dry eye.

Anyone with one of these adorable bundles of joy should get a good idea of what their dog’s eyes look like when they are young or first adopted. Pay special attention to any eye problems. Early intervention is the key.

For more, see our article “The Problem With Pugs: Brachycephalic Syndrome.”

Bassets, Newfies and Other Droopy-Eyed Dogs

The Basset Hound is the classic example of a breed that lives with a certain degree of eyelid deformity, meaning the eyes look a bit “droopy.”

This degree of eyelid droopiness (ectropion) can lead to conjunctivitis and other problems.

If your dog is a breed like this, be aware of the “normal” eye for your pooch and be aware of any changes. The conjunctiva is overly obvious in these dogs as well as the third eyelid or nictitating membrane.

This generally goes unnoticed at the inner corner of the eye for most breeds but is appreciated in the Basset, the Newfoundland, theClumber Spanieland others.

Lovers of these breeds say these dogs have “haw eyes” or appreciate the “flick of the haw.”

Dog Breeds With Deep-Set Eyes

Many breeds have deep-set eyes, and normal mucus or discharge can accumulate in the inner corners. Irish Setters come to mind, but there are many others.

This is frequently normal for these dogs. Again, pet parents must appreciate what is normal for their particular pooch.

In this video, Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM,explains more about different reasons your dog has mucus in the eyes:


Normal Pigment of the Conjunctiva

One of the most frequent things pet parents don’t appreciate when they are looking at young and healthy eyes is the color of the conjunctiva.

Labrador Retrievers come to mind as one of the most interesting cases.

Often, a dog’s conjunctiva can be quite pink. This can be normal. If, in addition, the Lab has even a tiny bit of ectropion, the conjunctiva and third eyelid can be somewhat obvious.

Many people go to the vet thinking their dog might have conjunctivitis, but it can turn out that the dog’s normal conjunctiva is fairly prominent and pink. These are always great questions to ask your vet and be aware of what is “normal” for your dog.

Get a Baseline Ophthalmology Exam

Your veterinarian should comment on any abnormalities visible in your dog’s eyes.

What if, however, there is a normal gray mucus discharge in the dog’s eyes but you cleaned the eyes that morning and your vet doesn’t see it?

Always make a list before your vet visit and remember to ask about any mucus discharge, excessive tearing, occasional redness, etc.

Most vets will recommend nothing beyond gentle cleaning at home with warm water on a tissue or cotton ball. If your dog is having any chronic eye discharge, find out what it is from your vet before trying to treat it.


  • Gelatt, Kirk N., VMD, DACVO, et al., editors. Veterinary Ophthalmology, 5th ed. Wiley. 2013.
  • Maggs, David J., BVSc (Hons), DAVCO, et al. Slatter’s Fundamentals of Veterinary Ophthalmology, 6th ed. Saunders. 2017.
  • Martin, Charles L., DVM, DACVO, et al. Ophthalmic Disease in Veterinary Medicine. CRC Press. 2018.

Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian) (5)This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. This article was originally published in 2011 and is regularly updated. It was last reviewed Aug. 20, 2019.

If you have questions or concerns, call your vet, who is best equipped to ensure the health and well-being of your pet. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.


Why Your Dog Has Mucus in the Eyes (And When to See the Veterinarian)? ›

Yellow or green dog eye discharge: Boogies with a mucus-y color likely indicate an eye infection and should be examined by your veterinarian. White or cloudy dog eye discharge: Dogs with cloudy or white eye discharge likely are experiencing eye inflammation rather than infection—a common culprit is allergies.

When should I take my dog to the vet for eye discharge? ›

If your dog has colored green eye discharge, yellow eye discharge or another colored eye discharge, schedule a vet appointment immediately. Other signs of a potential problem include squinting, a red-looking eye, or if your dog is rubbing or pawing at his eye.

Why does my dog have mucus discharge from his eyes? ›

Keratitis conjunctivitis or dry eye may cause the accumulation of slimy green mucus on the eye of a dog. Canines could suffer from excessive tearing as a consequence of abnormal lashes, glaucoma, or conjunctivitis infections.

How do you treat mucus in a dog's eye? ›

What You Can Do
  1. If your dog allows it, you can try to wipe the eyes clean of the discharge with a moistened cotton ball, using a fresh cotton ball for each eye.
  2. Avoid using over the counter eye drops on your dog unless a veterinarian specifically instructs you to do so.
  3. Observe your dog for other symptoms of illness.

How can I treat my dogs eye infection without going to the vet? ›

One popular method is using a warm, damp cloth to gently clean and soothe the eye area. Another option is using a saline solution to flush out any irritants. However, it is important to note that these remedies should not be used as a replacement for professional veterinary care.

How urgent is a dog eye infection? ›

If your dog is showing signs of conjunctivitis, even if symptoms seem very mild, contact your vet as soon as possible. Left untreated conjunctivitis can lead to permanent eye damage.

Should I wipe my dogs eye discharge? ›

Healthy eyes are bright and clear, and the white of the eye is pure white. You can help keep them that way by gently wiping away discharge in the corners with a cotton ball or soft washcloth moistened with warm water. Make sure not to rub the cotton ball directly over the eye.

How long does dog eye discharge last? ›

With appropriate treatment, bacterial conjunctivitis is usually fully resolved within 5 to 7 days. Viral conjunctivitis can take up to 3 to 4 weeks for full resolution. Allergic conjunctivitis will persist until the underlying allergen is discovered and eliminated.

Will Benadryl help my dogs eye infection? ›

Depending on their diagnosis and symptoms, some pups may need additional support with oral medications. Common examples include an antihistamine like Benadryl for conjunctivitis due to seasonal allergies, or a dog-safe pain medication to relieve eye pain.

What is the best home remedy for dog eye infection? ›

Although visiting a vet is always recommended, there are natural remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of a dog eye infection. These include chamomile tea bags, saline solution, and plantain or calendula tincture.

What do dog eye allergies look like? ›

Symptoms of Dog Eye Allergies

In dogs, redness of the eyes is a vague symptom that can be caused by a wide variety of underlying diseases. For allergic conjunctivitis, redness is usually seen in both eyes. You may also notice symptoms like: Squinting of the affected eye(s)

How do vets check eye infections? ›

To diagnose the condition of the eyes, your vet will take a sample of the discharge or any infected surrounding cells. Blood test and a complete physical examination may also be necessary when treating eye infections. Other ways to diagnose an infection may include: Schirmer tear test.

Can a dogs bacterial eye infection go away on its own? ›

Your dog's eye infection won't go away on its own, nor can you treat it from home. Untreated eye infections can spread into both eyes and even cause blindness. In very rare cases, a dog may require surgery for an eye infection.

What does a bacterial eye infection look like? ›

Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia). Yellow, green, bloody, or watery discharge from the eye. Increasing redness of the eye or eyelids. A grey or white sore on the coloured part of the eye (iris).

What do vets give dogs for eye infections? ›

Topical gentamicin, tobramycin, chloramphenicol, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin or triple-antibiotic ophthalmic ointments and solutions are commonly prescribed. Some dogs will receive medications containing anti-inflammatory agents such as ophthalmic prednisolone or dexamethasone.

Do you have to go to vet for eye infection? ›

It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection or an allergic reaction to smoke, pollen, perfume or other irritants. Conjunctivitis can be highly contagious to humans, so you should visit your vet for treatment options. Until it clears up, limit contact with your dog and wash your hands regularly.

Can you put Neosporin in a dog's eye for an infection? ›

No. Neosporin is not the same as triple antibiotic ophthalmic ointment and should never be used in your pet's eyes. Ophthalmic problems can worsen quickly. If your pet is having eye issues, see your veterinarian right away rather than trying to treat the problem at home.

Can I use human eye drops for dog? ›

Although over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops and ointments can soothe uncomfortable symptoms in humans, it is not recommended to use them for dogs without being advised by a veterinarian to do so.

What is the most common eye infection in dogs? ›

Conjunctivitis is the most common type of dog eye infection. It is an inflammation of the clear tissue which covers your dog's eyeball and the inside of their eyelid.

What is a natural antibiotic for eyes? ›

Salt water

Salt water, or saline, is one of the most effective home remedies for eye infections. Saline is similar to teardrops, which is your eye's way of naturally cleansing itself. Salt also has antimicrobial properties.

Can allergies cause goopy eyes in dogs? ›

In addition, the eyes will produce copious tears and may become itchy and painful. This collection of changes is referred to as conjunctivitis. While these symptoms may be initiated by viruses or bacteria, an allergic reaction is the most common cause of conjunctivitis among canines.

What is the difference between dog eye infection and allergies? ›

The main difference between dog eye allergies vs. infection is that dogs can get allergies from environmental factors (i.e., food, pollen, house fleas). In contrast, a dog can get eye infections from bacteria, viruses, fungus, or trauma to the eye.

How much eye discharge is normal for a dog? ›

The amount of eye goop a dog produces each night (or after long naps) should stay relatively constant. The goop or crust should be easy to remove with a warm, damp cloth. Your dog's eyes shouldn't be red, and they shouldn't show any signs of eye discomfort, such as rubbing, squinting, blinking, or sensitivity to light.

Does dog eye discharge go away on its own? ›

Your dog's eye infection won't go away on its own, nor can you treat it from home. Untreated eye infections can spread into both eyes and even cause blindness. In very rare cases, a dog may require surgery for an eye infection.

How much is too much eye discharge? ›

It's normal to have some eye discharge when you wake up in the morning. However, if there is an excessive amount of green or yellow-colored discharge on your eyes, and you are experiencing blurry vision, light sensitivity, or eye pain, you might have an eye infection.


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