7 Types Of Runny Eyes In Dogs – Diagnosis, Treatment and Cure

Types of runny eyes in dogs

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A dog’s eye structure is very similar to our eyes. This means that dogs can get just about all the eye problems we get, that include runny eyes. In most cases, it is mild but sometimes it can become very severe and may even need medical attention. It is important to identify runny eyes and treat them on time. So, what are the types of runny eyes in dogs? And how do we treat them? Let’s find out.

Types Of Runny Eyes In Dogs

Runny eyes and mucus around the eyes may vary in terms of colour and texture. Here are some of the most common types of runny eyes in dogs:


Clear watery eyes are usually the most common types of runny eyes. They are usually nothing to worry about. It occurs sometimes when your dog takes their head out of the car window or gets something in their eye.

Soaking a cotton ball in warm water and rubbing it against their eyes is usually enough to fix the problem. However, keep an eye on them. If their eyes are causing them irritation, if they’re rubbing their eyes too much or if there is a change in the colour of the discharge, you should consult your vet.

Some dogs are prone to things getting in their eyes and having clear water secretions. Dogs with long hair around their eyes like Poodles, Maltese, Old English Sheepdog etc are very prone to getting strands of hair in their eyes. If it’s not taken out in time, it may lead to conjunctivitis.

2. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis in dogs usually leads to yellowish-green puss or discharge, inflammation or redness in the eyes. They may have crusts around the eye rims or they may paw their eyes too often.

Conjunctivitis can be a symptom for some other illness. It may be a symptom for canine distemper, or it can be that a foreign particle went in their eye and it stayed in for too long. Some birth defects lead to tearing duct problems which often lead to frequent canine conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis is a more severe form of watery eyes and usually needs medical attention. Your doctor may give antibiotics or anti allergens to treat conjunctivitis.

3. Reddish Brown Tear Stains

This happens to most dogs but is most noticeable in white furry dogs. The tear contains a pigment called porphyrin. This pigment usually turns red when exposed to sunlight. It is usually nothing to worry about as it causes them no harm. 

It’s mostly the look that may concern many pet owners. If the stains on their fur are too dark, you can wipe them once a day with plain warm water and a cotton swab.

If you suddenly see an increase in the staining, or if their eyes are suddenly swollen or red, you should get it checked with your vet.

4. Eye Defects

Some dogs have eye defects from birth. Dogs with short muzzles, or brachycephalic breeds, are prone to excessive tearing in their eyes. This is because they have shallower eye sockets and the tear ducts are not able to hold enough tears.

Dogs with loose skin around their muzzles like the Bulldog or English Mastiff have a tendency of their eyes curling inwards or outwards. This usually happens when they are in their growing age where the skin is growing everywhere on their face including their eyelids.

The excessive amount of skin growth leads to the curling of the eyes and this usually leads to irritation, excessive discharge, temporary blindness.  The best way to solve this problem is by correctional surgery.

Birth defects are very common amongst backyard breeders or unlicensed breeders. If you want to buy a breed it would be best if you spend a little extra but go for a breeder who takes special care of all the dogs they choose for breeding. Always ask for proper licensing and paperwork before purchasing any breed.

5. Glaucoma

Just like how our blood has pressure, our eyes also have pressure. If there is too much pressure in the eyes, it leads to Glaucoma. 

Dogs get glaucoma just like humans but unlike human beings, their glaucoma tends to progress very fast. They are very prone to this condition called congestive glaucoma, where there is much more pressure in the front chamber of the eyes. If it is not treated on time, they may lose partial or complete vision.

Glaucoma is usually genetic. Some breeds like the Beagle, Basset Hound, Siberian Husky, Boston Terrier etc are prone to glaucoma.

Glaucoma may lead to red bulging eyes but the most common symptom is excessively watery eyes. Dogs may paw at their eyes or show irritation.

Doctors usually give medications for temporary relief but, in most cases, doctors recommend surgeries. Timely surgery can protect them from blindness.

6. Cataracts

Just like humans, dogs are also prone to cataracts and it becomes more common as they grow older.

Watery eyes are a common symptom in cataracts. You may also see other symptoms like:

  • Red eyes
  • Cloudiness around their pupils
  • A wobbly footing – they tend to raise their paws a bit too high when they are walking, particularly when they are climbing stairs
  • Walking into objects
  • A change in their mood – dogs can get depressed with the loss of their vision. You may notice a gradual lack of interest in play and food

With modern technology in place, cataracts can easily be fixed with minimally invasive surgery but owning to the expense, many pet parents avoid it especially if their dogs are old. Some pet parents opt to operate only on one eye because dogs tend to do very well with their limited vision post-surgery.

7. Eye Ulcer

Eye ulcer, also known as the corneal ulcer is literally what the name suggests. There is an ulcer on the transparent cornea. It is a very painful condition and it hurts to even blink the eye. The eye treats the ulcer like a foreign particle and produces more water to flush it out.

Other symptoms of eye ulcers include:

  • Squinting
  • Excessive rubbing of the eye
  • Excessive crusting on the eye
  • Because of the pain, some dogs don’t bother opening their eyes
  • Lack of interest in food and play because of pain

Eye ulcers are most commonly caused because od external injuries, but sometimes it can also occur because of a birth defect – the lack of tearing in the eyes can cause it. Foreign objects in the eye and partial paralysis are other causes of eye ulcers. Brachycephalic breeds are also prone to the condition.

The treatment usually depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, doctors will give antibiotics to reduce the infection and ask to put your dog in a cone to stop them from rubbing their eyes. Sometimes, if the ulcer is very deep, your doctor may suggest minor surgery to repair the cornea however, in most cases surgery is not needed.

How Can I Apply Eyedrops?

For most of the above conditions, your doctor will recommend eye drops. It’s fairly simple to apply eye drops if your dog knows how to sit on command.

First, wipe their eyes with a cotton swab soaked in warm water. Tilt their head upward and apply the drops. Wait for two seconds for the drops to get absorbed and move on to the next eye.

Keeping their head up allows the drops to get absorbed in their eyes. You may need a little help if you have a restless puppy. It is also important that they aren’t moving around or the drops will be of no use.

4 Ways To Prevent Eye Problems In Dogs?

Prevention is better than cure and there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that they don’t have any eye problems any time soon.


If you have a furry dog you can carefully trim the extra hair that grows above their eyes. This will prevent hair strands from entering their eyes. Make sure they aren’t restless. With scissors inches near their eyes, the last thing we want is for them to get hurt. If you feel you can’t do this, you can ask a groomer to help you out.

There are a few over the counter eye wash medicines available for dogs. You can talk to your vet for their recommendation. It’s best to clean their eyes with a wash when they are out trekking or on the beach. It will reduce the chances of contamination. If you are unsure about cleaning their eyes by yourself, you can take them to the vet right after your holiday and ask them to clean their eyes.

2. Examination

Take time out every week to have a good look at their eyes. You should do this especially if they are prone to eye problems. Check both their eyes for inflammation and discolouration. Also, check if both the eyes are the same size. Cataracts and ulcers often lead to swellings in the affected eye.

Check if one eye is redder than the other. Also, keep a note of blinking or pawing at the eyes.

If you have a brachycephalic breed you should get their eyes checked by the vet once a year. Increase the frequency of eye checkups as they grow older.

3. Remove Allergens

Redness, swelling and discharge are often caused by allergy-causing agents. The most common agent that causes allergies in the nose and eyes is pollen. Dander and urine may also lead to runny eyes.

Timely grooming to remove dead flaky skin should remove dander. As for pollen and urine, dogs tend to pick up on these scents when they are out on a walk. Avoid taking them to places where there is a lot of pollen. If the allergy is too much, avoid dog parks and places where many other canines have marked their scent.

4. Shampoo

Another most common reason for teary red eyes in dogs is their shampoo. No matter how mild it is, it can still cause irritation in their eyes.

You can use a special tearless dog shampoo for their face and normal dog shampoo for the rest of their body. Make sure the shampoo is natural and does not contain strong odours and bright colours.

Even if you use tearless shampoo, you should still protect their eyes. Don’t let it get into their eyes. 

So here are 7 types of runny eyes in dogs. We really hope this article helps you identify why your dog has runny eyes. Please seek medical help if the condition is too severe. We wish your dog a speedy recovery.

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About Dheepakh

About Dheepakh

Dheepakh is a dedicated pet parent. His love for his dogs turned him into a pet food enthusiast. He has dedicated all his life to understand pet food nutrition and is eager to learn everyday.

One Reply to “7 Types Of Runny Eyes In Dogs – Diagnosis, Treatment and Cure”

  1. Citgo Detroit

    I’d say this is among the best article I’ve read.

    From beginning to end you nailed it. To write this you might have worked for study.

    Best regards,
    Thompson Griffin

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