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Dog Eye Gunk - Should I be worried? Vancouver Vet answers your questions

What is it? How much is normal? How do I clean it? Dr. Uri Burstyn from Arbutus West Animal Clinic answers your questions on how to take care of your dog's eyes.

Doggy sad because of dog eye discharge

You know that gunk you wipe out of your dog’s eyes? It’s not glamorous, but it’s a very normal part of being a dog parent. All dogs get eye goop, but have you ever wondered why it’s actually there, or what it is?

Discharge produced in your dog's tear ducts can be a daily occurrence and can stem from a variety of conditions; some that are completely harmless and some that may need a little more attention.

Dr. Uri Burstyn from Arbutus West Animal Clinic answers some of the most common questions around dog eye discharge and helps us identify when it could be something more serious.

How much eye goop is normal?

That is a difficult question to answer. The ‘normal’ amount is normal. If your dog suddenly has a bunch more eye goop than you're used to seeing that is abnormal, then it may be worthwhile to visit the vet.

More importantly, if you see redness around the eye that is worse on one eye than the other then you can definitely know that something is up. And even MORE importantly, if you ever see one eye squinting shut, that is a sign of ocular pain and is an emergency. Get to the vet within 4 hours - it may save your dog's vision!

If we see our dog has eye goop, is it safe for us to clean it out ourselves? If so, what is the best way to do it?

It is as long as you are not ignoring the signs I mentioned above. Some 0.9% saline is ideal. Over the counter eye rinses and contact lens storage solution (not cleaning solution) is typically just saline and can be used. Of course, some warm water on a cotton bud is also fine, but might be a little more uncomfortable if you get it into the eye itself.

Does it cause discomfort for our pups?

Most dogs find it annoying to have their eye goobers wiped, but I doubt it is uncomfortable. Of course, if you get water in their eye they will feel just the same as we do when we get water in our eyes.

When searching 'dog eye discharge' online, results such as Allergies and Irritations, Conjunctivitis, Epiphora, Keratoconjunctivitis and Glaucoma show up which can be worrying for dog owners. Can we identify them ourselves?

You can't look out for any of them without proper training and instrumentation, so don't worry about it! Foreign objects like splinters and trauma like scratches are important categories that dog owners should be aware of. The important thing is to know when to go to the vet, and that is when the eye is red (not an emergency) and/or squinting (emergency).

When should you take your dog to the vet regarding eye discharge?

Really, the first time you see something unusual in your dog's eyes you should get it checked out by a professional as eyes are sensitive organs and a day or two can make a big difference if there is something wrong. Once you do that and if your dog does turn out to have seasonal allergies (watery eyes can be a symptom of seasonal allergies) then the next time you can try managing things at home using the above guidelines.

A caveat to that is that any odd ocular discharge that lasts longer than 5 days or seems to be getting worse should be checked out regardless of your dog's history with allergies. Just because they had allergies last time doesn't guarantee that they don't have a splinter lodged under the third eyelid or a scratch across the cornea this time. Learn what is normal and abnormal for your dog, and if you see something unusual then seek professional help rather than trying to diagnose it yourself.

Do you have any more questions you'd like us to ask a Vancouver vet? Send us a message on Instagram and tell us what topic you'd like us to cover next!


Ready to say goodbye to the rain and hello to some sun? Check out our recent article: 7 dog-friendly Vancouver beaches you can enjoy this summer


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