Goopy or Teary Eyes in Pets

Runny eye pet
Just like people, dogs can have eye discharge.  It can be thick or watery, sometimes it’s just in the morning, and sometimes it’s breed-related.  Sometimes it’s completely harmless, but sometimes it’s a symptom of a medical condition.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)

KCS, or Chronic Dry Eye in layman’s terms, presents as a chronic, painful, and potentially severe condition. It occurs due to a reduction in tear production, which can result from canine Distemper virus infection, sulfonamide toxicity, NSAID therapy, long-term use of atropine, facial nerve injury, and immune-mediated diseases. Owners frequently notice only one symptom: mucoid thick white or yellow discharge from one or both eyes. In some dogs, the sclera (white part of the eye) may appear red. Some dogs may rub their eyes, either with a paw or by rubbing their face on the carpet or furniture. In longer-haired breeds such as Poodles, the hair around the eye can become matted from the discharge.

KCS can be mistaken for other problems, such as allergies, but veterinarians can quickly and painlessly diagnose the condition with the Schirmer Tear Test, which measures tear production using special paper strips. Insufficient tear production leads to inadequate lubrication of the eye, causing irritation. In most cases, veterinarians perform the Fluorescein Eye staining test to rule out corneal ulceration. If left untreated, KCS can cause permanent damage to the eye, including darkening of the cornea, corneal ulcers, corneal scarring, and chronic pain. Severe changes can result in vision loss, and some dogs may become fearful or aggressive when their face is touched due to the pain.

Treatment for KCS is relatively straightforward but typically requires lifelong management. Dogs with KCS require eye drops to stimulate tear production and may also benefit from moisturizing eye drops or lubricating ointments. Sometimes, veterinarians may prescribe topical immunosuppressant agents such as Cyclosporine A 0.2%-2% twice daily in conjunction with short-term use of antibiotic eye drops or ointments. With appropriate treatment, dogs with KCS can live comfortably and pain-free.

Foreign Material

Your dog may develop discharge if something enters its eye, ranging from dust or an eyelash to grit or a sliver of wood. Sudden appearance of discharge in a dog that doesn’t normally have it could indicate a problem. If something enters your dog’s eye, it may water in an attempt to flush it out, though this isn’t always successful. Regardless, it’s worth having it checked out. Even if the matter exits on its own, it could have caused a scratch on the eye.
A veterinarian can perform a quick test to ensure there is no injury or ulceration. The Fluorescein Eye Stain test reveals any abrasions, ulcers, or irregularities, as the stain adheres to damaged areas of the cornea. The vet then examines the eye with a light to identify any issues indicated by the stain. Typically, the vet could flush foreign material out with a saline eye wash resolving the matter. If there is no damage to the eye. However, any damage will require further treatment.


Conjunctivitis refers to inflammation of the lining of the eye, which can stem from various factors including allergies, injury, KCS, foreign matter, bacterial, Chlamydia, fungal, or viral infection, among others. Signs of conjunctivitis may encompass red eyes, inflammation, any type of eye discharge, excessive blinking, squinting of the affected eye, crustiness around the eye, pawing or rubbing of the eye, or even keeping it completely closed. Typically, the initial step involves flushing the eye to remove any foreign matter.

Additionally, your veterinarian may conduct a Schirmer Tear Test and/or a Fluorescein Eye Stain. Treatment varies depending on the cause and may involve pain medication, antibiotics, eye wash, antihistamines, or other medications such as Lysine oral supplements, believed to have antiviral effects against feline herpes virus.

Epiphora (Runny Eyes)

Excessive tearing is characterized by watery, teary eyes.  It will often stain the fur, and can result in a wet, gooey mess and even infected skin.  It can be caused by allergies, irritating dust, trauma, corneal ulcers, Feline upper respiratory infection, conjunctivitis, eye inflammation (ophthalmitis), abnormal eyelashes (entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inwards causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye), tear duct problems, and sometimes simply the way the dog’s eyes sit in their face. Stubby-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs are more prone to congenital epiphora. Eye inflammation or infection may need medical treatment, however a physical defect or tear duct problem, may require eye surgery.

Other Conditions

Genetics, physical characteristics, various eye diseases and some systemic diseases can call cause watery or goopy eyes.  It’s important to have all eye problems evaluated by a veterinarian, particularly if they appear suddenly.  Sometimes treatment is as simple as keeping the area around the eye clean to prevent skin infections, and can be as significant as surgery to correct a serious problem.
If you are looking for a vet clinic in Newmarket, call us at 905-898-1010.