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Why Does My Dog Have Eye Boogers Every Morning?!

Written by Anna Hollisey

Updated

Greyhound with eye boogies

If you haven’t accidentally got an eye-booger on your hand, do you even have a dog? Seriously though. What are those things, and where do they come from… the eye booger fairy?

The Curse of The Eye Booger

Does your dog greet you with big, juicy eye boogers (sorry) every morning? They’re not alone. It’s a common curse. But what causes those darn things?

Eye boogers are normal for most dogs and, for most owners, they’re no cause for concern. They’re caused by the natural build-up of tears and mucus, which forms a protective wet layer across your dog’s cornea, ‘sweeping’ the eye of dead cells and dust particles. Your dog’s likely to have them in the morning but they can appear during the day too – especially after a nap. 

Ocular discharge can range in color. It’s normally white, clear, or yellow and can appear reddish-brown, which is a natural tear-duct pigment. If the discharge becomes blood-red or greenish yellow, it should be monitored. 

While occasional boogers are normal, watery eyes (epiphora) or continual discharge might indicate an allergy, injury, or illness. If your dog’s ocular discharge is excessive, constant, or an unusual color, if they rub their eyes or close them – and certainly if they’re showing redness or irritation – you should consult your vet.

Common Causes for Watery Eyes in Dogs

Epiphora is the term for ongoing watery eyes. It can be caused by something as simple as faulty tear-drainage (where tears are not draining away into the sinuses). 

But take care – because epiphora is also a symptom of a wide range of issues:

  • An allergy. Watery eyes in dogs can be a sign that something has irritated the eye and caused an allergic reaction (usually dust mite or pollen). An allergy can be treated with antihistamines, which should provide fast relief.
  • Conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva is a membrane which stretches inside the eyelid and across the eye. Viral or bacterial, conjunctivitis is typically accompanied by redness and soreness. It’s commonly treated with antibiotic or antiviral medications. 
  • Eyelash or eyelid problems. Eyelashes can grow inwards and eyelids don’t always cover the whole retina. Both can cause epiphora, as your dog’s eyes work overtime to clear debris from the surface. 
  • A foreign object or an injury to the eye. Running through thorn bushes and racing through long grass – our dogs expose their eyes to all kinds of hazards. Eye injuries can be common; check that the thorn or cause of injury has gone, but don’t try to remove it yourself – that’s a task for the vet. 
  • A lump in the eye. Lumps on the eyes can be caused by Pannus (chronic superficial keratitis), which is common in breeds including Border Collies and German Shepherds. They could also be tumors – get them checked by your vet. 

Note: If your dog has regular eye soreness, they could have ‘Dry eye’. This is a condition caused by inadequate tear production. It’s very common (especially in CKC Spaniels and Highland and Yorkshire Terriers) and can be present at birth or develop later. Because there aren’t enough tears (or the quality isn’t good enough), your dog’s eyes become dry and itchy, leading to ulcers and soreness. It’s usually managed with medication.

Which Breeds Are Prone to Watery Eyes? 

Certain breeds are more likely to suffer from epiphora, due to their physical features. The brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs) have flat faces with shallow eye sockets. Sometimes their eyelids don’t cover the eyes fully, or eyelashes grow towards the eyeball, causing watery eyes. 

Dog breeds which have looser skin – like Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Bloodhounds – are prone to a problem called ‘cherry eye’, in which the tear duct pops out of the eyelid, causing watery eyes and conjunctivitis. Surgery is usually required to replace it. It’s readily visible so, if you see a red and inflamed eyelid (or any of the other symptoms mentioned above), make a call to the vet.

Further Reading

Does your dog have cataracts – and if so, what can be done? Learn why your dog’s eyes have started to look cloudy. Read more about rolled eyelids, allergies, and diabetes (another cause of cloudy eyes). Use our checklist to give your dog a health-checkup on their eyes, ears and nose. Learn about the features of Brachycephalic dogs, including their distinctive facial shapes.