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Health & Wellness

Here's what your dog's eye discharge means based on color

Dogs’ eye discharge can be green, yellow, red or white colored.

Your dog’s at it again, giving you those puppy eyes for some extra treats. But wait a minute — do those eyes look a little gunky? Whether they’re morning eye boogers or something more serious, it’s important to pay attention to the eye discharge's color when considering the underlying cause.

Why does my dog have eye discharge?

Several triggers can cause a dog's eye discharge, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

“Many cases are caused by some type of conjunctivitis or eye tissue inflammation,” Dr. Singler explains. “Causes of the former include allergies, infections, irritation from foreign material and sensitivity from their eyes drying.”

What does green-or-yellow-colored eye discharge mean?

Although it’s not always possible to tell the cause of the problem by the color, some green or yellow eye discharge cases are caused by an eye infection or conjunctivitis. 

You shouldn't let this slide, as untreated eye infections can be serious and ultimately cause blindness, especially if an injury causes it. Other underlying problems like dry eye or auto-immune diseases cause some ocular infections.

Cleaning the discharge off their eyes won’t solve the root problem, so take your pup to the vet as soon as possible if you notice green, yellow or yellow-green discharge.

RELATED: The 7 causes of cloudy eyes in dogs

Is white-colored eye discharge a problem? 

Allergies, dry eye or foreign materials on or near the eye can all cause white-colored discharge to be secreted. If your pup has allergies, you’ll likely notice watering, redness or swelling, too.

What causes red-colored eye discharge? 

If you’re noticing red-brown stains around your dog’s eyes, it’s probably tear staining, not discharge. Pups who produce tears excessively or who don’t properly drain them are prone to these stains on their fur.

However, if you’re actually seeing red or bloody discharge, take your dog to the vet immediately. This could be a sign of a serious eye issue or injury. According to Dr. Singler, sometimes the injury is to the eye itself and other times to the tissues around the eye. Dogs can sustain eyelid cuts, cornea scratches, penetrating foreign material and sometimes have one or both eyes pop out of their normal position, so it’s important to get them help immediately. 

Treatment options for eye discharge in dogs

Although a warm washcloth can be used to wipe away eye boogers, they won’t completely disappear until you address the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will determine the best treatment method for your pup to have clear, booger-free eyes.

Let your veterinarian know if your pup also has eye redness, cloudiness or tissue swelling, or if they're squinting, holding an eye shut, pawing or rubbing at one or both eyes. 

If your vet determines your pup has an eye infection, they’ll likely prescribe eye drops or ointments with antibiotic and/or anti-inflammatory properties. Veterinarians will recommend the right treatment plan for pups with eye injuries. 

“Treatment for injuries may include medication to treat pain, prevent infection and keep the eye lubricated and possibly surgery to treat more severe injuries,” Dr. Singler says. “Most dogs with eye injuries will need to wear an e-collar while in treatment and healing to prevent them from rubbing or scratching at their eye.”

If your dog has allergies, treatment is typically very simple. Oral allergy medications and allergy injection options available for your pup should help alleviate allergy symptoms. If their eyes are the only affected part of their body, your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops to treat irritation from allergies.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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