How to Treat a Dog for Common Eye Discharge Symptoms

Reduce eye discharge and protect your dog's eyes.
Reduce eye discharge and protect your dog's eyes. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Your dog’s ability to make tears moistens and protects his eyes, but some dogs have seemingly perpetual tearstains under their eyes. Other dogs have increased eye discharge when exposed to airborne dust and pollen that trigger dog allergies. According to Betsy Brevitz, DVM, in her book, “Hound Health Handbook,” it’s normal to see brown, rusty or blackish gunk under your dog’s eyes, but the actual discharge should be clear. See your veterinarian to rule out an underlying disorder. If your dog suffers from common eye discharge, you can treat it at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Sterile saline solution for eyes
  • Sterile cotton balls or pads
  • Tearless shampoo
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Elizabethan collar

Flush your dog’s eyes gently with over-the-counter sterile saline solution made for human eyes, Dr. Brevitz recommends. Let the room-temperature solution dribble freely into the inside corner of your dog’s eye and let him blink a few times to clear his eyes.

Wipe excess saline solution away with sterile cotton balls or pads. Repeat up to three times a day during times of recurring dog allergies to soothe your dog’s eyes.

Use a damp cloth, with a little “tearless” shampoo to wash your dog’s face during bath time. Dogs are sensitive to getting regular dog shampoo in their eyes. If you do inadvertently get shampoo in a dog’s eye, flush the eye gently with large amounts of clear lukewarm water. If excessive discharge or obvious irritation develops despite thorough rinsing, call your vet.

Treat dog allergies that cause eye discharge with diphenhydramine, commonly sold under the brand name Benadryl. An antihistamine, diphenhydramine reduces the dog’s allergic reaction to pollen and other airborne irritants. recommends dosing your dog by weight. Give a 50-pound dog two 25 mg tablets, twice a day. A 12-pound dog should only have a pediatric dose of 12 mg, twice a day. Call your vet if you’re unsure what the correct dosage is for your dog.

Fit your dog for an Elizabethan collar if he contracts conjunctivas, or pink eye. Pink eye may result from bacteria or an allergen, and your dog’s eyes may become very red with heavier-than-normal clear or yellowish discharge. An E-collar will prevent your dog from scratching his eyes or rubbing them on the ground or carpet, which can cause further irritation and drainage. Treat your dog’s eyes with the saline wash described in Step 1.

Tips & Warnings

  • Flea and insect repellents can cause dog eye discharge and irritation.
  • Yellow or greenish eye discharge could signal an infection, ingrown eyelashes or another medical problem, and you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian promptly.
  • Do not let your dog ride in a vehicle with his head out the window to reduce the risk of damage to his eyes.

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