Let’s talk dog eye gook. There is normal eye goop and there is problematic eye goop; know the difference and how to handle it.

Your dog’s adoring eyes – they’re the first thing you see when you open yours. Those baby browns, those luscious lashes, they’re pooch perfection, minus the eye gook of course. Fortunately, most doggie eye gook isn’t a health problem. But certain eye secretions might warrant a trip to the vet.

To help you recognize the good, bad and the gooky, Woof Report contacted renowned veterinarian and author Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M. Read on for an eye secretion excerpt from her must-have pup primer, The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook.

All dogs produce eye secretions, also known as tears, sleep, or eye gook. So what’s the difference between normal eye secretions and secretions that indicate illness?

All Clear

Normal eye discharge is clear. As it dries however, natural pigments turn the secretions a rusty brown to blackish color. So clear, brownish, blackish eye gook is normal for a dog and usually is not a sign of illness.

Bad Gook, Take a Closer Look

Yellowish to greenish eye discharge is a sign of eye irritation or infection. Depending on the dog’s age, medical history and other symptoms, possible causes include:

  • An irritation caused by swimming, shampoo or flea spray in the eyes, or pollen-type allergies,
  • A bacterial, viral or fungal eye infection and upper respiratory infection
  • Inward growing eyelashes
  • The onset of an eye disease such as dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis) or glaucoma

Next Steps

If your dog has a yellowish or greenish eye discharge and her eyes also seem uncomfortable, or if she’s rubbing them, squinting, or eyes or eyelids seem swollen, call your vet immediately. If you’re bathing your dog and shampoo gets in her eyes, flush them out immediately with plain saline eyewash or water. Call your vet if your dog’s eyes seem uncomfortable even after you’ve flushed them.

If your dog has yellow or green eye discharge, but otherwise seems comfortable and well, rinse the eyes with sterile plain saline eyewash from the drugstore. Squirt copious amounts of the eyewash into each eye, and gently wipe away the discharge with a clean tissue. Do this two or three times a day for a day or two. If the discharge goes away and doesn’t recur, the irritation has passed. If it doesn’t go away or flares up again quickly, make an appointment with your vet to find out the underlying cause.

The Scoop:

Thank you to Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M.  for the tip, excerpted from The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook.

The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Pet Happy, Healthy & Active Through Every Stage of Life, by Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M.

Originally published July 2009; reviewed and updated July 2016.