Eye Discharges In Dogs: Why Is Your Canine Crying?

20 April 2023
 Categories: , Blog


There's some debate about the range of emotions that a dog is able to experience. Perhaps dogs don't get trapped in the complex, existential types of emotions that humans can feel, but the base emotions are all there: happiness, love, fear, and more. You might even look at your dog one day and feel touched—your dog is so overwhelmed with emotion that they seem to be crying. And then you realize that a dog's ocular discharge is a physical reaction instead of an emotional one—and some discharges are warning signs that shouldn't be ignored.

Clear Secretions

No, your dog can't cry in the usual sense, but just like yours, their eyes feature meibomian glands. These glands release meibum, which is a transparent, slightly oily liquid. Meibum is secreted over the surface of the eye, preventing it from drying out. Excess meibum can be produced as part of an allergic reaction, with meibum production spiking as the immune system attempts to soothe itchy, irritated eyes. Clear secretions from a dog's eyes may be nothing more than excess meibum produced by an allergic reaction. 

Foreign Objects

Occasional clear secretions from a dog's eyes aren't typically cause for concern. Observe the issue, and if the volume of the secretions is increasing, or if it's changing color, your dog may need veterinary attention. Should the discharge resemble mucus and is limited to one eye, your dog may have something trapped in that eye (dust, debris, hair, or any foreign object). Such a situation may be self-correcting, but you may want to speak to your vet anyway. Your dog may need medicated eye drops, and the eye may need to be flushed to remove the irritant that's causing the discharge. 

Eye Infections

When a discharge is produced by both eyes and has a discernible color (yellow, off-white), your dog may need quick medical attention at your local animal hospital. A wait-and-see approach is potentially dangerous. Pronounced discharge from both eyes can suggest a serious infection, even encephalitis—inflammation and infection of the brain. This is a worst-case scenario, but it must be ruled out. It's more probable that your dog's eye infection is more mundane and less serious, though treatment is still essential. For example, your dog may be experiencing a form of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye). 

Many types of eye discharge in dogs are harmless and are simply the organs functioning properly. But it's important to know when veterinary attention becomes wise, so always ask your vet if you're unsure about the seriousness of your dog's individual symptoms.

To learn more, contact a veterinarian in your area.