Runny Eyes in Dogs

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/14/20242-4 minutes
A woman holds her small dog with wet eyes close

If you’ve spotted that your dog has runny eyes, it’s likely you’re wondering about the possible causes. Find out all you need to know about runny eyes in dogs and when to seek veterinary help in this guide.

Our dogs’ eyes are incredibly precious – they help our canine friends explore and discover the world. When we notice something slightly out of the ordinary, such as our dog’s eyes watering, it’s only natural that we feel a sense of panic.

What Causes Weepy Eyes in Dogs?

Weepy or runny eyes in dogs is a fairly common problem, and the causes of it can range from something as normal as wind or dirt getting in their eyes to more serious health issues, such as glaucoma in dogs. Some of the most common causes are: 

What Are the Other Symptoms of Dog Runny Eyes?

Alongside your dog’s runny eyes, you may see the following symptoms: 

  • Rubbing their eyes 
  • Squinting 
  • Holding their eyes closed 
  • Redness 
  • Swelling 
  • Cloudy eyes

If your dog has weepy eyes after a walk but the problem quickly clears up, then it might have just been caused by a sharp wind or little bit of debris. If the weepiness lasts longer, or you notice any of the symptoms listed above, seek advice from your vet.

Weepy Eyes in Dogs: What Discharge Color Means

One of the things you should observe about your dog’s runny eyes is the color of the discharge, as this will give you some clues as to the cause of the problem.

We’ve given a guide to some of the possible causes of eye discharge of different colors below. Bear in mind, these are just guidelines and sometimes the situation is more complicated. It’s always best to check with your vet to find out what’s going on. 

Clear Eye Discharge

If the discharge coming from your dog’s runny eye is clear, there are a range of possible causes. In many cases, it will be dog allergies or a reaction to dust or wind. Clear discharge can also be due to blocked tear ducts, corneal wounds, or eye abnormalities that occur in certain breeds and include prominent eyes, hairs irritating the cornea or rolled-in eyelids. Alternatively, if the discharge is watery and just coming from one eye, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as dog glaucoma. 

When the discharge is clear, it’s also important to look at how much there is. If it’s only a small amount and the eye doesn’t look red or sore, there may be no need to worry, but it’s always safest to get advice from your vet if you’re in any doubt.

Red Tear Stains

Red tear stains are usually seen on dogs with lighter colored fur, and they may look alarming, but don’t worry, the red color is not due to blood. Tears turn red like this when they’re exposed to air, so the red/brown hue is just due to oxidation.

Often, red/brown staining is a cosmetic issue in flatter faced breeds, such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, that have prominent eyes and tend to get a bit of tear overflow. However, sometimes tear staining can indicate a treatable eye problem causing excessive tear production or inadequate drainage. If in any doubt, check with your vet. To reduce tear staining, you can wipe the area with a damp cloth. 

Yellow or Green Eye Discharge

Yellow or green discharge is generally a cause of concern, and your dog should be taken to the vet right away for treatment.

The most common cause for yellow or green discharge is an eye infection. In this case, your dog may show other signs of conjunctivitis, such as eye redness, inflammation, and soreness.

Sometimes an infection is the primary problem, but sometimes it can develop secondary to other conditions, such as dry eye or an eye injury.

Whatever the cause of the yellow/green discharge, it is likely to require treatment, so it’s best to get your dog checked out by your vet.

Crusty or Sticky Eye Discharge

If your dog’s weepy eye is slightly crusty or sticky in the morning, this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern – it’s just like what we humans get when we wake up. This crust is a combination of dried tears, dust, oil, and dead cells, and you can wipe it away easily with a clean, damp cloth.

However, if your dog has more than a small amount of this discharge, or it recurs throughout the day, it may indicate an underlying problem. One cause of sticky or crusty discharge is dry eye, a condition in which dogs are unable to produce enough tears. This condition can be very painful and, if left untreated, your dog’s vision can deteriorate, so it’s worth a vet trip if you have any concerns.

How is the Cause of Runny Eyes in Dogs Diagnosed?

Your vet will carry out a full examination to find the cause of your dog’s watery eyes. This will usually begin with a visual examination of the discharge and a review of the overall health of your dog’s eye. They may put some drops in to check the eye’s surface or assess the tear production if the vet has any concerns on this score.

It’s likely they’ll also ask about your dog’s overall health and behavior to rule out other health issues, too. 

How to Treat Runny Eyes in Dogs

You may also be given dog eye drops or ointment as necessary. If you need to give anything topically, your vet will be able to show you how to apply it.

It’s important that you follow through with the full course of medication to treat your dog’s weepy eye because if you stop the course early, there’s a risk that the issue won’t clear up properly or will return. 

Keep an eye out for any changes in your dog’s eye health. If you notice any other signs of illness in your dog, or have any concerns about their health, contact your vet for further advice.

For more expert tips on your dog’s health, explore our other dog health symptoms and issues articles

Related articles

A Basset Hound with droopy, red eyes
Is it an allergy, an injury or a disease? What is causing your dog’s eyes to become bloodshot? Here are some of the possible answers.
A little girl holds her smiling black lab close
A young boy pets his dog's face
MyPurina App - woman with dog

Reward Yourself with myPurina

Earn and redeem rewards for Purina products with the myPurina app.