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Q: My dog’s eyes have been goopier than usual, but he’s otherwise behaving normally. What could cause this?
Dr. Brittany Cartlidge, AtlasVet DC: Eyes are naturally coated in a layer of tears to lubricate the surface, protect against infection, and remove debris. When an increase in discharge from the eyes occurs, there are several possible causes to consider. Allergies are one of the most common reasons for an increase in goopy eye discharge in dogs. Many dogs (and people) have allergies and this can result in increase in eye discharge with or without redness in the eye. Flushing the eyes out with an over-the-counter sterile eye wash can help.
Bacterial or viral pink eye (a.k.a. conjunctivitis) can also cause an increase in eye discharge. But, in these cases, you would expect to see other signs like squinting or redness of the eyes. Lastly, some dogs develop a condition called dry eye (a.k.a. keratoconjunctivitis sicca) that causes an increase in goopy eye discharge. This is caused by a lack of the water-based component of tears. The eyes become irritated and an increase in goopy discharge results. A simple test called a Schirmer tear test can be done by your veterinarian to assess for dry eye if your dog exhibits clues for the condition during an examination.
Most of the time, goopy eye discharge in dogs is not concerning if they otherwise seem comfortable. But, if your dog is showing signs like redness, squinting, or rubbing of the eyes, it is best to get them examined by a veterinarian.