How to Clean Your Dog’s Eyes

Whether your dog has big, brown eyes or tiny blue ones, it is important to keep them clean. This is a task that should be done carefully though, since his eyes are just as sensitive as yours, and he has to be able to see to look out for you.

Is it Dirt or an Infection?

If you’re particularly concerned about cleaning your dog’s eyes, there is probably a good amount of discharge in or around them. The first thing you should do is ensure that this “gunk” inside them is not caused by a medical problem. While it’s true that many dogs simply have excessive eye discharge, it can also be a sign of something more serious.

A few telltale signs that your dog has an eye infection or other serious disorders are if the eyes display:

  • Redness
  • Cloudiness
  • Inflammation

If any of these symptoms are present, or you notice any bleeding in the eye, see your veterinarian as soon as possible – and do not attempt to clean your dog’s eyes yourself until your vet gives you a proper treatment plan.

Cleaning Tear Stains on Light Fur

If your dog’s fur is white or very light blonde, he may be susceptible to tear stains, which occur when a build-up of water from the eyes discolors the fur beneath them to a brown or red tint. This is common in many toy breeds, including poodles, cocker spaniels and shih tzus.

These breeds are susceptible to excessive eye-watering due to the fact that their coarse hair often irritates their eyes. It’s important to remove these spots as soon as possible because they can be a breeding ground for bacteria if they remain damp for too long.

In order to remove tear stains, you can use a mixture of equal parts corn starch and peroxide. Mix them together into a fine powder and apply the solution to your dog’s fur. (Make sure that this solution does not make contact with your dog’s eyes! You do not want to irritate them further.) If you’re not comfortable using peroxide on your dog’s face, you can try a mixture of boric acid powder and cornstarch instead, but be careful to avoid the eyes with this mixture as well. Let the mixture dry for at least a couple hours and then rinse it thoroughly with lukewarm water.

Once you’ve removed your dog’s tear stains, you should focus on prevention. There are many products available that you can add to your pet’s food to prevent the formation of tear stains in the future. You can consult your vet for information about products specific to your dog’s needs.

Muck Removal

If your dog doesn’t have tear stains, just run of the mill muck in his eyes, you should be able to clean them by gently wiping the edge of the eye with a clean cloth or tissue. Remember to wipe around the eye, never directly on the eye’s surface. You can also buy eye wipes made specifically for dogs, but these are usually not necessary.

However, if there is dirt or debris directly inside your dog’s eye and not just in the corners, you will need to flush it out with an eyewash. Don’t go up to the bathroom and grab the Visine; be sure to consider your dog’s safety and comfort by purchasing an eyewash just for him. Canine-friendly solutions, such as EyeClens are available at most any pet supply store. They may also be found at your vet’s office.

To use the eye wash, put the bottle near, but not in, your dog’s eye and squeeze the bottle gently. Be sure that the bottle is angled downward, so that gravity will assist you in flushing out the debris. Give your dog a treat afterwards, as this can be quite stressful for him.

Keeping Your Dog’s Eyes Clean

If your pet has tear stains, he will require ongoing treatment. However, if you just need to keep your dog’s eyes free from gunk, there are several ways to reduce the risk of eye irritation:

  • Keep your pet away when you are mowing the lawn, dusting or doing other activities that cause an excessive amount of debris or particles in the air.
  • Don’t let your dog hang his head out the car window. Sure it looks like fun, but the wind can carry objects that could cause serious infection or damage.
  • Secure all household chemicals where your dog will not be exposed to them, such as on a high shelf or in a cabinet, and keep your dog outside when you are using toxic cleaners, such as bleach and ammonia.
  • Trim your pet’s fur if it is getting into his eyes regularly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, seek the assistance of a professional groomer.

Eye-cleaning is a fairly simple process and there is no set schedule of how often it should be preformed. Just keep on eye on your pet and his behavior and sit him down for an eye-cleaning on an as-needed basis.

Comments

  1. Elaine says:

    We have a new three-year-old German Shepard and cleaned the light color fur with your solution. Did the Job. Thank you!

  2. Natalia says:

    I was going nuts trying to think of what to use without hurting my pup; I didn’t know they sold special wipes!

  3. Rachel says:

    How long does the cornstarch/peroxide solution have to stay there? My dog started scratching her face after a few hours so I took it off. Didn’t seem to do much. Maybe I had the consistency wrong?

  4. Bree says:

    Our dog has had an ongoing what we think is a bacterial eye infection, but what the vet calls chronic dry eye and lack of tear production. She has had tear production testing and staining for ulcers. Came up neg. for ulcers and is at 0 production on tear ducts. We have been to the vet five times, cont. to repeat treatment that isn’t working and vet believes it is chronic and she will have it forever. Her eye is inflamed, clouded over and filled with mucous daily. She has taken cyclosporine, tacrolimus, art. tears, and some misc. things with no more than short term (3-4 days at most). Any natural suggestions – colloidal silver, eye flushing solutions or anything that might give her relief?

  5. Emily says:

    What if the “muck” sticks to their fur, and these solutions didn’t quite get all of it off since it is sticking to their fur really close to their eyes.

  6. Diane says:

    Emily,
    Try putting a TINY bit of hair conditioner on your finger and then dab onto the stubborn gunk. Give the conditioner a minute to soften the gunk and then massage the gunk gently with your finger to help loosen it from the hair and skin. Give it another minute to do it’s work. Then, approach the area very gently with a fine–tooth plastic comb. It should come right out. Keep in mind, the conditioner has oil in it. When it settles into the warmth of your dog’s skin, it will probably travel to the eyes – so you owe it to your dog to remove every trace.

    Next, use a dry facial tissue and pat the treated area to remove any residual conditioner around the dog’s eye. Then apply a TINY bit of a mild/soap-free/tear-free cleanser to a paper towel dampened with warm water. Gently apply to the treated area and work it in with your fingers. Use additional warm and wet paper towels to remove the cleanser. Finish up with a dry one and provide an immediate treat. I have been doing this routine for years with “Fluffy Puppy” shampoo. Any oatmeal conditioner formulated for pets is fine for use around the tender eye area. Bio-Groom makes one and so does John Paul Pet (Paul Mitchell). Let us know how it worked for you!

  7. Julia says:

    How do you get big, brown, gunk out of the corner of their eyes?

  8. Trisha says:

    OMG!!! Thanks so much; I have a three-month-old Matipoo and she is white, so her eyes get REALLY dirty!!!

  9. Linds says:

    Hey everyone. I have a three-year-old shih tzu who likes to play in the dirt, and he gets excessive amounts of dirt in and around (but I’m more concerned about the dirt in) his eyes, to the point that it just covers his eyeballs and I’m cleaning and flushing them constantly. Now, he is very rambunctious, so keeping him from doing almost anything that he wants is almost completely out of the question. There’s really no way to keep him from digging unless I keep him inside all the time, which I could not do to my baby. It is to the point, though, where I am wondering if this excessive amount of dirt could cause infection, because it does make his eyes very red, and they stay red for about two hours after I clean them. Up until this point, just cleaning them has worked. I just want to know if infection is something I should be keeping a closer eye on or something I should be more concerned about, or if I just clean his eyes constantly, he should be okay. Can large amounts of dirt in the eyes cause infection?

  10. Lynette says:

    I just bought a shih tzu, and I think I’m just going to buy the wipes and use them when I need to. I learned this breed can be prone to cysts in the eyes.

  11. robert says:

    What kind of wipes can I use on my 20 year old shih tzu, and how do you use it? Please let me know!

  12. Colleen says:

    A friend of mine puts a drop of apple cider vinegar in her dogs water and she has never had a problem with gunk in her pup’s eye. I just started doing it to my new Tea Cup Poodle; hope it works for us too.

  13. Chel says:

    I have a 1 1/2 year old chihuahua that is tan, and I have tried cornstarch and peroxide, but I still can’t get the gunk from his eyes. What else can I try? It looks nasty, like he is not taken care of. Makes him look old! Please help; home remedies!

  14. Melanie says:

    Chel,
    The cornstarch and peroxide is used to kill bacteria and lighten the hair. Use a soft cloth to wipe your dog’s eyes with warm water. For a ball or mat of gunk, soak the cloth and hold the cloth on the gunk ball (repeat to add more water if needed) until it softens. You could use peroxide while doing this, just again, be careful not to get it in your dog’s eye as it will be painful for your pet. If warm water or peroxide is not working to soften the gunk (so that you can scrape it off the fur), you could try white vinegar (also painful if it gets in the eye; you could dilute it for feisty pets, but still try to avoid getting it in the eye). Resting a washcloth soaked with warm water on your dog’s eye like a compress could also accomplish the task of softening the gunk.
    Rub the gunky fur between your fingers with a gentle soap and water and use your nails to pull/scrape the gunk off the hairs.
    Once the gunk is removed, then use the cornstarch and peroxide paste to disinfect and dye the fur.
    You could also try letting vinegar dry on the stains and taking your dog out to play in the sun to bleach the fur, similarly as people do with lemon juice (lemons are toxic to dogs).
    A great home remedy for eye care is to make a saline solution (eyewash) by sterilizing a glass or jar with boiling water and adding non-iodized salt to distilled water.
    Adding vinegar to your dog’s drinking water occasionally could help change the pH of your dog’s tears and therefore prevent staining.

    Source: eHow – How to Make a Dog Eyewash Remedy
    Source: wikiHow – How to Prevent Tear Staining in Dogs
    Source: Dog Health Handbook – Dog Eye Wash

  15. Barry says:

    We have an 11-year-old Portuguese water dog. He has heavy eye discharge. The vet gave us an eye wash plus antibiotic for him. As soon as we use this, he rubs his entire face, eyes included, on the carpet, thus making the problem worse. I think he has actually gotten rug burn by doing this. Any ideas?

  16. Melanie says:

    Barry,
    First, call your vet to see if this is a common reaction to the eye wash. There are several possible causes; your dog could be allergic to something in the eye wash (since you mentioned that it contains antibiotics rather than just being a plain saline solution), or he might not like the feeling of the medicine as it works (it might be itchy – imagine a drop of peroxide on a fresh blood stain happening at a microscopic level on your dog’s eye). It’s also possible, though unlikely since the itching is so intense, that he doesn’t like the smell of the medicine or the smell as it reacts with his tears. Ask your vet if you need/could use an oral antibiotic instead, as heavy discharge might indicate an infection, and then use a plain eye wash for cleaning.
    You could also conduct an experiment; make a plain eye wash with only non-iodized salt and water (note: very important: NON-iodized salt; do not use iodized salt), and see if your dog has the same reaction. If he reacts the same, it is the feeling that he dislikes (as opposed to an allergy or smell). For that, try slowly wiping a soft cloth over your dog’s face after each eye wash to essentially scratch the itch for him and give him time to calm down to a point where he might not be as excited to itch when you release him. It’s also possible that your dog is itching so intensely simply due to the excitement of the experience (intense-excitement rather than intense-itching), so this will be a good way to rule that out too.
    Give him a treat or treat dispenser toy immediately afterwards to distract him from itching or give him a thorough back-scratch to draw the attention to a different part of his body. Also, make sure that when you finish the eye wash, there aren’t any hairs sticking into his eye or nose that could be provoking an itch.
    Another idea: cover the carpet with a soft, lint-free blanket for your dog to use instead of the stiff carpet fibers. You could also put your dog in a carpet-free room (bathroom) with the blanket after the eye wash, however I recommend that you stay in the bathroom as well or give him treats so that it does not seem like a punishment.

    Source: PetDIYs.com – Treat Dispenser

  17. Constance says:

    I need help! I used the tear stain remover on my puppy and my puppy moved suddenly and the tear stain remover got inside his eye! What should I do now? Now, one eye can open and the other eye can’t open! Help please, immediately!

  18. Susan says:

    I have a poodle who is about nine years old. The gunk around hie eyes is really bad. Tee bites the groomer and now, I can’t have him groomed. I can’t even clean the gunk. What do I do, and how do I get Tee calm enough to do his eyes? Tee will let me wash his face in the shower, but I can’t get close enough to even trim his hair. Any suggestions?

  19. Allison says:

    I have a white shih tzu. Our vet suggested mixing a solution of half vinegar and half filtered water and wiping around the eye regularly with a saturated cotton ball, being careful not to get the solution or cotton in the eye. It lightens the stain and the vinegar fights bacteria.

  20. Larissa says:

    My new little maltipoo pup has a lot of fur around her eyes and a lot of eye boogers, she also has a little bit of harder fur around her eyes. I was wondering what I should do, and if there is a special wipe I can buy. Also, I would want to know if this kind of breed will get tear stains. She is a really light brown, sort of a toffee color. I would like to know of a solution to use without hurting her… I know she doesn’t have an infection. Thank you a whole lot and please write back.

  21. Melanie says:

    Susan,
    There are ‘calming treats’ made for dogs, available at pet stores, some groceries or online that might help. There are also calming scents for dogs made in spray form and in a plug-in dispenser, as well as calming collars and also an edible calming gel for dogs. Another idea is to try the calming vests that are usually used by dogs who are afraid of thunderstorms, though that wouldn’t be helpful when grooming him.
    Several studies have shown that the smell of lavender has a calming effect on dogs.
    You could use a muzzle just for grooming; having the jaws removed from the situation will likely give you a greater sense of ease and therefore allow you to better ease Tee as well. Also giving him the positive reinforcement of special treats (the calming treats) before putting on the muzzle might help with his long-term feelings about the muzzle (ie. muzzle = special treats, rather than muzzle = eye cleaning time).
    Once you can get close to Tee, rub him gently on the top of his head with your thumb (this is an acupressure technique for calming) – if you can find it in all that poodle poof. :p Use your thumb and press down gently for several seconds or rub your thumb over his head (front to back) repeatedly. You can utilize this as needed while you clean his eyes too.
    As a side note, a nine-year-old poodle has likely been groomed many, many times, so if his ‘bad groomer behavior’ is fairly recent (as opposed to a life-long phobia), it could be a reaction to a specific (bad) experience. For example, when this happened with my sweet bichon frise (he snapped at the groomer), we eventually figured out that it was because the groomer had given him a spot of razor burn/nicked him with the razor on accident – with all that fur, it was tough to find the spot. With dogs that need the specialty styling, this is probably more likely to happen, especially if the groomer is rushing or a new hire. You might consider switching groomers – just a change of scenery/personnel might help him overcome the experience, and you can let the new groomer know that he needs extra TLC – ask them to take extra time being careful/gentle (and give a nice tip). At least it sounds like he can enjoy a nice shower to stay clean for now. :) Good luck!

    Source: Narda G. Robinson, Colorado State University – Aromatherapy – Nothing to Sneeze At
    Source: The Whole Dog Journal – Reducing His Concerns

  22. Roger says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing these useful tips! I often face this problem with my dog. Early in the morning, I always find my dog’s eyes full of dirt, but he never lets me clean them. He gets very irritated. I will use your tips.

    Hopefully, it should work for my dog. Thanks!

  23. Winn says:

    I use a mild solution of TCP; 1 part TCP to 20 warm water keeps eyes clean and clear.

  24. Jessica says:

    I have a doxin that is three-years-old. Her eyes are red and have a lot of gunk in them. She can’t open the left side at times. Once I take a warm washcloth and wipe her eye, she can see a little better, but it comes back later. I don’t really have money to take her to the vet right now. Is there anything else I can do to make her feel better and take the irritation or whatever it is away?

  25. Melanie says:

    Jessica,
    Honey might help. It is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and has other healing properties as well, particularly for the immune system. It is also a mild pain reliever. Just drip some honey on a treat or on your dog’s food and that might help. Do not put it on or around the eye; just feed it to your dog. (Note: do not give honey to a diabetic dog.)
    If you do need to go to the vet, visit the websites of the vets in your area first. It is likely that one of them will have a coupon for ‘first visit free’ or a discount for new clients. You can also call around to find out which ones have the cheapest exam fees; the ‘animal aid’ organizations are usually the least expensive.

    Source: Huffington Post – Honey in Integrative Veterinary Medicine
    Source: Diane Stein – Natural Remedies for Cats and Dogs
    Source: The George Mateljan Foundation – Honey

  26. Alanna says:

    I have a 1-year-old cocker spaniel and all I use it a warm damp cloth to clean her eyes and it does the job! But I think this is very good advice. Thank you!

  27. Duane says:

    My elderly neighbor has an old dog, limited means and cannot go to the vet. The dog suffered with loads of muck and mucus in her eyes to the point of near blindness. I took a chance with a known treatment for humans: baby shampoo diluted in distilled water, Q-tips dipped in and stroked all around and just inside the eyelids and finished with lots of warm water and a soft wash cloth. (I actually lifted out large globs of mucus and kept going until it was gone.) She resisted me at first and then relaxed into it. She is now mucus-free and very happy.

  28. Geraint says:

    Our lovely four-year-old cross border collie has had bad red eyes for three years now. Been to vets many times with still no joy; have had second, third, etc., etc. opinion with different vets and they all say she has an allergic reaction to something? Got rid of all flower plants at home, changed cleaning products, changed food, done everything I can think of; we have a clean house so no problem there. Her eye’s problem does not bother her to be honest, but it bothers me as I don’t like seeing her eyes with gunk and redness and look so sore. Please, any advise would be appreciated. Thank you.

  29. Melanie says:

    Geraint,
    Here are a variety of ideas:
    - There is a food allergy test for dogs, the Dr. Jean Dodd’s Nutriscan Saliva test, which can determine if your dog is allergic to corn, wheat, beef, eggs, soy or milk, which are the most common food allergies for dogs. There are also blood and skin allergy tests that can be conducted, as you probably know.
    - You could switch food again, but this time get something as natural as possible, with as few additives as you can find, preferably organic, etc. Many of the more popular pet food brands are actually made by the same company, so they may be getting some ingredients from the same place. Even if they’re not, they likely contain a bunch of ingredients (and additives, or ingredients that have additives, such as the antibiotics given to chickens), which can make determining the allergy cause difficult. You could look at the ingredients list for her old food and new food and determine which ingredients are the same for both, then look for a food that doesn’t contain one or any of those. You could even try a different main ingredient, such as if both foods are primarily chicken, find a food that is primarily turkey, etc.
    - Do an elimination diet.
    - Vitamin A is good for not only human eye health, but also dog eye health. Consider adding carrots or sweet potatoes to her meal sometimes if you decide to make her food for an elimination diet or just use them as treats. I’ve seen both sweet potato and carrot dog treats that she might like. :) You could even just give her raw (chopped) carrots and make your own sweet potato treats (they’re just baked/dehydrated slices of sweet potato) to ensure there are no additives.
    - Another way that you could try to determine the cause is to keep a log for a couple weeks. Write down specific times of day and activities, and give her eyes a rating, like 1 being not so bad and 5 being really red. That way you can (hopefully) determine what it is that was nearby/happening when she got worse. Try new things too, like a different park than usual for a walk, going for a 30 minute car ride, etc.; different environments that can possibly trigger some kind of change, better or worse, that you can then examine for a possible cause. If her eyes improve after the car ride, maybe the problem is in the house. If her eyes get worse at the park, maybe it is some kind of local plant that is in the park and also near your front door, etc. Also make notes before, after and about an hour after normal activities like when she eats, before/after you clean, before/after you watch TV on the couch together, etc. Don’t discount any bit of information – it could be something as odd as a wool blanket that’s bothering her.
    - Do not use plastic food/water bowls, which are a common cause for facial allergies in dogs according to ABC News. This normally presents as a skin allergy, such as a rash on the eyelid, but it couldn’t hurt to try it.
    - Give her distilled water or spring water that is tested for flouride.
    - Switch her shampoo/conditioner/groomer to something as natural as you can find. You could even make your own recipe.
    - Use a steam cleaner to clean the carpet, the couch, pillows, her bed if it can’t be washed, etc. Even in a clean home, there are likely still dust mites, which can be cleaned away regularly.
    - There are aromatherapy scents that can be used for dog allergies. You could mix the oil in water, then wipe the solution onto the fur around her face. If the allergy is something in the air, an oil that is an antibacterial/antifungal/etc. like eucalyptus or peppermint could help cleanse the air around her face and provide her with a protective bubble in a way. If you are concerned about trying this, you could do so the day of/before her next grooming when the oil will be washed off shortly after.
    - Whenever my eyes get itchy and red from allergies, a cool washcloth or splash with water always helps them feel better. You can offer her a cool compress too. The cool temperature will help to reduce any inflammation that might be present as well. Just wet a soft washcloth with cool water and gently hold it against her closed eye (make sure the eye is closed of course) for a few seconds. If you wipe it across the outside of her eye, always wipe from the nose toward the ear, never the other way. Don’t press the cloth into the eye, just barely lay it across; you could even lay it across both eyes while she is laying down. See what she feels most comfortable with and seems to take comfort from.
    - You could wash her eyes out as described in the article too of course.
    - You can give her a dog eye massage to improve circulation and trigger eye acupressure points, as described by the Whole Dog Journal in the article, Structure of the Canine Eye.
    - I know you said you’ve been to a lot of vets, but if you haven’t done so, you could go to a veterinary opthamologist and see if they have any thoughts that are different from a general vet. A holistic vet might have some other ideas as well.
    - I knew a collie who had very red eyes and it turned out that she was sensitive to sunlight and had to wear “doggles” (doggie goggles) when outside and not have too much bright light indoors. I’m sure that if your dog had the same condition that one of the vets would have noticed, but you could get her some doggles anyway and just see if they help. Since you’re not sure if the allergy is something ingested, something respiratory (caused by inhalation of pollen, etc.), something absorbed by the skin, or something in the air that’s bothering her eye topically (like when you chop onions and your eyes water), the doggles could prevent the last one or at least help you rule it out. If nothing else, it makes for a great picture. :)
    - Collies sometimes have eye problems or allergies related to their heartworm medicine.

    Source: HealthyPets – Help Your Dog Overcome These 3 Common Allergies
    Source: PetMD – Do Carrots Naturally Improve Your Dog’s Vision
    Source: Modern Dog Magazine – DIY Eat – Sweet Potato Dog Chews
    Source: ABC News – 7 natural home remedies for pet allergies
    Source: University of Nebraska – Lincoln – Managing House Dust Mites
    Source: DogsNaturally – Five Top Essential Oils for Canine Allergies
    Source: VetStreet – My Dog Has Red and Irritated Eyes. What’s Going On?
    Source: eHow – Collie Ivermectin Sensitivity Symptoms

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