A close-up photo of a dog's eye.

Home Care for Watery or Runny Eyes

A watery or runny eye is one of the most common symptoms seen in dogs. It can be a minor issue or a major problem. Like many pet owners, you may not know what to do when your dog has a runny eye, so this article will focus on what you can do for your pet at home. If you were to call and ask me about a problem I’d most likely tell you to see your vet. However, I realize there are some situations that make seeing a veterinarian very difficult. Maybe an emergency happens when no clinics are open and emergency care isn’t available. Maybe you just don’t have the money and can’t afford a vet visit. I understand that things happen.

Let me be clear: I don’t want the advice below to replace your vet. It is meant only to help you in case you can’t see your vet. Many pet owners make harmful choices because they don’t get any advice. With this series of articles, I want to help you prevent harming your dog. I’ll try to guide you through dealing with specific problems as though you were a friend of mine and I was talking you through a problem on the phone.

Here are some of the most common questions pet owners ask vets about runny eyes.

What is a Runny Eye?

The term “runny eye” refers to an abnormal increase in eye discharge. Sometimes the discharge can be very watery and other times it can be thicker and similar in consistency to glue. In general, the more discharge, the more serious the problem.

What Causes a Runny Eye?

Symptoms can be caused by a variety of problems including a lack of tear drainage due to abnormal or obstructed tear ducts or tear duct openings. Another common culprit is excessive production of tears by the tear glands due to irritation or inflammation of the surface structures of the eye, or from pain in or around the eye. Causes can include:

For a full list of possible causes, go to causes of eye discharge.

What Can I Do at Home?

Specific home treatments are dependent on the cause of the watery eye. Here is the general approach to treat a watery-eyed dog:

When is a Watery Eye an Emergency?

A watery eye is an emergency if your dog is rubbing at the eye, you notice blood, the eye looks cloudy, you see something in the eye, the pupils are different sizes or you notice your dog squinting or holding the eye closed. Any of these signs warrant medical attention; please see your veterinarian.

For more details on runny or watery eyes, go to our articles on Eye Discharge in Dogs and Red Eyes in Dogs.

Related topics include Corneal Ulcers in Dogs, Glaucoma in Dogs, Eye Trauma, and Uveitis in Dogs.