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How to Clean & Soften Dog Eye Boogers (Simple & Easy Methods)

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

dog eye

Dogs are wonderful creatures, but let’s face it — they can get a little gross sometimes.

That’s especially true when you reach down to pet them, only to discover that their eyes are entirely crusted over with boogers. You don’t want them to suffer, so you bite the bullet and wipe it off with your fingers.

But what do you do when it won’t come off? Sometimes, the boogers get hard and stick to the corner of your pup’s eye. You don’t want to hurt them, but you need to get that nasty thing out of there.

In the guide below, we’ll tell you exactly how to clean out crusty boogers safely and effectively.Divider 8

What Are Eye Boogers?

First of all, the proper term is eye discharge, not boogers.

Most eye boogers are simply tears that have pooled and hardened in the corner of your dog’s eye. Sometimes they’re sticky and gooey, and sometimes they’re hard and crusty.

puppy dog eyes

Occasional eye discharge is totally normal. Your dog may have an especially bad case of boogers if they suffer from allergies or get something stuck in their eye, but it’s usually not anything to worry about.

Some dogs are prone to excessive watering, which is a condition known as “epiphora.” These mutts have eyes that are constantly wet, making them more likely to form boogers. It’s especially common in flat-faced breeds like Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs.

When Should I Worry?

If the boogers have a pus-like consistency or if they look like dried pus, then it may be a sign of an underlying issue like conjunctivitis. You should get it treated as soon as possible, as it can be spread to other dogs or even humans.

You should also be concerned if your dog’s eyes are red and swollen, the amount of discharge seems excessive, or your dog continues to paw at their eyes after you’ve removed all the boogers.

Of course, if you can actually see a foreign object lodged in your dog’s eye, then that warrants an immediate trip to the vet. Don’t try to remove it yourself, as you could just make the problem worse.

You should also get your dog looked at if you suspect they’re suffering from epiphora. While it’s not harmful in and of itself, it can occasionally be a sign of another problem, like tumors, glaucoma, or poor drainage.

Finally, if the discharge is sticky and persistent, you might want to get your dog checked for dry eye. Dry eye can be caused by damage to the tear ducts or by diseases like distemper, and as long as your dog’s eyes are excessively dry, they’re at greater risk for infection.

cute puppy dog eyes

Should I Clean My Dog’s Eye Boogers?

As long as you’re not too rough with your cleaning efforts, it’s generally advised to clean eye boogers off as soon as you spot them.

Dogs’ eyes are much like our own in that they need to be clean and lubricated to work. If there’s a booger taking up space in the corner of their eye, it could obstruct their vision or irritate the eye itself.

Also, if you leave boogers sitting for too long, sores can form underneath them. Cleaning them out will help your dog stay healthy and comfortable.Divider 4

How to Clean Dog Eye Boogers

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

One of the best ways to deal with eye boogers is to stop them from forming in the first place. You won’t be able to totally eliminate them, of course, but it may be possible to greatly reduce the amount of discharge that your dog produces.

It’s important to keep the fur around your dog’s eyes neatly trimmed, as excessive hair growth can capture moisture and increase the risk of infection. While you could trim this hair yourself using blunt-nosed scissors, we strongly recommend that you ask a professional groomer to do it for you instead.

Don’t let any irritants near your pup’s peepers either. Be careful not to get soap or shampoo in their eyes when bathing them, and don’t let your dog stick its head out the car window — that’s just asking to have a foreign object lodge itself in their eyes.

You should also bathe your dog whenever they get visibly dirty, especially if there’s gunk and debris on their face. This will reduce the risk that they’ll accidentally knock some dirt into their eyes while scratching or shaking.

There are also products that are designed to prevent excessive discharge; we’ve heard mixed reviews, but it probably couldn’t hurt to give one a try.

NaturVet – Tear Stain Plus Lutein – Eliminates...
  • TEAR STAIN FREE – Our cat and dog tear stain remover is a Tylosin free formula contains Eyebright...
  • IMMUNE SUPPORT - Contains Marshmallow Root to help lubricate mucous membranes and Eyebright to...

What Not to Do

The most important thing to remember is to never use your fingers to clean out eye boogers.

This is because your fingers are filthy. Sticking them into your dog’s eye will only introduce bacteria and other microbes, greatly increasing the risk of infection.

Also, don’t force your dog to tolerate the cleaning. If they’re thrashing around, trying to stick anything near their eyes is extremely dangerous. Wait for them to calm down, or ask a professional to clean their eyes out for you.

It’s a good idea to train your dog to accept eye cleaning. Start slow and use plenty of positive reinforcement. You want your dog to trust you and to calmly accept the cleaning.

Use a Warm Cloth

Take a soft cloth — flannel works well for this — and soak it in warm water. There’s definitely a “Goldilocks” effect in terms of water temperature here; if the water’s too cold, this won’t work, and if it’s too hot, it could hurt your pup.

cleaning dog eye
Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Take the cloth and rest it over your dog’s eyes for 15 to 30 seconds — however long it takes to soften up any crusty boogers. This may be a bit difficult, as many dogs don’t like having things draped over their eyes, so you’ll need to pet and reassure your dog the entire time.

After the boogers have softened, you can gently wipe them away with the cloth. Be careful not to let the corners of the cloth jab your dog in the eye while you’re working, however.

Consider a Q-Tip

This method is similar to the washcloth method above, except it’s more of a surgical strike.

Take a Q-Tip and run it under warm water, then gently dab away at boogers, trying to flick them away from the eye. This method works especially well on gooey boogers, but it’s not as good at removing crusties.

You have to be extremely careful, though, as you’re essentially poking at your pet’s eyes with a sharp stick. If you don’t have complete faith in your ability to hold your pooch still, you’re better off skipping this one.

Also, don’t buy cheap Q-Tips. The bargain-basement, generic options often leave bits of cotton behind, so you could end up making the problem worse while trying to fix it.

Use Eye Drops

Instead of relying on water, you can use a specially-designed solution for cleaning out your dog’s tear ducts.

While this option is obviously a bit pricier, it’s also likely to be more effective. A high-quality drop or gel will soothe your dog’s eyes while providing anti-microbial protection.

dog eye drops
Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

However, this option may be even more difficult to implement than the warm cloth. You’ll need to tilt your dog’s head back and hold their eyelids open in order to apply the solution. Chances are that you’ll need at least one other set of hands.

It’s a good idea to have a solution like this on hand at all times, though, as it can also help dislodge foreign objects or relieve irritation.

There are many good over-the-counter solutions, but if your dog has recurring issues, your vet may want to give you a prescription medication instead.

Try a Tear Stain Comb

This method is extremely effective, albeit somewhat terrifying.

You can buy a tiny comb that’s designed to remove tear stains and other gunk from around your dog’s eyes. It’s small enough to get in tight spaces, and the tines are rounded, reducing the risk of injury.

Petpost | Tear Stain Remover Comb for Dogs - Extra...
  • ♦ EASILY REMOVE CRUST AROUND THE EYES with this sturdy, extra fine tooth, 65 pin stainless steel...
  • ♦ PREVENT TEAR STAINS AT THE SOURCE by removing the crusty mucus build-up that leads to staining...

The combs are fairly inexpensive, and you can use them again and again. Also, you don’t have to worry about exposing your dog to any harsh chemicals.

However, you’ll still need a steady hand, and you want to be sure your dog won’t move at an inopportune moment, so having a partner to hold their head is a good idea.

Sometimes a Bath Is Necessary

If the boogers are persistent enough or there’s other dirt and debris on your dog’s face, you may need to just give them a bath.

You’ll need to use a tear-free shampoo, but don’t actually get any suds in the eyes. Just get it around the corners, and gently use a cloth to try to wipe away any residue. The warmth of the bath should loosen up the booger, making it easier to wipe away.

The good thing about this method is that even if it doesn’t work, you’ll at least get a clean dog out of it.

Credit: sattahipbeach, Shutterstock

If All Else Fails, Call a Professional

Anything dealing with your pet’s eyes is a sensitive issue, and you don’t want to be too aggressive in treating the problem. If you can’t solve it quickly and easily using the methods above, then give up and call a pro.

You can ask your vet or a groomer to take a look; the former might be better if you’re concerned about other issues, while the latter is fine if you’re sure it’s just a pesky booger.

This option is obviously the most expensive and time-consuming, but it’s better than paying for surgery or having to train your dog to live with an eyepatch.Divider 7

Conclusion: Eye Boogers in Dogs

While you might think that eye boogers are simply a gross nuisance, the fact is that it’s important to clean them out regularly so your dog’s vision isn’t impacted.

Fortunately, the problem is a fairly cheap and easy one to solve, so there’s no reason to let it get out of hand. With just a little bit of TLC, you can keep your dog’s eyes clean and healthy all the time.

Featured image credit: Roomanald, Shutterstock

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