Dr. Chris Roth, DVM May 20, 2020
As a vigilant dog owner, it’s important to monitor unusual symptoms in your pet to keep them healthy. Ignoring issues can not only lead to an irritable pup, but to bigger, more costly problems. Dog eye discharge and itchy dog ears are two common afflictions that our four-legged family members suffer from. In this article, we will cover the various causes of these conditions and offer possible treatments.
Common Causes of Irritated Dog Eyes
If your dog is suffering from itchy or inflamed eyes, the culprit can range from a condition that is relatively easy to fix to something more serious. An understanding of the following dog eye infections might provide valuable insight into your dog’s situation.
When are a Dog’s Goopy Eyes a Cause for Concern?
The inner corner of your dog’s eyes is where her tear ducts are located. From time to time, goop or crust might form in this area as a result of an accumulation of dried tears, oil, and mucus. Most times the substance will be clear, but it can also be brown in color. This is completely normal. So long as your dog’s eyes are not red and they aren’t agitated by the goop or crust, there is no need to worry. You can simply take a moist cotton ball and wipe her eyes clean of the discharge. If your dog, however, is rubbing her eyes or blinking and squinting frequently, you should bring her in to see a veterinarian, as this could be a symptom of the conditions listed below. Treating your dog with over-the-counter eye drops is not recommended without first consulting with a medical professional.
If the lining of your dog’s eyelids becomes inflamed, she might have conjunctivitis. This ailment, which is akin to pink eye in humans, can trigger a clear and runny discharge or yellow-green pus in one or both of your dog’s eyes. Conjunctivitis can also make your dog’s eyes red, crusty, and swollen.3 You might see your pup blinking excessively, pawing at her eyes, or keeping her eyes closed. The cause of conjunctivitis can be allergies, environmental irritants, or a bacterial infection. Once you bring your dog to a veterinarian, the doctor will examine your dog’s eye to see if a foreign body is causing the problem. If this is the case, the debris or object will be removed. If an allergy is responsible for the condition, your vet might prescribe antihistamines. If a bacterial infection turns out to be the cause of the conjunctivitis, your dog will be given eye drops and antibiotics. There is no reason to worry that you’ll contact conjunctivitis from your dog as it is not contagious.
Epiphora is an eye ailment that causes an abnormal flow of tears. Tearing is a natural reaction to an irritant and acts to flush away foreign bodies from the eye. But if your dog’s eyes are overly wet, and it’s not a result of something getting into her eyes, you should investigate the matter further. Epiphora can cause a darkening of fur around your dog’s eyes. Other symptoms of this condition are squinting, inflammation, redness and irritation, and discharge from the eye. The causes of epiphora can be wide-ranging and include allergies, a parasite in the eye, glaucoma, sinusitis, or a blocked tear duct. Some breeds are susceptible to a blockage of their tear ducts or poor eyelid function as a result of a deformity. Treatment for epiphora will depend on what your vet finds to be the underlying cause and can range from topical solutions to surgery.
The opposite of a dog with excessively watery eyes is one with dry eyes or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). The condition can be caused by congenital or immune related causes. It can also be the side effect of certain medications or previous surgeries to treat “cherry eye” (Dodi, 2015). Symptoms include decreased tear production or insufficient tear secretion. These symptoms can lead yellow or gray, goopy discharge, eye redness, corneal ulcers, and blindness in extreme cases. Dog breeds such as Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, and Pugs, can be predisposed to dry eye.1
KCS is most commonly caused by a response from the dog’s immune system, which can cause inflammation and deterioration of glands in the eye. Toxicity caused by sulfa drugs, hypothyroidism, and canine distemper can also create trouble with a dog’s tear film.1 Unfortunately, there is no cure for dry eye and ongoing treatment is required. A daily administration of topical medications will stimulate tear production and replace tear film, which will keep your dog’s cornea protected and healthy.
Common Dog Ear Infections & Problems
Like dog eye infections, problems with your dog’s ears can range from something to keep an eye on to an issue that requires veterinarian care. The more knowledge you have, the more accurately you’ll be able to decipher between the two.
Dog Ear Infections
All dogs occasionally lift one of their hind legs to scratch their ears or head. But if your dog profusely scratches her ears, frequently shakes her head, or has hair loss around her ears, it’s time to take a closer look. Here’s why: itchy or irritated ears can lead to a nasty ear infection. Itchy ears can be caused by a flea bite, environmental sources, a yeast infection, or a food allergy. An ear infection occurs when your dog’s ears get inflamed with wax and discharge. This happens when naturally occurring yeast and bacteria overwhelms her immune system and she can’t control the infection. Treatments for an ear infection will vary depending on the cause. Allergies can be complicated to manage and it’s best to seek your veterinarian’s input. Cleaning your dog’s ears every week is a proactive way to keep them healthy and prevent potential issues. It’s worth noting that dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections due to dust, dirt, and moisture getting trapped in their ears and forming bacteria.4
Ear mites in dogs occur when tiny parasites feed on the wax and oil inside your pets’ ears. Dogs that are outside frequently are most likely to get ear mites, but once your pup comes inside ear mites can easily travel from one animal to another through close contact or shared bedding. If your dog has ear mites, she will most likely scratch and rub her ears. Additionally, her ears will emit a foul odor and possibly have a build-up of dark debris inside. Continual scratching of the ears can cause cuts and redness in that area. Ear mites are not something to ignore. They live in your dog’s ear canal and reproduce rapidly. So if you see white specks in your dog’s ears or suspect your dog has ear mites, schedule an appointment with your vet to address the situation. Your vet will thoroughly clean your dog’s ears and most likely apply an anti-parasitic medication. The best way to prevent ear mites is to regularly clean your dog’s ears as well as frequently wash their bedding.
Issues with a dog’s eyes and ears are common. The best thing you can do to minimize potential problems is to closely observe your pet and implement a regular health maintenance routine. When in doubt on how to address particular symptoms in your pet, it’s always wise to error on the side of caution and seek a professional’s expertise.
Dr. Chris Roth, DVM May 20, 2020