How To Clean A Dog’s Eyes
March 22, 2021 | 3 min read
Updated March 22, 2021
By Sarah Milton
Published: March 22, 2021
Updated: May 16, 2023
Summary: In this blog, we explore and explain why dogs need to have their eyes cleaned! We’ll establish how to clean a dog’s eyes, what’s the best method, what you’ll need, and how to support your pup experiencing tear stains, too. Read on to discover more about how to clean dog eyes…
“Should I be cleaning my dog’s eyes?” Well, usually the answer is yes! Just like humans, dogs are prone to gunk in their eyes as airborne pollution and debris will naturally blow into them. This can then build up into a form of hard or soft dirt (or eye boogers!) that clogs up on or around their tear ducts. Although their body can protect them from the odd particle, it can’t help in dispersing this build-up of discharge - that’s where their loving pet parent comes in!
Unless this build-up is managed regularly, it can be very uncomfortable for your pooch to deal with.
As responsible pet parents, we should be grooming our pets as we would our children; helping our furry friends out with regular hygiene routines to preserve their health and happiness. Thankfully, when it comes to eye cleaning, the process is relatively simple and can be done at home (if Fido is OK with that, that is!)
So, let’s learn how to clean your dog’s eyes…
What Do I Use To Clean My Dog’s Eyes?
All you’ll need is a pair of clean hands, some balls of cotton wool, a paper/kitchen towel, and a bowl of clean, warm water. If your dog is a little reluctant to have their eye’s cleaned, you may need an extra pair of hands to help you soothe them and keep them still.
How Do You Clean Dog Eyes?
Before you begin cleaning your dog’s eyes, always make sure your dog is comfortable. Use a soft, praising tone and encourage them with lots of petting and niceties throughout the process.
- Make sure your hands are washed and clean. If you have a helper, make sure they’ve done the same.
- Lightly wet a cotton wool ball
- Place the damp cotton wool ball at the inside of their eye and gently wipe to the outside of the eye. You may need to do this a couple of times to help remove stubborn eye boogers. If there is a lot of gunk, refresh your cotton wool ball every couple of wipes. Note: Your dog will instinctively close their eyes when you approach the eye with the cotton wool ball.
- Repeat on the other side with a new, lightly wet cotton wool ball.
- Then, when you’re done, pat their eyes dry gently with a piece of paper/kitchen towel.
- Reward them for having their eyes cleaned with lots of praise and their favorite treat! This will help them learn to be good the next time too!
If your dog isn’t happy about having their eyes cleaned, don’t force them to go through the process with you or scold them for their reluctance. Qualified veterinary nurses can help out here, so make an appointment if your furry friend is becoming anxious or scared and their eyes really need a clean.
Never use wipes (like makeup-removing wipes) that aren’t meant for dog eyes.
How Often Should I Clean My Dog’s Eyes?
When asking yourself “how often should I clean my dog’s eyes?”, this really depends on your dog.
You need to regularly clean your dog’s eyes. Once a month is usually enough, but if you want a specific cleaning schedule, particularly if you own a dog with naturally long hair around their eyes and ears (like Shih-Tzus, Poodles, or Maltese), consult with your vet.
If the eyes are discharging excessively or appear red, sore, or inflamed, or their vision seems to be impaired, get them examined by their vet as this could indicate an underlying issue that needs medical intervention.
What About Dog Tear Stains?
Occasional tear staining is when there is brown, pink, or reddish fur coloring in the fur that runs from the corner of a dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Tear stains are caused by a molecule called ‘porphyrin’ which is a waste product that is normally removed from the body in tears and saliva. When it comes into contact with air, it oxidizes and becomes a rusty color which can stain.
It’s very common in paler-coated breeds of dogs, those with longer hair around their nose and eyes and those with short noses. Breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pekingese with rounded eyes are particularly prone to this problem too. Dog tear staining is harmless, but some owners consider it unsightly.
PetLab Co. Pro Tip: Tear stains are not the same as eyes that are weeping. If your dog’s eyes are weeping, contact the vet!
How Do I Support A Dog Experiencing Tear Stains?
A combination of grooming and cleaning can help with your dog’s tear staining. If your dog has long hair around their eyes and nose, make sure this is regularly trimmed short. You, your vet, or a groomer can do this for you – they can even teach you how to just stay on top of these areas if you ask!
Regular cleaning, as directed above with cotton wool balls and warm water, can also help with reducing tear stains.
Some pet brands have also developed digestible chews that are tailored for dogs with tear stains. Look for ones from a reputable brand that contains Vitamin C and ingredients that have microbial properties (like marshmallow root).
It’s important to take advice from your vet about how to care for your dog’s eyes and what products to use in and around them - particularly if your dog needs specific help with their eye care. Make sure that your dog is seen by your vet on an annual basis so they can give them a thorough, overall check-up, and don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s eyes or other issues they may have.
Author Tweedle, Dave BVetMed MRCVS "How To Clean Your Dog's Eyes" My Family Vets UK https://www.myfamilyvets.co.uk/how-to-clean-your-dogs-eyes
"How To Safely Clean Your Dog's Eyes" Vetericyn, Apr 12. 2018 https://vetericyn.com/blog/how-to-safely-clean-dogs-eyes/
"Tear Staining In Dogs" PDSA UK, Mar 2019. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/symptoms/tear-staining-in-dogs#:~:text=Remove%20any%20dirt,%20tears%20or,use%20around%20a%20dog's%20eyes.
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!