How to Clean a Dog's Runny Eyes

If your dog's eyes are inflamed and runny, his veterinarian needs to determine why.
sad eyes image by StephenD from

A dogs eyes can be runny for any of a number of reasons. He may suffer from an allergy or he may have an eye infection. He could have a hair touching his eye or a painful scratched cornea, or he could be a puppy with distemper. The area around a healthy dog's eyeballs should be white, and the eyes should be clear and bright. If your pet has inflamed, runny eyes, his veterinarian needs to determine the cause and a course of action. Cleaning a dog's runny eyes should be done gently and with care not to add to the irritation.

Step 1

Pour warm water into a bowl. Gather the bowl of warm water and some sterile cotton balls. Take your dog to a well-lit area.

Step 2

Turn your dog's face so he is looking straight at your face. Hold his snout or chin gently with one hand to keep him still.

Step 3

Dip a sterile cotton ball into the warm water. Place the damp cotton ball on the inside of one eye near the tear duct just under the lower eyelid. Wipe gently outward to the outer edge of the lower eyelid. Do not let any cotton fibers touch your dog’s eye as you wipe underneath the eyelid.

Step 4

Repeat Step 3 to clean the other eye, using a new sterile cotton ball.

Step 5

Give your dog a treat after cleaning his eyes so he knows that cooperating and keeping still is good behavior.


  • Using the same cotton ball to clean both eyes can transfer an infection from one eye to the other.

  • Do not allow shampoo or topical treatments to get near your dog’s eyes. Any type of chemical is an irritant to his eyes and can cause extreme discomfort.

  • Do not let your dog ride in a vehicle with his head out of the window. An insect can fly into his eye and hurt it, or he can get a dry eye condition that causes infection and irritation. It is better to roll down the window partially so his head is inside the car.


  • Cleaning your dog's eyes with warm water will soften any crusty buildup from runny eyes without hurting him.

  • If you have a small dog who does not like his eyes cleaned, place him on a table or countertop to discourage him from trying to move away during the process.

  • Keep long hair around a dog’s eye trimmed so that it does not contact his eyes and cause irritation.

  • If your pet is scratching at his eyes, something is wrong with them. Examine the eyes for cloudiness, redness or swelling, and call your vet to schedule an appointment.

Items You Will Need

  • Warm water
  • Bowl
  • Sterile cotton balls
  • Dog treats



About the Author

Mary Lougee has been writing for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree with a major in Management and a double minor in accounting and computer science. She loves writing about careers for busy families as well as family oriented planning, meals and activities for all ages.

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