How to Soften Dog Eye Boogers: 2 Safe Ways for Hard Gunk Softening

how to soften dog eye boogers

Last week I was giving our dog Claude a little clean when I noticed a hard brown, booger-like gunk substance in the corner of his eye. It’s nothing to be concerned about, as dog eye boogers are usually just dry tears that have formed over time. Dogs’ eyes actually tear up more than humans to naturally flush out the eye of anything infectious.

But dog eye boogers can get very crusty (kind of like a hard gunk). If you’ve not cleaned them out before, the fact they are solid, crusty and hard to budge might put you off trying to get them out – after all, you don’t want to harm your dog’s eyes.

How to soften dog’s eye crust

However, over the last few years I have become somewhat of a dog eye booger expert – at least that’s what my wife says, as it’s always left to me to clean them. But to do it properly, you need to know how to soften dog eye boogers first – the hard gunk is easier to remove that way.

Here’s how you can soften the gunk around your dog’s eyes, with minimal risk or discomfort. There are two ways:

How to soften dog eye boogers: You soften the eye boogers and hard gunk either by using a warm flannel and gently pressing it on your dog’s eye. The eye booger naturally softens. The alternative method is to use a specialist doggy eye-drop or eye booger treatment that has the ingredients to soften and flush out your dog’s eye booger safely and effectively. 

An overview of dog eye boogers 

The most important thing I’ve learned down the years is that dog eye boogers are more often than not a symptom of an underlying issue rather than a condition in and of itself.

So, if you want to find out about dog eye boogers and this hard gunk you wanted to soften, how to treat it and what it potentially may mean, keep reading on.

What are dog eye boogers?

The technical medical term for dog eye boogers is dog eye ‘discharge’ which, in medical terms, refers to the flow of fluid from another part of the body – which, in this case, is the eye. It can be a range of different colours and consistencies, including brown, yellow or green. Furthermore, the discharge can be watery, pus-like or crusty.

Different appearances mean different things, so be sure to take that into account when treating dog eye discharge, as identifying the underlying cause is crucial for the wellbeing of your pup.

I’ve written some of the causes lower down the page, but it goes without saying; consult your vet if you aren’t sure.

Should I clean my dog’s eye boogers?

Dog’s eyes need to be wet and lubricated in order to function properly. If there’s hard gunk and crust in there, it’s not only going to limit their vision, but could also be irritable.

how to soften dog’s eye crust
Check your dog’s eyes regularly for any hard gunk and eye boogers.

I always clean my dog’s eye boogers, softening them first.

How do I get rid of my dog’s eye boogers?

There are many different ways you can go about treating you dog’s eye booger, but there is one thing you absolutely should not do (read the important tip below).

Important! You should never, under any circumstance, clean a dog’s eye boogers with your fingers. Although it might seem like a quick fix, it can cause a really bad eye infection and transfer some harmful bacteria.

1. A warm flannel to soften the eye boogers 

A cheap, easy and effective option. Get a clean flannel and soak it in warm water (not too hot and not too cold).

Hold the flannel over the affected eye for 15 to 30 seconds to allow time for the eye discharge to soften, then gently wipe or flick it away with the flannel.

2. Canine eye drops

These might be a little more expensive than your standard sterile or saline solution, but it has the benefit of being specifically designed for dogs, which makes the product non-irritating and non-toxic if your dog were to accidentally lick or ingest the solution!

You can find a great dog eye drop on Amazon with excellent reviews.

It also has a lot of other uses apart from flushing out eye boogers, including treating allergic reactions and giving the eye some general moisture and lubrication If needed.

3. Dog tear stain remover

A product specific to dogs who experience stubborn eye boogers as a result of epiphora.

4. A trim around the eyes

If your dog is long-haired, eye gunk might get stuck on the hair around it rather than in the eye itself – in which case, a quick trim around the eyes with scissors/an electric trimmer or a visit to the groomers is all that is needed.

5. A dog eye comb

This is another substance-free method of helping to get rid of eye boogers that are stuck on the surrounding fur rather than on the eye itself.

Causes of dog eye boogers

With dog eye boogers being a symptom rather than a cause, it is important to consider the underlying health issues that might be causing them.

Although the following list is not exhaustive, it does detail the most common reason why your dog might be experiencing more frequent eye boogers.

how do I get hard gunk out of my dogs eyes
Whilst you can soften your dog’s eye boogers yourself, I would also recommend you visit a vet if you have concerns over what’s causing the hard gunk.


Did you know that dogs can get hay fever too? Some dogs are actually allergic to dust or pollen, and if they’re exposed to too much of it, they may develop allergic conjunctivitis, which causes weepy eyes and redness.

The small particles of dust and pollen can end up getting trapped under a dog’s eyelid, which then causes the resultant irritation and eye discharge.

If you suspect your dog of having an allergic reaction, the most important thing to do is take it to the vet to be examined. To help treat your dog’s allergies, your vet may prescribe antihistamines like Benadryl or topical anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops.

Excessive eye watering

The official medical term for this is epiphora (read definition) and it refers to a dog’s eyes excessively tearing up, leaving them constantly wet.

This a problem that is especially common in flat-faced dog breeds, and it occurs because the dog’s tear ducts are unable to properly dispose of excess tear production.

One result of this, in turn, is eye boogers – specifically the ‘tear-staining’ type. ‘Tear staining’ occurs mostly in light coloured dogs and involves a darkening of the fur around the eyes as a result of their excessive tear production.

The good news is that epiphora is usually treatable, but it requires a visit to the vet and possibly surgery.


Conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye, is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye and the inner eyelids. As we have seen, conjunctivitis can sometimes be caused by allergies. However, it can also be viral or bacterial, and is often paired with yellow or green puss-like discharge and eye crust.

If you have more than one pet, it is especially important to take your dog to the vet if you suspect it of having conjunctivitis – it can be highly contagious. It can be treated with antibiotics and frequent eye baths.

Dry Eye

The medical term for this condition is Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (read definition), and it is pretty much the opposite of epiphora.

KCS can cause eye boogers as well as several other issues for your dog because not only will it cause discomfort and itchiness, but the lack of lubrication in the eye will also make it harder to flush out bits that get into your dog’s eye like grains of sand or little bits of gravel.

The whites of the eye will turn brown, and the eye will also produce yellow-green discharge. This is probably the most severe cause of dog eye boogers, because if KCS is left untreated, it can cause blindness. Go to the vets immediately if you suspect your dog has KCS.

Handy Hint: You can also use this cleaning method with a young puppy if their eyes have not yet opened at around the 18 day point of life.


If you’re going to commit your life to a dog, cleaning up after them and taking care of their bodily functions or fluids are an essential and non-negotiable part of the deal.

It might seem gross to deal with eye boogers and hard gunk and somewhat inconvenient at times, but with dogs being domesticated animals, they rely on you to help them remain clean and healthy with regular grooming sessions, baths, flea treatments and check-ups.

Although check-ups at the vet are important, something that I like to do with my own dogs is to give a general health check and assessment at least once a week whilst I’m getting them – analysing each and every part of their body for any unusual or concerning changes.

There is an array of causes for dog eye boogers – some more serious than others.

It’s easy to soften dog eye boogers at home, and you now know how to get the hard gunk from your dog’s eyes. However, if you have any concerns about the cause of the crust, please talk with your vet. They will be able to prescribe medication or perform procedures in order to solve any underlying heath issues that may well be present.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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