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How to Clean a Dog’s Eyes: Vet-Approved Guide

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cleaning Dog Eyes

How to Clean a Dog’s Eyes: Vet-Approved Guide


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, but sometimes that window gets a little grimy. If your dog’s eyes start looking crusty or stained, it’s time to clean them up! But how do you accomplish this task safely?

In this article, we’ll teach you how to clean your dog’s eyes in six simple steps. We will also let you know what signs to watch that could indicate that your dog’s dirty eyes indicate something more serious. Let’s get into it.

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Before you get started cleaning your dog's eyes, you will need to collect the following supplies:
  • Warm water
  • Soft washcloth, gauze, or cotton pads
  • Eyewash or eye wipes (optional)
  • Eye comb (optional)
  • Treats or another reward

Take your dog into a quiet room or space where they feel secure. If your dog is active or wiggly, you may need to enlist a trusted assistant to help hold your dog. Remember, you’ll work near the eyes, which are very sensitive and easily injured.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Eyes in 6 Steps

1. Wet a Cloth or Gauze With Warm Water

For simple cleaning, start with a soft cloth or gauze. Wet the cleaning material with warm water and wring out any excess liquid. Position your dog comfortably so you can support their head while cleaning.

To accomplish this, you may need to ask a large dog to sit or place a smaller dog on your lap. You could also ask your assistant to help hold your dog still if necessary.

2. Wipe Eyes Gently

Using the wet cloth or gauze, gently wipe your dog’s eyes clean, starting from the inside corner and moving away from the eye. Don’t wipe the actual surface of your dog’s eye with the cloth, but the area around it.

Don’t use the same gauze or cleaning cloth for both eyes. Either re-wet the washcloth and use a different corner or switch to a fresh cloth or gauze entirely. This step helps prevent the spread of any bacteria or allergens from one eye to the other.

vet wiping pugs eyes
Photo Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

3. Rinse With Eye Wash

Use a wash formulated to be safe for the eyes to help cleanse the surface of your dog’s eye. This step is only needed if debris or mucus is on the eye’s surface. Many different brands are available, so you may need to ask your vet for a recommendation to help you narrow down your choices. Don’t substitute contact lens solutions or other human eye products without double-checking with your vet that they are safe first.

Use the eyewash as directed, typically by squirting the liquid into your dog’s eyes to rinse them. Don’t touch the tip of the wash bottle to your dog’s eye surface. Use gauze or a cloth to absorb the excess liquid.

You could also use the eyewash to soften any stubborn, dried crusts around your dog’s eyes to assist in removal.

4. Use an Eye Comb

If your dog’s eye discharge or crusts are especially thick or dried, you may need to use an eye comb around the eye area to help remove them.

Use a warm cloth or eyewash to moisten the dried crusts and gently comb them out of your dog’s hair. Don’t attempt this step if your dog is uncooperative or wiggly unless you have assistance. Be very careful to keep the comb away from the surface of your dog’s eyes.

Sometimes, the skin underneath the crusts may be irritated or infected. If so, contact your veterinarian.

5. Wipe With Eye Wipes

For tear stains or other stains near your dog’s eyes, try using commercial eye wipes designed to remove them. Again, you’ll find several options available. Use the wipes as directed for best results.

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6. Reward, Reward, Reward

During the eye cleaning process, and especially once you’re finished, give your dog plenty of treats or other rewards. You want the process to be positive and not stressful for your dog, especially if you need to clean the eyes regularly.

If possible, incorporate eye wiping or cleaning into your dog’s grooming routine as a puppy. A puppy’s behavior is easier to shape, and if they can get used to eye cleaning early in life, they’re more likely to tolerate it as they get older (and bigger!)

labrador puppy having treats
Photo Credit: manushot, Shutterstock

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When Should I Worry About My Dog’s Dirty Eyes?

Some breeds of dogs are more prone to gunky eyes than others, but even for those pups, eye discharge could be a sign of a medical problem.

If your dog has any of the following symptoms, you could be dealing with something more serious:
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing or pawing eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Yellow or green eye discharge
  • Red, irritated eyes

Eye problems can be quite painful and quickly worsen, so don’t hesitate to call your vet if you have any concerns. Depending on their diagnosis, you may need to treat them with eye drops or ointments. Follow your vet’s treatment plan carefully to ensure the best success at healing.

Don’t assume that your dog’s tear stains are normal, either. Some breeds are more prone to staining because they have inherited issues with their facial shape. Sometimes, these issues are correctable with surgery or other therapies. Your vet will be able to advise you if that’s the case.


Dogs seem to find ways of making themselves messy no matter how big or where they live. Keeping your dog looking their best can get time-consuming, but responsible pet ownership is a necessary aspect. Hopefully, these six steps for cleaning your dog’s eyes will help make part of their grooming routine a little easier next time.

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Featured Image Credit: Marina.Martinez, Shutterstock

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