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Shih Tzu Eye Discharge: Vet-Reviewed Causes, Signs & Care Tips

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

shih tzu dog at home

Shih Tzu Eye Discharge: Vet-Reviewed Causes, Signs & Care Tips


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca


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

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If you have a Shih Tzu, you know that eye boogers can be a common occurrence. There’s just something about those big eyes that seem to create gunk. But what’s the reason for this, what can you do about it, and when should you worry?

These are all important questions to answer, and while a tiny amount of eye gunk might be common, if you don’t know what to look for, you could wind up ignoring a big red flag.

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What Is Eye Discharge?

When it comes to a Shih Tzu’s eye discharge, mild tearing might be common since they’re a brachycephalic (flat-faced or short-nosed) breed. These dogs suffer from what’s called brachycephalic ocular syndrome. They have shallow eye sockets, large eyelid openings, hair growth in skin folds, and a predisposition to dry eye that can cause all sorts of eye problems. However, there are different types of eye discharge to look for.

Depending on the color, thickness, and amount of eye discharge your Shih Tzu has, you could try to figure out the type or the severity of the eye problem, but this is not always the case. While we will give some ideas on the types of eye discharge that may be present, it is essential that your Shih Tzu is evaluated by your veterinarian if you detect eye discharge of any type.

The first type is goop or crust. As long as there isn’t an excessive amount of crust, it’s a natural part of their eyes clearing debris away. Another type of discharge is watery eyes. Once again, this is usually a normal part of clearing out debris, but if there’s an excessive amount, it could be problematic. Watery eyes could be caused by irritants, foreign material in the eye, allergies, anatomical abnormalities, corneal wounds, or blocked tear ducts.

Another type of discharge is a white-gray mucus. If your Shih Tzu has white-gray mucus coming from their eyes, it could be an indication of dry eye. Untreated dry eye can lead to pain and serious consequences to the eye, including blindness; therefore, a visit to your vet is a must if your Shih Tzu develops signs of this disease.

The final type of eye discharge is either a yellow or green eye discharge. This is a classic sign of an eye infection, and they need prompt medical intervention.

close up shih tzu dog with eye discharge
Image Credit: Anne Kitzman, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Eye Discharge?

By far the most common sign of eye discharge is wetness and tear stains in the fur around their eyes, especially in the inner corner. These occur as the discharge runs down the eyes in the fur around them and causes discoloration. These stains are often a clear color, but they can also be a reddish-brown color. You should visit your vet if your Shih Tzu develops tear stains, as this is an indication of excessive tearing and the root cause should be investigated.

What Are the Causes of Eye Discharge?

There are several causes of eye discharge, and some of them are completely normal. Your Shih Tzu will tear more if they get debris in their eyes, as the discharge actively pushes it out.

And since a Shih Tzu’s eyes bulge out a bit and are less protected, they are more susceptible to debris getting into their eyes and suffering from ocular injuries. For this reason, sudden onset eye discharge is one of the first indications of an eye issue. Other reasons for eye discharge include:

Other reasons for eye discharge include:

  • Allergies
  • Uveitis
  • Glaucoma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Entropion
  • Distichia
  • Ectopic cilia
  • Cherry eye

Genetics play a huge role in eye problems for Shih Tzus, and since their eyes tend to bulge a little further than other breeds, they’re especially prone to all sorts of eye problems. Regular visits to the vet can help, as can treating issues right when they arise.

If you suspect your Shih Tzu has an abnormal eye discharge you need to take them to the vet right away; otherwise, the problem can progress and lead to more severe and potentially permanent health problems.

applying eye drops on shih tzu's eye
Image Credit: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

How Do I Care for a Shih Tzu With Eye Discharge?

If your veterinarian has evaluated your Shih Tzu and concluded that a small amount of eye discharge is normal for them, you should just clean it following their instructions. However, there are still some things you can do to help keep your Shih Tzu’s eyes as clear as possible.

Start by keeping the fur around their eyes as far away from the eyes as possible. Even though some groomers like trimming the hair, it is usually easier to keep it long and styled outwards, away from the eyes, to prevent the short hairs from contacting the eye as they grow.

Additionally, you can apply saline eye drops to help them clear out any debris and ensure tear ducts stay clear. Finally, as you see gunk building up and crusting over around their eyes, gently remove it with a damp cloth. This will help ensure the skin around the eyes stays clean and dry to avoid dermatitis.

Any time you notice your Shih Tzu has excessive eye discharge or if it’s turning milky gray, yellow, or green, you need to take them to the vet immediately. The vet will prescribe the necessary medication to clear things up, and you’ll need to keep the area around the eye as clean as possible by wiping away eye discharge with a damp cloth.

Typically, with the right medication, a dog’s eye infection can clear up in a few weeks. Just be sure to follow your vet’s advice for the specific problem that you’re tackling.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Vet checking Shih tzu dog eye with slit lamp
Image Credit: Try_my_best, Shutterstock

Is It Normal for Shih Tzus to Have Eye Discharge?

Eye discharge in Shih Tzus might be common but it isn’t normal. Shih Tzus and other short-nosed dogs have been bred to have eyes that bulge out excessively. With such anatomy, it is common to find Shih Tzus with tear stains; however, this should not be considered normal. Shih Tzus with extreme anatomy should not be bred to avoid such flat-faces and allow eyes that sit better in their orbits and are more protected to avoid tearing, wounds, and other eye problems.

Should I Wipe My Dog’s Eye Discharge?

Yes, if present, you should wipe away your pup’s eye discharge with a clean, damp cloth. This helps keep the skin clean and dry to avoid dermatitis. You should wipe away the discharge with gentle movements from the inner corner to the outside of the eye. If you have any questions, your vet can give you a demonstration.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog’s Eye Discharge

If your dog has pink eye or conjunctivitis, it will not clear up on its own. You need to take them to the vet so they can diagnose the problem and the root cause and prescribe the necessary medication to treat it. Not only will it not clear up on its own, but without treatment, it can lead to more serious health concerns.

Will Dog Conjunctivitis Go Away By Itself?

If your dog has an eye infection, it will not clear up on its own. You need to take them to the vet so they can prescribe the necessary antibiotics to treat it. Not only will it not clear up on its own, but without treatment, it can lead to more serious health concerns.

Shih Tzu dog with cataract
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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Now that you know a little bit more about eye discharge and eye gunk in Shih Tzus, all that’s left is for you to take the necessary steps to treat it and to take them to the vet if necessary. Familiarizing yourself with your dog’s eyes will help you detect problems as soon as they appear and act promptly. Please note that you should not assume that eye discharge is part of the breed, as it may be an indication of brachycephalic ocular syndrome, which will need to be evaluated and managed by your veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: chaossart, Shutterstock

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