Warning to pet owners: How to know if the gunk in your dog's eye is something more serious.

Here’s an unsettling bit of information for pet owners: conjunctivitis occurs in dogs, too. Yes, just like us, canines can be susceptible to the uncomfortable, unsightly ocular condition.

But how serious is it really? How does it occur? And how do you tell if that gunk in your dog’s eye is something to be worried about?

President of the Australian Veterinary Association, Dr Paula Parker, has the answers.

What are some reasons a dog may have discharge in its eye?

“A little crust or gloop can be normal in some dogs and is the equivalent to what we call ‘sleep’. Some breeds also accumulate a black or rusty coloured tear staining caused by a pigment called porphyrin, which is present in their tears.

“But there are other causes of discharge that are more serious. These include:

  • Dry eye – where your dog is not producing enough tears to keep their eye(s) moist;
  • Damage to the cornea (the front of the eye);
  • Entropion, where the dog’s lower eyelid is turned inwards, and hair rubs on the eye;
  • Conjunctivitis.

Pets ain’t cheap. We all know this. But would you spend $4000 on a dog? (Post continues below.)

What is conjunctivitis, and what causes it to occur in dogs?

“Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyeball – the pink parts of the eye under the upper and lower eyelids.

“There are many causes of conjunctivitis in dogs, including physical injuries, foreign material irritating the eye (e.g. grit or grass seeds), allergies, chemical injuries, malformation of the eyelid, bacterial and viral infections. Infectious conjunctivitis from viruses is rare in dogs.”

What are the signs and symptoms that a dog may have conjunctivitis?

“Any of the following:

  • A red eye;
  • Watery, bloody or yellow or greenish pus coming from the eye;
  • Squinting and/or swollen eye(s);
  • Pawing at the eye or rubbing the eye along the ground.”

If I think my dog has conjunctivitis, what should I do?

“If you notice these symptoms it is really important that you take your dog to your veterinarian, as many conjunctivitis cases will not resolve themselves without intervention and if left untreated may get a lot worse.”

What treatment is available for canine conjunctivitis?

“Your veterinarian will need to carefully examine your dog’s eye under magnification to determine the cause. If there is an injury or foreign material present, treatment under anaesthetic may be required.

“In other cases eye drops or ointment, or tablets may be prescribed.”

How can I prevent my dog from getting conjunctivitis?

“Conjunctivitis in dogs is rarely contagious. If the veterinarian determines that your dog’s conjunctivitis is allergic, avoiding the environmental allergens that are found to be the cause. Also avoid getting any chemicals into the eye.”

Always consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet’s health.