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Eye Discoloration in Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

No matter how young or old your dog is, chances are he still uses his puppy dog eyes to get what he wants. Many a dog has snagged an extra biscuit or a spot on the couch by giving his owner the right look. You are likely well-acquainted with your dog's eyes and can tell if they're bothering him or don't look right. Eye discoloration can indicate a host of medical conditions, ranging from scratches and inflammation to glaucoma or liver problems.

Healthy Eyes

When all is right in a dog's eyes, the pupils are the same size and the area surrounding his eyeball is white. Healthy dog eyes are bright and clear, free of crust in the corners, discharge or tearing. The lining of the lower eyelid is pink, not white or red. Eye discoloration in dogs has a variety of causes and happens enough that it's one of the most common eye problems people seek veterinary attention for.

Red Eyes

When the normally white area around your dog's eyes looks red, as though he had a little too much fun the night before, he likely has conjunctivitis. Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Swollen and red eyelids.
  • Pawing at the eyes and blinking.
  • Squinting or closing the eyes.
  • Clear or green, red or white tinted discharge.
  • Hazy or blue tone to his cornea.

Environmental irritants from dirt and dust, and trauma from something such as a poke in the eye, are common causes of conjunctivitis in dogs. Other causes include:

  • Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.
  • Eye diseases such as corneal disease and glaucoma.
  • Systemic diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Skin diseases.

Medical history and a physical exam are the starting points for diagnosis, with dermatologic and ophthalmic exams and blood tests to help pinpoint a cause. Treating conjunctivitis depends on the cause, and ranges from simple topical medication to more serious surgery and long-term eye medication.

Yellow Eyes

When the white area of your dog's eyes looks yellow, he's jaundiced. You may notice the yellowish tinge in his eyes first, but if you take a closer look, his gums, his abdomen's skin and the skin at the base of his ears also will appear yellow. The yellow is a result of higher levels of bilirubin in his bloodstream. There are a variety of causes for jaundice, including conditions associated with his liver, such as hepatitis, cancer, some medications and toxins. Other causes include:

  • Heartworm infection.
  • Blood vessel tumors.
  • Pancreatic disease.
  • Gallbladder disease.

Since there are so many potential causes for jaundice, watch for other symptoms to report to your vet. If you see the following signs, you should take your dog to the vet:

  • Lethargy.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Excessive drinking and urination.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Distended abdomen.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss.

Your vet will examine your dog and perform a variety of tests based on his symptoms; diagnosis dictates treatment and prognosis.

Cloudy Eyes

Though "cloudy" isn't a color, it's definitely a sign that something is amiss with your dog's eyes. Sometimes the cloudy appearance is on the eye's surface and other times it's within his eye. When your dog's cornea is hazy, it may be due to infection, scarring or corneal disease. Occasionally, the fluid circulating in the front portion of the eye -- the aqueous humor -- appears cloudy if protein, white blood cells, blood or fatty lipids accumulate in it. The gelatinous fluid between the retina and lens -- the vitreous body -- sometimes experiences problems, such as inflammation or hemorrhage. Cataracts also can cause a cloudy or whitish appearance of the eye's lens. Your dog's behavior may change if his vision is affected. If the condition is painful, he may squint. Some conditions are accompanied with redness and discharge. Treating a cloudy eye depends on the cause and may include medication or surgery.


  • Connected to his neurologic and vascular systems, your dog's eyes serve as a window to his health. If you notice any change in his eyes, you should take your dog to his vet.