Discharge from Eyes, Ears, and Nose
Your dog's eyes, ears, and nose are all sensitive areas with plenty of specialized nerve endings to help with seeing, hearing, and sense of smell. Any discharges from these areas may interfere with your dog's keen senses and may indicate a deeper problem.
Recognizing Eye Problems
Normally, your dog's eyes should be bright and clear with no discharge. A clear discharge may mean a mild irritant (dust or pollen in the eye) or a hair rubbing against the sensitive cornea. Any discolored or thick discharge such as pus or heavy mucus is abnormal and cause for alarm. Eye problems can go from minor to serious very quickly. If your dog has a discharge and is squinting, he needs to see a veterinarian!
Some breeds are prone to entropion, a condition that causes eyelids to turn in so that hairs rub on the cornea. This is most common in dogs with shortened faces and long facial hair such as Shih Tzus and breeds with wrinkled skin like bulldogs and Shar-Peis. These breeds may need special surgery to prevent eye problems.
Recognizing Ear Problems
Your dog's ears should normally have a reasonable odor. Dogs with ears that hang down and prevent air circulation may have a slightly musty odor, but there should never be a foul odor. A small amount of yellowish wax is normal, but dark brown wax and unusual or bloody discharge are all abnormal. Dark wax resembling coffee grounds may indicate ear mites, while green or yellow discharge can be a sign of a bad infection. Dogs with yeast infections of the ear often have clear discharge along with very red and inflamed ear tissue. If your dog is rubbing her ear, cries when you touch it, or holds her head cocked to one side, you need to check out the ear. Remember — she does have two, so you have one for comparison if you aren't sure whether something is normal. Many ear infections only affect one ear, most commonly the left.
Sniffing Out Nose Health
The old saying that a healthy dog has a cold nose is true part of the time. Normally a dog's nose feels cooler than the rest of the body and is moist, but on a hot, dry day, your dog's nose will feel warm and dry. If there is discharge coming from the nose, something is not quite right. A purulent, pus-like discharge indicates infection — it may be bacterial, or caused by cancer, or possibly a foreign object is stuck up there. Believe it or not, some dogs even inhale grass, which gets stuck and causes an infection! A blood-tinged discharge could be from trauma, such as hitting the nose on something hard, or could be from cancer or a bleeding disorder. A dog that sneezes frequently may get nosebleeds just as people do.
Do not clean your dog's nose off before heading to the veterinary hospital. Your veterinarian will want to see the discharge and may need to put some on a slide or culture it to see exactly what the problem is and plan the best possible treatment.