Normally, dogs have occasional eye discharge or tear overflow, which is considered normal. The tear glands produce tears continuously and these tears are released into the eyes. Each time the eye blinks, the tears are pushed along the outer aspects of the eyelids towards the caruncle (the pink part of the eye near the nose), from where, they get drained to the lacrimal sac located below the eye. These tears are then carried to the nose, so as to keep the nostrils moist. So, tear overflow is not common in dogs, but, in some cases, you may notice watery eyes. This can be caused by various reasons.
An abnormal overflow of tears in dogs is medically termed as epiphora. Such watery eyes in dogs is associated with eye problems. In some cases, it could be due to overproduction of tears or inadequate drainage of tears from the eyes. The following are some of the common causes of this canine eye condition.
Large-eyed Dog Breeds
First of all, it is very important to understand that some dog breeds are prone to weepy eyes. This is more common in large-eyed dogs like Chihuahuas. Even some other dog breeds like the Maltese, Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians and Pekingese are prone to this condition, which is sometimes referred to as Poodle eye. In large-eyed dogs, excess tear production helps in getting rid of debris and keeping the eyes moist. One of the possible reasons for watery eyes in these dogs is inadequate pooling space to collect the excess tears.
So, these breeds are often found with rust-colored streaks of tears on their faces. The color change is due to the chemicals in tears, which react with light. In most cases, this condition does not cause any health problem and are treated for cosmetic reasons, so as to get rid of the tear marks on the face. However, as in other dogs, watery eyes in large-eyed dogs too may be caused by other reasons that are discussed below.
Tear Drainage Problems
As mentioned above, tears get drained from the eyes to the nose, through two minute openings called puncta that are found on the inner corner of the eyelids (on the caruncle - the pink part of the eye near the nose). These openings may get blocked, causing tear flow in dogs. While some dogs (mostly Cocker Spaniels) are born with a defective tear drainage system, some others develop the condition later, due to various other reasons.
One such congenital defect is imperforate inferior punctum, wherein the punctum on the lower part of the caruncle is blocked with a conjuctival membrane. It may also happen that some foreign body gets trapped in the punctum or the duct (that leads tears to nose), thereby causing tear flow. Medical conditions like conjunctivitis and entropion, may also cause blockage of the punctum and resultant watery eyes.
Eye Diseases and Disorders
One of the common causes for watery eyes in dogs is eye diseases and disorders. Conjunctivitis is a condition that is characterized by red watery eyes. Another such condition is blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids. Weepy eyes in dogs may also be caused in case of inflammation of the cornea or keratitis. Other such conditions include corneal ulcers, abrasions, scratches and wounds. Dogs suffering from anterior uveitis (inflammation of the iris and ciliary body) may also develop watery eyes. Dog eye infection and glaucoma are other eye conditions that can cause watery and bloodshot eyes in dogs.
Apart from the above said causes, there are some other reasons for this condition in dogs. These include irritation caused by foreign objects in the eye. In case of dust or other debris, tears may overflow, so as to dislodge the foreign object. Irritation may also be caused by abnormal growth of hair that rubs the eye. It can be distichiasis, a condition, wherein the hair grows in abnormal location or trichiasis, wherein the hair grows in an abnormal direction. In both cases, such hair growth may irritate the eyes and cause eye discharge in dogs. Like in case of humans, dog allergies, especially food allergies, can be a cause of watery eyes.
Watery eyes in dogs is a condition that is characterized by symptoms like, overflowing tears, marks of tear flow on the face, dried eye discharge on the edges of eyelids and rubbing of the face. You may sometimes notice additional symptoms like redness, inflammation, squinting and cloudy eyes. Mild cases may subside without any treatment. But, severe and chronic ones and those accompanied with other symptoms, must be checked at the earliest. If you notice such symptoms in your dog, take it to a vet and get the condition diagnosed for proper treatment.
- In case of large-eyed dogs, watery eyes is mostly considered a cosmetic problem due to the rust-colored tear streaks. In such cases, the most probable cause would be inadequate pooling space for tears. This can be countered with medication like tetracycline that hinder the chemical reaction of tears, which causes the rust-colored stains.
- Low dose of tetracycline is given on a daily basis, if the problem remains even after administering the same for a short-term. This medication takes care of the staining problem, but the tear flow will continue.
- Another option is to remove a part of the tear gland, so as to reduce the production of tears. This is usually done, after conducting various tests, like Schirmer tear test. However, such surgery may sometimes lead to dry eye, which could cause eye problems like keratoconjunctivitis sicca, as the dog gets old.
- If you want to avoid medication as well as surgery, then daily care will be sufficient. Wipe of the stained area on a daily basis and remove the stained hair regularly. You may use a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide for wiping the tear stains. Make sure that the solution (mixed in a ratio of 1:10) does not enter the eyes, while wiping.
- In case of blockage of the ducts (that drain tears) or their openings (puncta), then medication or surgery may be required according to the nature of the problem. In some cases, such blockages can be remedied with some flushing techniques.
- If the block is caused by infection and resultant inflammation of the duct or their openings, medication like antibiotics may be administered. In some cases, surgery will be the one way out for remedying such blockage.
- Even eye diseases can cause weepy eyes in dogs and in such cases, treating the specific disease will remedy the condition. The mode of treatment may vary with the type of eye disease.
In case you notice such symptoms in your dog, get the condition diagnosed and treated. Early treatment is always preferred for those with additional and severe symptoms.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.