There are many conditions in which a watery or mucus discharge overflows the
eyes and runs down the face. With a severe watery eye there is constant wetness
and the skin may become inflamed and
infected, adding to the dog’s unsightly appearance and
Epiphora is primarily a cosmetic problem unless it causes inflammation or is
a symptom of a painful eye. For example, entropion, conjunctivitis, foreign bodies, corneal ulcers, anterior uveitis, and acute glaucoma are all accompanied by excessive tearing.
Excessive tearing may also be caused by eye irritation due to extra eyelashes or facial hairs that
rub on the surface of the eye.
Treatment: For treatment of epiphora, see Poodle Eye (below)
This is a blockage of the tear drainage system. The tear drainage system is
composed of a nasolacrimal duct that collects tears at the tear lake and
empties them into the nasal cavity near the front of the nose. The duct
branches at the corner of the eye into two smaller collecting ducts-the upper
and lower canaliculi-whose openings (called punctums) are located in the upper
and lower eyelids.
A puppy can be born with a defective tear drainage system. In one condition,
called imperforate inferior punctum, the duct system is normal except for a
conjunctival membrane across the punctum of the lower eyelid. The problem
occurs most often in Cocker Spaniels.
Other causes of nasolacrimal occlusion include entropion, in which the
eyelid rolls inward and blocks the punctum; scarring of a punctum following a
bout of purulent conjunctivitis; infection in a duct that causes cellular
debris to plug the duct; and foreign bodies such as grass seeds that lodge in
the ducts. These conditions usually cause tearing in only one eye.
The drainage system is first tested to see if it is open by staining the
pool of tears with fluorescein dye. If the dye does not appear at the nostril,
the system is blocked on that side. Nasolacrimal probes can be inserted into
the ducts and various flushing techniques used to establish the point of
obstruction. The flushing often removes the blockage and opens the duct.
Treatment: Nasolacrimal duct infection is treated with antibiotics, in some cases by
instilling them directly into a duct. The dosage, type, and route of
administration must be determined by your veterinarian.
A minor operation on a duct opening may be needed to clear a blockage.
Follow-up treatment includes topical antibiotics and topical corticosteroids to
This problem, in which brown stains appear at the corner of the eye, is
common to several toy breeds, including Toy Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Maltese,
Pomeranians, Pekingese, and others.
The exact cause of tear overflow in these breeds is unknown. One theory is
that susceptible breeds have a pooling space that is too small to collect a
lake of tears. Tears contain chemicals that react with light to produce
reddish-brown stains. The staining will be more apparent in dogs whose haircoat
is light colored or white. This is primarily a cosmetic problem.