Why are my dog’s eyes always watery?

Estimated Reading Time 4 minutes
Why are my dog’s eyes always watery?

Almost all dog owners have probably seen their canine buddies have teary eyes, which can appear as if they’ve been crying. There are several different causes for excessive eye discharge in dogs, some of which will require a certain degree of intervention from the pet owner or a veterinarian. But before attempting to treat or address excessive tearing, dog owners should be able to identify if their dogs’ water eyes are normal or if they’re a sign of a problem. Keep reading to learn more.

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Are watery eyes normal in dogs?

Medically termed as epiphora, excessive watery eye discharge is characterized by the overproduction of fluid discharge from the eyes. Most dogs will produce clear eye discharge but there are cases where a yellow or green discharge is produced.

Excessive eye tearing, however, is not always an indication of an eye problem. There are situations where a dog may produce tears more than usual but is still considered normal. Certain breeds, for example, tend to produce more tears than others due to their anatomical features.

Breeds that are predisposed to producing tears more than others include Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, Maltese, and Pugs. Though not considered a problem, excessive tear production in these breeds needs to be closely monitored as they are also very prone to developing eye problems and other complications such as skin fold dermatitis in Bulldogs which results from the moisture from the tears getting trapped between facial skin folds.

Excessive tear production due to an eye problem is usually accompanied by other signs. Seeing these symptoms together with epiphora almost confirms the presence of an eye problem in your dog and a visit to the vet is warranted.

  • Cloudiness on the clear portion of the eye
  • Redness on the white part of the eye globe (called sclera)
  • Squinting of the one or both eyes
  • Inability to open the eyelids
  • Swelling of the mucous membrane (termed conjunctivitis)
  • Running into walls and objects in the dark
  • Excessive staining or gunk formation around the eyes
  • Pawing at the eyelids

If you start to see the signs listed above together with excessive eye discharge in your dog, chances are your dog may be suffering from some form of an eye condition. There are different eye conditions in dogs that can result in excessive tear production and it’s best to visit your vet to have your dog’s eyes thoroughly checked.

Common Causes of Watery Eyes in Dogs

As mentioned, there are different possible causes of eye problems in dogs that can result in epiphora. The severity of the condition and the damage it causes can vary depending on the specific cause. Here are a few of the common causes of eye problems in dogs that usually cause excessive eye discharge:

1. Corneal Damage

Physical trauma to the eye can result in damage to the cornea, the clear surface of the eye. Depending on the degree of damage, corneal problems can be either a shallow abrasion or deep ulceration. Regardless of the degree of damage, corneal injury almost always results in excessive tear production in dogs.

As a response to the injury, the glands surrounding the eyes will produce discharge more than usual for many reasons: to facilitate healing of the corneal damage, to lubricate the surface of the eye and prevent further corneal injury, and serves as an attempt to rinse off any irritants and contaminants that can cause complications.

2. Eye Infections

Like in humans, dogs can develop infections in their eyes due to bacterial, viral, or fungal organisms. Some eye infections are primary and transmitted either from an infected animal or from the environment, but most eye infections are secondary and occur as a complication to several forms of eye damage.

Eye infections in dogs result in excessive eye discharge which can be clear, yellow, or green, depending on the specific infectious cause. This is often accompanied by redness of the eye and cloudiness of the clear portion of the eye, depending on the severity of the infection.

3. Tear Duct Blockage

The eyes and the nasal passages are connected via a very small duct called the nasolacrimal duct. This allows the drainage of tears produced by the eyes through the nose, the reason behind nasal and ocular discharges in certain conditions in dogs. When this duct becomes blocked, drainage of tears becomes compromised resulting in excessive eye discharge in dogs.

4. Abnormalities of the Eyelids

Certain conditions not directly related to the eyes can also result in excessive tear production in dogs. The eyelids, which are designed to protect the eyes, can have physical abnormalities that can cause excessive tear production.

One common eyelid problem seen in dogs is entropion. It is described as the inward folding of the eyelids irritating the eye and resulting in excessive tear production. This is usually seen in breeds with high degrees of facial skin folds such as Sharpeis, Bulldogs, and Chow Chows.

Another eyelid problem that results in excessive eye discharge is distichiasis. This is characterized by the growth of eyelashes in locations they do not usually grow. Normally, eyelashes grow at the edge of the upper and lower eyelids and serve to protect the eyes from external hazards. In cases of distichiasis, eyelashes sometimes grow in the inner eyelids and irritate the eye itself, resulting in profusely watery eyes.

Read more:

Dry Eye in Dogs and Cats

Anatomy and Function of Your Pet’s Eyes

10 Facts About Your Dog’s Eyes

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s watery eyes or another condition?

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Published: 12/16/2021

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