Epiphora (Watery eyes) in Dogs

Epiphora is described as an ocular condition in which there is abnormal overflow of tears.

In general conditions, tears are produced and their function is to lubricate and cleanse the surface of the eye. Pets may occasionally have a tear overflow as a defense mechanism for eye irritation or as a reflex to expel irritating materials, generalized inflammation, bacterial and infectious diseases.

Overproduction of tears, lacrimal gland (tear glands) disorders, blocking of the tear glands, known ocular diseases such as Entropion, Distichiasis can cause tears to flow on the areas surrounding the eye and on the face. Over time this turns into a rust colored stain in the corner of the eye.


Epiphora or watery eyes can be causes by numerous factors. Depending on the underlying cause, there can be occasional or chronic watery discharges. Causes include:
› Trauma, physical injury, scarring of the eyes
› Foreign body stuck in the eyes
› Conjunctivitis
› Corneal Ulcerations
› Tumors, abrasions, wounds
› Keratitis (Inflammation of the cornea)
› Glaucoma
› Uveitis (Inflammation of the inner structure of the eyes)
› Reactions to known drugs and medications
› Food allergy
› Environmental causes such as smoke, pollen, dust, sand, twigs
› Household materials such as Detergents, disinfectants, cleansing materials, chemicals, soap
› Structural deformities of the eyes (retina, lens, cornea, orbit)
› Abnormally small tear duct opening
› Blockage of the tear duct opening
› Generalized inflammation of the areas surrounding the eyes
› Eye inflammations such as Chorioretinitis, Blepharitis
› Congenital eye defects
› Genetic disorders
› Bacterial, Parasitic, Fungal, Viral infections
› Poisoning and Toxicity
› Eye diseases such as Trichiasis, Distichiasis, Entropion, Cataracts, Cherry Eye Syndrome, Ectopic Cilia, Dermoids

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

Common symptoms include:
› Eye Pain
› Redness in the eye
› Pawing / rubbing the eyes
› Abnormal tear staining (rust colored on the face)
› Watery discharge
› Corneal Ulceration
› Generalized swelling
› Dilated Pupils
› Blepharospasm (excessive blinking)
› Squinting
› Swelling of the areas surrounding the eyes
› Swelling of the eye tissues
› Swelling of the eyelids


Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests will be conducted to known the underlying cause. These are:

› Physical Examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Eye Examination
› Biochemical profile
› Urinalysis
› Schirmer Tear Test
› Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
› Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
› Fluorescein Stain
› Tonometry Test


Treatment not only aims at eliminating the causes of Epiphora but also decreasing the irritation and keeping the eye safe.
› Removing any and all foreign body stuck in the eye
› Surgery in-case of structural abnormalities of the lens, eyelids, tear glands, Tumors, eyelid and eyelash disorders
› Medications for treatment of any physical injury, trauma, scarring, facial swellings
› Treatment of underlying diseases such as Conjunctivitis, Ulcerations and other eye diseases
› Medications for treating and allergic reactions
› Anti-inflammatory medications and Painkillers
› Antibiotic medications
› Topical ointments, eye drops, oral medicines

Some veterinarians may suggest use of Elizabethan collar to avoid pawing, rubbing and scratching of the eye. Regular cleansing of stains on the face and prompt disposal is strongly advised.


Epiphora or watery discharge is a natural defense mechanism against infections, swellings, irritants. Treating underlying causes can stabilize the tear production. If you observe constant discharges, please contact your veterinarian immediately. This could be a sign of an underlying condition.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Most cases resolve within a week. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the condition, further tests may be advised to check for infections.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your pet. Keep water and food bowls within reach, avoid exercise and physical activity, keep away from noise and any kind of commotion. Do not travel with pets.
› Practice hygiene, sanitation, remove any discharges using a damp cloth or tissue. DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove dried strains, this can cause generalized swelling, increase sensitivity and tenderness of the surrounding areas of the eye.
› Post surgery, keeping your pet indoors is strongly advised.
› Do not allow your pet to roam freely. Do not allow your pet to go through garbage bins, water sources, fecal infected areas. This avoids the risk of exposure to disease causing agents.
› Always keep sharp objects covered and fragile objects away from pets to avoid the risk of injury and accidents.

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