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Watery Eyes in Dogs

Dog Watery Eyes: Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Watery eyes in dogs are a condition in which the lacrimal glands produce too many tears or the tear duct canals fail to drain tears properly. Epiphora is the medical term for watery eyes. 

Common causes of watery eyes are genetic predispositions, congenital abnormalities, allergies, infections, irritants, glaucoma, ulcers, and dental problems. 

Excessive tearing, eye discharge, redness and irritation, squinting, pawing at the eyes, visible eye abnormalities, behavioral changes, and odor are the telltale signs of dog watery eyes

Treatment options for epiphora include topical medications, systemic drugs, and surgery. Daily eye cleaning and natural supplements like CBD oil, fish oil, and probiotics help with dogs eyes watering treatments. 

What is Dog Watery Eyes?

Dog watery eyes are ocular conditions marked by excess tear production or lack of adequate tear drainage. The medical term for increased tearing is epiphora. 

The tear film has three main components, including mucus made by the conjunctival goblet cells, water secreted by the lacrimal glands, and oil produced in the meibomian glands.

Tearing is healthy because it flushes the eye and keeps it clean and moist. Excessive tearing or epiphora is an irregular condition. A dogs eyes watering is a red flag that requires veterinary care.

What is Epiphora in Dog Watery Eyes?

Epiphora in dog watery eyes is the medical term for the condition. Epiphora refers to the clear and watery eye discharge. 

Tears are essential for lubricating, moisturizing, cleaning, and protecting the eyes. Tears are produced in the lacrimal glands, and excess tears are stored in the tear ducts. The tear ducts are near the nose, at the corner of the dogs’ eyes. 

Understanding the dog anatomy of the eye helps understand epiphora. Epiphora, or watery eyes in dogs, occurs when something irritates the eyes, and the stored tears are released to flush the irritant. 

What Type of Dog Breed is More Prone to Develop Watery Eyes?

Small dog breed is more prone to develop watery eyes. Small dog breeds, such as brachycephalic dogs and dogs with facial skin folds, are more prone to developing watery eyes. Tiny breeds are naturally inclined to produce more tears than large and giant dog breeds. 

Brachycephalic breeds are predisposed to tearing due to their unusual facial anatomy. Large, bulging eyes with shallow eye sockets characterize breeds prone to dog eye watering. Examples of flat-faced breeds include Boxers, Pugs, and Bulldogs. 

Dogs with pronounced skin folds, such as the Shar Pei, trap dirt in the folds, increasing the risk of skin and eye infections, which stimulate epiphora.  

Is it Normal for Dogs to have Watery Eyes?

Yes, it is normal for dogs to have watery eyes. Normal tearing of the dog’s eyes is beneficial. The tears flush away irritants and dirt, keeping the eye's surface hydrated. 

Excessive tearing of the eye glands is not normal. A dog with constantly water and watery eyes and other symptoms warrants veterinary attention. 

Why are my Dog's Eyes Watery?

Your dog’s eyes are watery because of genetic predispositions, anatomical eye abnormalities, infections, allergies, foreign objects, and eye conditions. 

Abnormalities of the eye structures include congenital problems with the eyelids and eyelashes. Infections, allergens, and foreign objects cause inflammation of the eyes. Glaucoma and corneal ulcers are common eye problems in dogs, triggering excess tearing. 

What Causes Watery Eyes in Dogs?

The causes of watery eyes in dogs are listed below. 

  • Genetic Predispositions: Toy dogs, flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds, and dogs with extensive facial skin pockets are genetically predisposed to increased tearing. 
  • Allergies: Allergies are a common cause of increased tearing in dogs. Culprits include airborne allergens, such as pollen, smoke, dust, and mold spores. 
  • Environmental Irritants: Irritants from the environment trigger epiphora. Examples are cigarette smoke, perfumes, car emission gasses, aerosolized cleaning products, scented candles, and aromatic oil.
  • Entropion: Entropion is a congenital disorder in which the eyelids are rolled inward, and the eyelashes irritate the cornea. Predisposed breeds include Shar Peis, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Dogue de Bordeaux, Cane Corsos, Newfoundlands, Basset Hounds, and Rottweilers. 
  • Eyelash Abnormalities: Eyelash issues such as trichiasis (inward-growing eyelashes), distichiasis (eyelashes growing from atypical spots), and ectopic cilia (eyelashes on the inside of the eyelid) cause epiphora. 
  • Eye Infections: Eye infections are a widespread cause of increased tearing. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites cause dog eye infections. 
  • Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva caused by infectious agents, airborne allergens, or physical irritation. 
  • Cherry Eye: Cherry eye or prolapsed third eyelid or nictitating membrane is a condition in which the third eyelid comes out of its pocket, resembling a cherry in the inside corner of the eye. Bulldogs, Great Danes, and Boxers are at high risk of cherry eye. 
  • Foreign Objects: Foreign objects lodged in the eye structures increase tear production. Commonly found foreign objects are plant material, like fox tails and grass awns. 
  • Imperforate Puncta: A congenital abnormality common in Cocker Spaniels in which the dog is born without a nasolacrimal duct opening. 
  • Blocked Tear Ducts: Tears are typically drained from the eye, but liquid accumulates in the eyes if the tear ducts are blocked, causing watery eyes. 
  • Corneal Ulcers: Corneal ulcers are profound deficits or sores in the cornea. Ulcers increase tearing and, left untreated, lead to vision loss. Pugs, Border Collies, Samoyeds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Boxers, and Bulldogs are prone to corneal ulcers. 
  • Dental Issues: Dental problems and eye conditions are closely related. Dog owners asking, “Why are my dog's eyes watery?” must know that tooth infections are associated with an increased risk of glaucoma, provoking higher tear production. 

Does Old Age Contribute to Watery Eyes in Dogs?

No, old age does not contribute to watery eyes in dogs. Many causes of epiphora are present at birth or develop early in life. 

Advanced age is a valid risk factor for eye infections as a cause of increased tearing. Elderly dogs have weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to infections. 

Age is not a risk factor for runny eyes in dogs, unlike breeds. 

What are the Symptoms of Dog Watery Eyes?

The symptoms of dog watery eyes are listed below. 

  • Excessive Tearing: Excessive tearing gives the eyes a glassy appearance and causes fur staining in light-colored dog breeds. 
  • Eye Discharge: Eye discharge forms when the tears thicken and mix with dirt. Dried discharge forms crusts at the eye corners. 
  • Redness or Irritations: Redness is a hallmark inflammation sign and develops in dogs with infection-triggered watery eyes. 
  • Squinting: Squinting is looking with partially closed eyes and is a sign of sensitivity to light, known as photophobia. 
  • Pawing at the Eyes: Dogs paw at their eyes to remove the source of irritation. Pawing, in some cases, is harmful and causes further eye damage.  
  • Visible Eye Abnormalities: Inverted eyelids, displaced eyelashes, and protruding eyes are examples of eye abnormalities in dogs with watery eyes.  
  • Changes in Behavior: Eye conditions in dogs are painful in some cases. Pain forces the dog to act abnormally. 
  • Odor: Odor occurs if the increased tearing turns a colored, more concentrated discharge that forms crusts. The crusts are foul-smelling and repulsive.  

1. Excessive Tearing

Excessive tearing is making too many tears or not draining tears properly. Tear staining beneath the eyes is a telltale sign. The stains are red-brown and striking in white or light-coated dogs. 

Excessive tear production resolves once the underlying cause is treated. Cleaning the eyes and removing the excess water is a helpful at-home remedy.

2. Eye Discharge

Eye discharge is a mixture of tears, dirt, debris, and skin cells. Eye discharge accumulates at the eyes’ corners. Exposed to air, the discharge dries and forms crusts. 

The discharge clears up when the underlying watery eye condition heals. Pet owners must clean their pet’s eyes daily because eye discharge in dogs is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. 

3. Redness or Irritation

Redness and irritation are standard for dogs with eye infections. Inflammation affects small blood vessels and causes red eyes. 

Redness and irritation suggest discomfort. A long-term solution requires antibiotic use to treat the infections. Cold compresses provide temporary relief for red eye in dogs

4. Squinting

Squinting is staring through partially closed eyelids. Dogs with watery eyes are light-sensitive. Dogs that squint are trying to clear vision, as the excess tears make things hazy. 

Squinting does not require treatment and resolves once the eye problem is managed. Dogs squinting due to photophobia benefit from staying in dark rooms. 

5. Pawing at the Eyes

Pawing at the eyes is when the dog uses its paws to rub the eyes. Pawing is an attempt to remove the source of irritation or clear vision. 

Pawing provides the dog with temporary relief. Excess or violent pawing, however, does more harm than good. A simple at-home solution for pawing is using an Elizabethan collar. 

6. Visible Eye Abnormalities

Visible eye abnormalities refer to changes in the dog’s eye anatomy. Examples include eyelid inversions and abnormal eyelash growth. Eye abnormalities are easy to spot, even for inexperienced owners. 

Surgical correction is the treatment of choice for visible eye abnormalities. Pet owners are encouraged to keep dogs comfortable and manage the symptoms until surgery is performed. 

7. Changes in Behavior

Changes in behavior are common in dogs with painful eye conditions. Dogs get snappy and moody due to the pain. Lethargy and disinterest in daily activities are expected. 

Managing the pain helps correct the behavior. CBD is an excellent at-home remedy with potent anti-pain properties for watery eyes in dogs. Pet CBD oil is safe for dogs of all ages. 

8. Odor

Odor stems from crusted eye discharge. The excess tears turn into discharge over time. The discharge dries and forms crusts with an unpleasant odor. 

Treating the underlying conditions resolves the odor. Pet owners must remove the eye crusts several times daily at home to prevent odor. 

How to Diagnose Watery Eyes in Dogs?

The instructions on how to diagnose watery eyes in dogs are listed below. 

  • Physical Examination: Diagnosing eye conditions starts with a physical examination. The veterinarian performs a detailed physical checkup to collect as much information as possible and determine the next steps. 
  • Ocular Examination: The ocular examination is performed after a thorough full-body exam. It is conducted with an ophthalmoscope, a handheld device that allows the vet to visualize the deeper eye structures and the eye fundus.  
  • Schirmer Tear Test: The Schirmer Tear Test measures the amount of basal and reflex tears produced. The test entails placing a graduated filter paper inside the lower eyelid. The standard value for dogs is between 15 and 25 millimeters per minute. Values over 25 mm indicate epiphora. 
  • Schirmer Tear Test II (STT II): The Schirmer Tear Test II measures basal tear production precisely. The testing procedure is similar, and the difference is that the vet simulates the mucosa in the nose with a cotton-tipped applicator before placing the filter paper. 
  • Fluorescein Staining: Fluorescein staining helps detect corneal ulcers and defects on the cornea's surface. The vet drops the dye into the dog’s eye, and green patches indicate ulcers. 
  • Additional Tests: The vet orders additional tests in some cases, including lissamine green ocular surface staining, tonometry, tear film break-up time, tear meniscus measurement, evaporation rate, tear osmolarity, corneal topography, interferometry, and aberrometry
  • Referral to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist: The general veterinarian refers the dog to a specialist or veterinary ophthalmologist in complicated cases for a definitive diagnosis.

What is the Treatment for Watery Eyes in Dogs?

The treatment for watery eyes in dogs includes topical eye drops, systemic drugs, and surgery, depending on the underlying cause. 

Antihistamines and steroids benefit dogs with allergies, while antibiotics are needed for eye infections. Eyelid and eyelash abnormalities require surgical correction. 

Daily eye cleaning and eyewash or eye wipes help soothe irritated eyes regardless of the underlying eye problems in dogs and treatment. 

The vet recommends an Elizabethan collar if the dog paws or scratches the eye to prevent complications during treatment. 

Eye hygiene maintenance is paramount for dogs genetically predisposed to increased tearing and watery eyes. 

How can Watery Eyes in Dogs be Managed?

Watery eyes in dogs can be managed by addressing the underlying cause and keeping the eyes clean. Some causes of epiphora in dogs require medications and other surgical procedures. 

The first step in managing watery eyes is determining the trigger. The next step is creating a treatment strategy tailored to the dog’s situation. 

Talk to the veterinarian and discuss the best course of action. Clean the dog’s eyes daily and remove excess tears in the meantime. 

What Happens if Dog Watery Eyes Are Left Untreated?

Various consequences happen if a dog's watery eyes are left untreated. The exact effect depends on the cause of the underlying epiphora. For example, the infection spreads to the deeper ocular structures if an eye infection causes excess tearing. 

Dogs with increased tear production due to corneal ulcers develop permanent damage to the cornea. Eye problems progress rapidly. All causes of increased tearing culminate in vision deficits or blindness in severe cases if left untreated. 

Are there Natural Remedies for Watery Eyes in Dogs?

Yes, there are natural remedies for watery eyes in dogs. The most straightforward natural remedy is a saline solution. Saline solution is readily available, easy to use, and helpful in flushing the eyes. 

A popular homeopathic remedy is Euphrasia Officinalis 30C or Eyebright. The herbal remedy has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. 

Other helpful natural remedies include CBD oil, fish oil, and, most recently, probiotics. 

The gut-eye axis suggests that probiotics are beneficial in treating eye infectious diseases, according to a human study, “Ocular Surface Microbiota: Ophthalmic Infectious Disease and Probiotics,” published in Frontiers in Microbiology in 2022. 

How can the Owner Provide Home Care for Dogs with Watery Eyes?

The owner can provide home care for dogs with watery eyes by minimizing irritants, maintaining good eye hygiene, and supporting general eye health. 

Air purifiers help keep the air clean and irritant-free. Dogs with seasonal allergies must not be taken outdoors in areas with heavy allergens. 

Over-the-counter irrigation eye solutions formulated for dogs flush irritants and clean the eyes. Healthy supplements, like CBD oil and fish oil, promote eye wellness.  

Can CBD Oil Help Watery Eyes?

Yes, CBD oil can help watery eyes. CBD modulates the immune system, which helps with dog allergies and allergen-triggered epiphora. 

CBD's anti-inflammatory effect benefits dogs with watery eyes due to infections. CBD acts as a natural painkiller, providing relief from certain eye conditions. 

Dogs need between 1 and 5 milligrams of CBD per 10 pounds daily. Start with a lower dose and gradually increase the amount. 

The average dose of CBD oil for dog allergies, inflammation relief, and pain control is roughly 3 mg per 10 pounds of body weight.