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by Dr. Tracy Dewhirst
Some dog breeds seem to always have watery eyes -- Maltese, Poodles, and Lhasa Apsos, to name a few. Although this might seem typical of the breed, it's not normal: Excessive tearing indicates something is amiss with the eye or the natural drainage system.
Tears are made continuously and produced by lachrymal glands in the eyelid. Tears flow from the glands, across the eye, then towards the innermost corner of the eye, where they exit a small hole. The drainage duct continues deep under the nose to end at a small hole just inside the nasal opening.
Epiphora is the medical term for your dog's watery eyes, and it occurs when there's improper tear drainage or excessive production. Drainage can be blocked by the anatomic structure of the dog's face, tissue covering the duct, foreign bodies in the duct and tumors. Tears back up and spill over onto the face when there's a blockage.
The most common cause for excessive tear production is constant irritation from a dog's facial hair or abnormal eyelashes coming in contact with the cornea. Other causes of watery eyes include eye infections, a foreign body in the eye, allergies, inflammation of the lachrymal glands, corneal ulcers, and glaucoma.
Although some causes of epiphora are not serious, others can be painful and detrimental to your dog's eye health and can cause loss of vision. Therefore, any abnormal eye condition should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Lastly, goopy, matted eyes can be mistaken for watery eyes, but this is actually a sign of low tear production, a condition called keratoconjunctivitis secca (KCS). KCS, or dry eye, is typically an autoimmune disorder that needs to be treated with medication and artificial tear ointment under the supervision of your vet.
Photo: Corbis Images
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Pets | Dogs: Why Dog's Eyes are Sometimes Runny and Watery