Does your dog have “tear stains” on his fur? Have you ever wondered why? In order to understand excess tearing, it’s important to first review a little physiology 101.
What do tears do?
Tears perform a number of important roles: they lubricate the eye, provide a smooth optical surface, have antimicrobial properties, provide nourishment, and wash away debris. Baseline tears are produced at a constant rate, primarily to keep the eye lubricated. Reflex tears are triggered by any noxious stimulus, such as allergies, infections, foreign materials, hair, medications, and even dryness.
What causes excessive tearing?
Excessive tearing can be caused by one of two reasons:
- Increased production of reflex tears may occur at higher volumes to “flush” an irritant away. In some animals, excessive tearing can be due to this increased reflex tearing.
- When excessive tearing is caused by impaired drainage, it is called epiphora. Tears normally drain via the tear ducts and ultimately empty into the nose. If there is a blockage anywhere along the course, tears will overflow.
So why does the lacrimal drainage system become blocked? Blockage can occur due to trauma, inflammation, medications, and rarely tumors. In certain breeds of cats and dogs, the problem is their anatomy. Breeds with flat faces (brachiocephalic) such as Boxers, Bulldogs, and Pugs, can have epiphora due to their flattened facial anatomy.
Symptoms of excessive tearing
Animals with excessive tearing have wet or moist fur below their eyes and may have other findings based on the underlying problem. If the tearing is chronic, animals develop a reddish brown stain below their eyes. The area may also be moist and their skin may become red and irritated.
Diagnosis of excessive tearing
If you think your pet has excessive tearing, you should take them to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will determine if your pet has an underlying eye problem causing reflex tearing or a lacrimal duct obstruction. Excess tearing from conditions such as an infection, corneal abrasion, glaucoma, or foreign bodies are painful and need to be treated immediately. If the problem is from lacrimal duct blockage, the obstruction will have to be addressed. Your veterinarian will do a thorough eye examination to look for the underlying cause. They will also likely use fluorescein to evaluate for corneal abrasions or ulcers and to determine if tears are draining appropriately into the nasal cavity.
Treatment of excessive tearing
The treatment depends on the cause of excess tearing. If the problem is reflex tearing, the underlying trigger needs to be addressed. In dogs and cats, misdirected hair or eyelashes (trichiasis) is a common problem but the trigger could be allergies, medications, or an infection. If the problem is blockage of the lacrimal drainage system, the ducts may need to be flushed or the obstruction cleared with a surgical procedure to open the ducts.
Home remedies for excessive tearing
Remember, excessive tearing can be due to a serious underlying eye problem. So before you attempt any home remedies to address the tear staining on your pet’s fur, be sure your veterinarian evaluates your pet. There are no home remedies that have been proven to be 100% effective and some may actually be harmful to your pet’s eyes. Before you attempt to use any products around your pet’s eyes, speak with your veterinarian to make sure they are safe for your pet and appropriate for their particular condition.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Cherry Eye in Dogs
Cherry eye in dogs is a common disorder of the gland of the nictating membrane or third eyelid that sits in the inner corner of a dog’s eye. Cherry eye is more common in young dogs. A defect in the attachment of the tear gland can prolapse and protrude from behind the third eyelid and appear as a red, fleshy mass.
Cherry eye itself is not painful but exposure of this normally moist gland to the air can dry and irritate it. The most common treatment is surgery to restore it to its correct position. Untreated, cherry eye can lead to keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers which can be chronic, cause pain and even lead to loss of the eye.
Dog Eye Boogers Explained
It is common and even normal for some pets to have evidence of eye drainage. The eyes are constantly producing tears, which are made up of watery, oily, and mucous components. Evidence of this may spill over onto the face.
Sometimes, though, your pet’s ocular discharge may change. You could see:
- Watery drainage
- White mucus-like material
- Green or yellow discharge
- Pink to brown staining on the fur next to the eye
These can all mean very different things. Excess watering (epiphora) could mean irritation to the eye like a scratch on the cornea or seasonal allergies. Sometimes tears can spill over due to a clogged tear duct. Thick, mucousy drainage frequently accompanies dry eye, while green or yellow discharge could signal infection or conjunctivitis.
A small amount of easy-to-clean crusting can be totally normal, as can those tear stains so many white dog owners fret about. The pinkish color change happens when a pigment called porphyrin in the tears is exposed to air.
Paying attention to these things is part of good pet eye care, and it’s important that you recognize what is normal for your pet and what is not.
Dog eye boogers are often benign, but it is important to recognize when there is a problem. Eye issues can be very serious, and quick action in the face of an ocular emergency can save a dog’s eyesight.
- There is a sudden change in the amount or nature of your dog’s eye discharge
- There is squinting, swelling, or redness that accompanies the discharge
- Your dog is holding the eye closed, pawing at it, or rubbing it
- The eye is matted shut
- There seems to be vision changes
It can be difficult to tell the difference between many different eye issues. It is important for us to examine your pet when there is a problem to help determine how serious things might be. When eye boogers abound, know that we are around!
Conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection of the eye. The eye will appear red and inflamed. Sometimes the eyelids seal shut with all the green goo coming out. Now depending on the state of your dog (a mild case is a red, itchy eye, maybe a little goo if you caught it late and a severe case being two sealed eyes and obvious discomfort), you may need a vet. Only you can make this decision and when in doubt you never regret going. That said, conjunctivitis is no biggie, and the majority of cases are caught early enough. For these cases use green tea bags. The tea bag acts as a poultice, sucking out the badness while green tea itself is an excellent antioxidant.
Dampen the tea bag in warm water and press on to the eye for say 20 seconds. They will enjoy this (certainly if you treat them after each dab…). Repeat this two or three times ensuring to throw away the tea bag each time as it contains baddies. New tea bags for each dab, certainly for each eye (if you’re cash strapped).
If you want to ramp up the effectiveness of your tea bag remedy, add a few power herbs to the water that you are dunking in. I strongly recommend a few drops of Eyebright or Goldenseal, the GREATEST eye herbs out there. A drop of Tea Tree oil which is the worlds greatest antiseptic, throw that in. And while you’re at it Calendula is a great anti-inflammatory, if you can find it in drop form. Use your green tea bag to apply.