Excessive Tearing and Eye Drainage in Dogs

Shih Tzu

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Have you noticed that your dog's eyes are teary or seem to have excess drainage? There are a variety of possible causes for eye drainage and excessive tearing in dogs. In most cases, the dog will need some kind of human intervention to help. In some cases, medical attention is needed.

What Is Excessive Tearing and Eye Discharge?

Excessive tearing, or epiphora, is a common issue seen in dogs. It may develop into a discharge that is clear, white, yellow or even green in color. When a dog's eye are draining and teary, it's usually a sign of an eye problem.

Symptoms of Excessive Tearing and Eye Discharge in Dogs

In most cases, it's easy to tell if your dog's eyes are too teary or there is an eye discharge. This may be accompanied by other abnormal eye signs.


  • Glassy appearance to eyes
  • Redness and or swelling of eyelid area (conjunctivitis)
  • Red or "bloodshot" appearance to the whites of eyes (scleral injection)
  • Squinting and/or twitching of the eyelids (blepharospasms)
  • Staining and/or matting of the fur around the eyes
  • Trouble with vision
  • Pain or itchiness (dogs may be seen rubbing their eyes)

Causes of Excessive Tearing and Drainage in Dogs' Eyes

There are numerous eye problems that can occur in dogs. Many of these will cause excess tearing and drainage. Some eye issues are more serious than others.

  • Breed disposition: Short-faced and brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Maltese, Bulldogs, and Pugs are especially prone to eye discharge because of their face shape. Many small dog breeds also have excessive tearing. Moisture can collect in the facial and nasal skin folds of some breeds, providing an ideal environment for bacterial overgrowth. This may lead to infections if not kept clean and dry.
  • Eye Infections: Dogs can develop bacterial, viral, or fungal infections in their eye. This may be brought on by an irritant that got into the eye. It could also be transmitted by other animals. Once an eye infection is present, the dog will need to be treated with the appropriate prescription medications. This often involves applying drops or ointment to the eyes a few times a day.
  • Allergies: If your dog has environmental allergies, it may make the eyes red and weepy. This is similar to the way hay fever affects humans. Antihistamine medications can sometimes help.
  • Trauma: Anything that irritates the eye can result in excessive tearing and eye drainage. Minor irritants or allergens may cause a dog to rub at his eyes, furthering the irritation and inflammation. More serious eye injuries can occur if something sharp scratches the eye, like an animal claw or object. If you suspect your dog has an eye injury, be sure to bring him to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Obstruction of Tear Ducts: The nasolacrimal duct drains tears from the eyes out through the nose. A blocked nasolacrimal duct causes normal tears to overflow from the eye rather than draining like usual.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS): Also called dry eye, this condition is characterized by an underproduction of tears. This causes irritation to the eye because of the lack of lubrication. Very dry eyes can result in thick, sticky discharge, infections, pain, and visual issues. Veterinary intervention is essential to treat this issue.
  • Corneal Ulcers: An abrasion on the cornea can occur secondary to trauma, infection, or another eye condition. Without treatment, corneal ulcers can become very serious, even resulting in loss of vision or even the eye itself.
  • Distichiasis: This condition causes abnormal growth of eyelashes. Hairs grow along the eyelid and toward the eye itself, causing irritation.
  • Entropion: This condition causes the eyelid to roll inward. The lid and eyelashes rub on the cornea, leading to irritation.

What to Do About Excessive Tearing and Drainage in Your Dog's Eyes

It's important to take action at the first sign of an eye problem. If the drainage is mild to moderate and your dog's eyes are not red or swollen, then it's appropriate to watch and wait. Keep the area around the eyes as clean and dry as possible. If the drainage is not getting better on its own, or you notice other signs of eye problems, it is important to seek veterinary help.

Contact your vet if you notice:

  • Odor from the eye discharge
  • Yellow or green discharge from the eye
  • Squinting or twitching of the eye
  • Redness or swelling of the eye or the area around the eye
  • Your dog is pawing at the eye or rubbing his face
  • Vision problems

Eye issues can very quickly turn serious if not treated by a veterinarian. Do not delay or your dog may end up with permanent eye problems.

Diagnosis of Eye Drainage in Dogs

First, your veterinarian will get a history from you, asking questions about lifestyle, past health concerns, and the current signs you have noticed. Next, a veterinary exam will be done. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's eyes with a light.

A "tear test" may be done to check your dog's tear production. This involves placing special paper strips in the eyes and timing how long it takes the tears to reach a line on the paper strip.

Next, a painless, harmless eye dye (called fluorescein stain) may be applied to look for abrasions to the cornea (ulcers). Other eye tests may be recommended depending on the findings of the exam and preliminary tests.

Treatment of Eye Drainage in Dogs

Your vet will recommend treatment based on the diagnosis. This often involves the use of medicated eye ointment or drops that you apply at home several times a day. Oral medications are also sometimes prescribed.

Most dogs will need to wear an e-collar (the "cone" or lampshade worn around the neck). This collar will keep your dog from pawing at the eyes and rubbing his face. Do not remove this unless your vet says it is okay. Further irritation can cause serious eye damage.

Surgical treatment may be needed in some cases, especially if the cause is due to entropion or another anatomical abnormality.In complicated cases, your vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist.

How to Prevent Excessive Tearing and Eye Drainage

If your dog has no underlying health issues, there's a good chance you can prevent excessive tearing and the resulting odor by following a few simple procedures:

  • Take your dog to the veterinarian regularly.
  • For at-home maintenance, keep the hair around your dog's eyes trimmed as short as possible. To help avoid injury taking your pet to a groomer to have this hair trimmed is often best.
  • If your dog is prone to excessive tearing, daily washing and gentle drying of the area around its eyes can help prevent problems with irritation. Over-the-counter optical-grade eye irrigation solutions are generally safe to use to keep the eye area clean and odor-free.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
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  2. Disorders Of The Nasal Cavity And Tear Ducts In DogsVeterinary Manual, 2020

  3. Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists Public

  4. Corneal UlcerAmerican College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists Public

  5. EntropionAmerican College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists Public