Watery Eyes In Dogs – What Is Going On With Your Pup?


A devoted pet parent, pet store manager and animal shelter volunteer. Read more about me here.

Seeing some discharge in your dog's eyes or excessive tearing can be pretty scary. When you're a new pet owner, every change can be scary - even if it's something completely normal.

That being said, are watery eyes in dogs something to be scared of, or is it nothing to be worried about?

To soothe all your concerns and help you let go of your worries, I'll talk about watery eyes in dogs and what they mean. Continue reading to find out everything about tear staining!

What Are Watery Eyes?

A dog with watery eyes

Watery eyes, or epiphora, is an eye condition that refers to excessive tearing, and it can be caused by several different things. For example, it can be caused by abnormal eyelids, an eye infection, or a disease - and it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Watery eyes per se are not a reason to seek veterinary attention, only if they appear along with other symptoms.

Suppose the symptoms altogether indicate that your dog is irritated by something. In that case, that is a cause for concern because eye conditions can be either painful or very uncomfortable for your pooch.

Since excessive tearing can be caused by various things, treatment can vary greatly - it can be rather simple or require operative intervention. Tear staining can happen to any dog, but some dog breeds have a higher chance of developing excessive tearing. Certain breeds with flat faces are generally predisposed to have blocked tear ducts because of their facial anatomy.

Let me make a point by saying that some eye discharge is perfectly normal.

The tears are important because they lubricate the dog's eyes, keep them healthy, wash the debris away, and keep the eye surface smooth and nourished. Tears are anti-microbial, meaning they prevent eye infections from happening in the first place.

Generally, the dog's eyes are always watery in a way because tears are constantly produced. However, there is something called reflex tears, and reflex tears are produced when the tear ducts are stimulated by something.

For example, reflex tears can be produced because of something foreign in the eye, certain medication, eye infection, allergies, or dryness in the eyes.

Types Of Tear Ducts' Discharge 

A small white dog with watery eyes

Here's the thing:

There are various types of eye discharge out there - and they can mean different things.

Here, I'll discuss all the different types of eye discharge, so keep reading!

Watery Eyes

Epiphora is a pretty common condition in the dog's eye, causing excessive tearing. The causes can vary greatly - and they can go from nothing too severe to rather dangerous.

If your dog is tearing up more than usual, but its eyes look all the same - no redness or anything looking unusual - the watery discharge is probably fine. Check if your dog seems uncomfortable, and if it doesn't, just keep an eye on it for the next day or two.

Your poor pooch could have gotten a face full of dust and debris, and its eyes are watering to get rid of the foreign objects in the eyes. However, if you notice eye redness or the eyes continue to be watery for days on end, along with other symptoms or eye discharge, it could be best to visit the vet and see what's up.

Gray-White Discharge

Dry eyes are, quite literally, the opposite of eye discharge. It's not a watery eyes kind of condition - but it can cause health concerns, as well.

The dry eyes condition happens when the pup's immune system attacks the tear glands and destroys them. I've talked about the importance of tears to keep the eyes clean and infection-free, so you can see that this condition can be rather serious, and you should visit the vet relatively soon.

The dog's body will try to make up for the lost tears with more mucus to keep the eyes lubricated. But the thing is, the mucus will not make up for all the roles tears have.

Your dog's eyes will become red and sore after a while - and what's even worse, your pup could develop abnormal corneal pigmentation or an ulcer.

Tear Staining

Some white or light-colored dogs - like cocker spaniels - can get brown or red tear stains in the inner corner of their eyes. Many people are worried about this, but it's nothing dangerous:

It's an entirely normal, clear discharge that changes colors thanks to prolonged exposure to air.

If you want to get rid of tear staining, use a cloth with warm water to clean this area every day. If your dog has suddenly developed tear staining, though, it could be due to other diseases - so, be careful!

Goop & Crusty Eyes

Dogs can develop some goop or crust each morning when they wake up. You should remove it with a damp cloth to avoid irritation. While you do it, you can check if your dog's eyes are irritated in any way - check for eye squinting, eye injury, and things like that.

If anything you saw worries you, you should visit the vet and get some eye drops or eye ointments for your pup!

Yellow & Green Discharge

Yellow or green discharge is cause for concern because it's a sign of eye infection - especially when followed by eye discomfort or redness.

Eye infections can appear as a primary problem - all on their own - or they could be caused by other injuries or other medications that weaken the immune system against infections.

Generally, it's always better to see a vet and check the green eye discharge out!

Causes Of Excessive Tears In Dog's Eyes

Watery discharge in dog's eyes


Allergies are relatively common in dogs - and they can be allergic to pretty much anything, just like humans. The issue is, an allergic reaction in dogs looks a bit different: 

Dogs will likely develop skin issues and dog paw problems and will rarely sneeze, get congested, or get a runny nose.

Do note that your dog could be irritated by something in your home, so do further investigation to check everything out.

However, dogs can get watery eyes and excessive tearing because of allergies, along with symptoms similar to hay fever. To soothe your pup, give it an antihistamine like Benadryl and remove the irritant from your surroundings - and that's it!

Dry Eyes

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as KCS for short, is a dry eyes syndrome. It starts with red, dry, irritated eyes that could start producing grayish-white mucus after a while if left untreated.

This condition may seem benign, but dry eyes could make your dog very uncomfortable and could even leave it blind after a while. If you notice the whitish mucus, seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Diagnosing dry eyes syndrome is pretty simple; the veterinarian will perform a Schirmer Tear Test to make sure that the underlying cause is KCS - and not a blocked nasolacrimal duct, for example.

The treatment is simple, and your dog should feel like itself very quickly, but keep in mind that it may require surgery.

Facial Anatomy

As we've discussed beforehand, some dogs may experience watery eyes more often because of their flat faces. That being said, most dogs with more prominent eyelid rolls will experience eye discomfort at some point in their lives because of the collection of dead cells in those rolls.

Pugs have prominent eyes and may experience excess drainage of tear ducts because of that, but it's not the cause for medical attention.

Foreign Object In Eye & Trauma

Trauma to the eye can easily cause excessive tear drainage. If the pet's eyes seem irritated and followed by ocular discharge, that could indicate corneal wounds. They might also paw at their eye repeatedly.

The vet needs to assess tear drainage and examine the whole dog's head to check eye health and get the required medical treatment.

Blocked Nasolacrimal Duct

Blocked tear ducts could be very uncomfortable and very dangerous if left untreated. The nasolacrimal duct drains the tear from the eyes to the nasal cavity - and a blocked canal can cause excessive tearing.

An eye examination will confirm whether the dog's watery eyes are normal or not.

Corneal Ulcer

Abnormal dog eye discharge, along with other signs, could be caused by a corneal ulcer. The ulcer is essentially a scratched cornea, which can happen due to tear film, trauma, eye infection, or another condition.

Corneal ulcers can be severe and dangerous, so you should seek help from veterinary medicine as soon as possible if you spot one.

Treatment Of Excess Tearing

An irish setter laying on a blanket

Excess tearing itself is not a serious medical condition - not as the dry eye can be - but the pet's symptoms could indicate that something more serious is going on.

Take your pup to the vet and see what's going on.

The vet will perform an exam on the pet's eyes and may opt to examine the dog's eye with light. Then, the vet might perform a tear test, which is essentially placing a paper strip in the eye and measuring how long it takes for the tears to reach a specific line on the paper strip.

After that, the doctor will take a harmless dye called fluorescein stain to look for corneal ulcers.

And according to the findings, the doctor will prescribe a particular medication or treatment. Many eye conditions are treated with eye ointments, which are applied a few times a day.

If your dog has a dry eye, the vet will first try to treat the issue with meds - but if it fails, they will opt for the surgery.

The vet will also likely put a cone on your dog to prevent your pup from scratching at the eyes. No matter how much your pooch hates it, do not remove the cone unless given the "Okay" by the vet.

Watery Eyes In Dogs - Bottom Line

A small dog with eye discharge

To conclude, excessive tearing is nothing to be alarmed about - in most cases, that is. However, if you see eye redness or something weird happening, you should take your pup to the vet.

Most eye conditions are easily treatable - but some of them can cause further damage.

So, to keep your pooch healthy and happy, take it to the vet as soon as you see symptoms aside from the excessive tearing!

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About the Author

A devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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