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Dogs and cats with epiphora, commonly called watery eyes or runny eyes, have tears that overflow onto their faces. Epiphora can be irritating to the affected animal, put the pet at risk for skin problems and cause cosmetic damage. This pet health condition is a common complaint of dog and cat owners.

How Epiphora Affects Your Pet

Epiphora is caused by excessive tear production or improper tear drainage in a pet. Excessive tear production is almost always due to eye irritation rather than a disorder of the tear-producing glands. This eye irritation may be caused by pollen or dust, trauma, bacterial or viral infection, allergies, corneal ulcers, eyelid or eyelash problems, glaucoma or other issues. Common cat and dog health conditions preventing tear drainage include shallow eye sockets, eyelid and eyelash abnormalities and scarring of the tear ducts. Constant moisture on the face from excessive tears can lead to hair loss and leave the skin more vulnerable to infection. It can also cause odor and stain the fur of affected pets. This staining is most noticeable on white dogs and cats. The fur of these pets turns the color of rust due to exposure to pigments in the tears called porphyrins.

Common Symptoms of Epiphora

Symptoms of epiphora and some common dog and cat health problems that cause this condition include the following: Watery eyes, Redness of the eyes, Tear staining on the face, Redness of the skin around the eyes, Pawing at the eyes, Sensitivity to light, Squinting and Discharge from one or both eyes. If tearing is accompanied by a loss of vision, the affected pet requires emergency veterinary attention. 

Treatments for Epiphora

Treatment for epiphora in pets depends on its cause. If the pet condition is caused by a blocked or scarred tear duct, the best treatment is to flush the duct under anesthesia. If necessary, the duct can be surgically opened before it is flushed. Treatment for epiphora caused by irritation is aimed at eliminating the cause of the irritation. For example, cat and dog eye infections caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotic ointment, and viral conjunctivitis and rhinitis, common causes of chronic epiphora in cats, are treated with antiviral drugs, amino acid supplements and stress reduction. Treatments to lessen tear staining caused by epiphora include adding parsley to the diet, cleaning the affected area with medicated wipes and using nutritional supplements formulated to reduce staining.

Breeds Affected

Members of all canine and feline breeds have the potential to develop epiphora. Excess tearing due to conformational abnormalities is most common in flat-faced breeds with shallow eye sockets and breeds prone to certain eyelid abnormalities. Some dog breeds prone to eye abnormalities that can lead to epiphora include the following: Poodle, Bichon Frise, Pug, Shih Tzu, Great Dane, Bloodhound, Various spaniel breeds, Lhasa apso and Pekingese. Cats with long hair and flat faces are also predisposed to epiphora. Breeds displaying these features include the Persian and Himalayan.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

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