Blocked Tear Ducts in Dogs

There's nothing quite like the adorable looks that your dog gives you with those big puppy dog eyes of his. Those eyes are so expressive that they seem to convey everything he feels, from how much he loves you to how much he loves his favorite toy or possibly how much he loves that tasty meatloaf you're currently eating. One thing your pup shouldn't be is teary-eyed because that means that something's amiss with his adorable peepers.

Vet examining dog's eye through ophthalmoscope
Blocked Tear Ducts in Dogs
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If your pup's eyes are tearing up, which is a condition known as epiphora, he could be suffering from a blocked tear duct. To treat this condition, you'll need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for an exam. She can determine the cause of the blocked tear duct and will be able to treat it.

Signs of blocked tear ducts

One of the main symptoms of blocked tear ducts in dogs is epiphora, but in addition to wetness around the eyes, you may also notice that your dog's eye has brown discharge or reddish-brown tear stains, according to petMD. That's because the tears that aren't draining properly due to a blocked tear duct can stain the fur near the eyes. When the tear ducts are blocked, the tears have nowhere else to go but all around your dog's eyes, where they cause constant wetness and staining of the fur.

You might also notice that your dog's eyes are red or puffy or that she's regularly pawing at them. The constant wetness of the tears can cause eye infections and infected skin around the eyes. This is why her eyes may look irritated too.

Causes of blocked tear ducts

One of the main reasons that your dog might have a blocked tear duct is that your dog has a tear duct infection. If your dog has a tear duct infection, you may notice that the eye is red or there may be discolored discharge coming out of the eye.

Tear ducts can become blocked by something that has gotten into the eye, like dust, dirt, a small seed, or a parasite. Or, an eye injury could cause swelling that might lead to a blocked tear duct. The ducts can also be blocked by the gunky buildup of dried mucus, like tears due to an eye infection.

Some puppies don't properly develop tear ducts. Some breeds, such as those with very prominent eyes like pugs or Shih Tzus, are more prone to developing blocked tear ducts due to the size of their eyes, according to VetInfo. Others, like the Maltese, may be born with lower than normal tear ducts that are blocked at birth or partially developed. Those who don't have fully developed tear ducts won't have proper drainage of tears because of this.

Another possible cause of a blocked tear duct is inflammation due to irritation of the eye from hair around the eye or from ulcers on the cornea. Not only can these conditions cause inflammation that blocks the tear duct, they can also lead to eye infections. Or, your pup may have a blocked tear duct due to scar tissue left from a previous eye infection, according to WebMD.

Treatment for blocked tear duct in dogs

Your veterinarian can properly diagnose your dog's condition and determine a treatment for a blocked tear duct. If your dog has a tear duct infection, your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops to treat it, whether it's bacterial, fungal, or viral. He may also prescribe eye drops to reduce any swelling that might be blocking a tear duct.

For dogs who don't have fully opened tear ducts, treatment for a blocked tear duct might involve surgery. Your veterinarian will make an incision at the opening of the tear duct and allow the tears to drain properly. Note that for some dogs with congenital issues that affect their tear ducts, surgery may not help or even be an option.

Treatment for a blocked tear duct in dogs with a physical obstruction like gunky tears may involve flushing the tear duct with a special surgical instrument to open it up and remove any debris that is blocking it. Flushing the tear duct may also help to widen it and help it function better.

Relief for blocked tear duct in dogs

If your dog's tear duct is blocked due to a congenital issue, you may be able to provide some relief for him. Try to keep the area around your dog's eyes as dry as you can and use a washcloth dipped in warm water to soothe any irritation in and around the eyes. You can also use the washcloth to gently try to remove any staining around the eyes.

You can help with staining around your dog's eyes by using coconut oil to not only help remove the stains but also help prevent them from returning, according to PetGuide.com. The coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that help get rid of any infections from the constant dampness around the eyes. It also provides a barrier to the fur and skin around the eyes to protect them from the constant wetness of the tears. Just be careful not to get any of the oil in your dog's eyes.

Note that you must treat the cause of your pup's epiphora because eye issues can lead to serious conditions like blindness. Only use prescription tear drops given to you by your vet and not those formulated for humans.