Blocked Tear Ducts in Dogs

By Jen Davis

Block tear ducts are a relatively common eye problem for dogs. The good news is that a blocked tear duct is not a serious condition and is unlikely to cause your dog any long-term vision problems. You can work with your veterinarian to determine whether the condition can be reversed.

Signs of a Blocked Tear Duct

The most common sign of a blocked tear duct is a runny eye. Your dog's eyes naturally keep themselves lubricated with tears that drain down through the tear ducts and into the nose. When the tear duct becomes blocked, for whatever reason, the tears have nowhere to go. This results in the tears running out onto your dog's face, giving him runny eyes. Depending of the exact cause of the blocked tear duct, the area around the eye may be irritated, swollen or appear reddened.

Assessing the Condition

If you believe your dog has a blocked tear duct, you need to take him to the veterinarian for an in-depth ophthalmological exam. The blocked tear duct can be caused by different conditions, including scar tissue caused by infection, an eyelid that has turned inwards, inflammation of the tear sac that has blocked the duct, obstruction of the duct, trauma, injury to the nose/eye area or even tumors. Some puppies may be born without tear ducts altogether.

Treatments for Blocked Tear Ducts

When you first notice that your dog is having eye problems, take a warm, damp washcloth and gently wipe down the area around his eye. Gently remove any debris and hair that might be causing the problem. If cleaning the eye doesn't solve the problem, you need to go to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will determine the best way to treat the underlying condition that is causing your dog's blocked tear duct. Some eye conditions may heal on their own with time while others may require surgical intervention. If surgery is needed, your veterinary ophthalmologist will anesthetize your dog and then flush the tear duct out thoroughly to remove any blockages. In the case of puppies whose tear ducts did not open during normal development, your veterinarian may be able to surgically open the tear duct.

Other Considerations

Note, some breeds of dog are more prone to suffering from blocked tear ducts than others. Dogs with short snouts, such as pugs and Pekingese, are among the most likely to experience a blocked tear duct. Other breeds who have an increased risk of this condition are poodles, cocker spaniels and Shih Tzu.