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Why Are My Pet's Eyes Watery?

Why Are My Pet's Eyes Watery?

Have your cat or dog's eyes seemed extra watery lately? If you're curious about potential causes and how to help, read on for some helpful information from our Renton veterinary specialists about watery eyes in pets.

Excessive teariness, clinically known as epiphora, is commonly seen in dogs (particularly in specific breeds) but can affect cats too. While in many cases, watery or teary-looking eyes can be harmless, but there are some cases that require veterinary intervention (especially in cats). 

Watery Eyes In Dogs

Breed Type

For some dog breeds, watery eyes come as part of the package. Dogs with short faces (e.g. Pugs, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels) are more likely to display excessive teariness, which can cause staining on their fur. A potential common eye issue for some of these breeds is the presence of moisture in facial skinfold, which could lead to bacteria thriving and causing infection. Part of these breeds' grooming routine should include keeping the facial skin folds clean and dry.

Infections Of The Eye 

Some dogs are more prone than others to developing bacterial, fungal or viral eye infections. These infections have a number of potential causes, including irritants, poarasites or transmission from another animal. Visit your veterinarian right away if your dog is showing signs of an eye infection, such as swelling or discharge.

Injury To The Eye

Your dog might have sustained a scratch or other injury to their eye while playing in the bushes or digging vigorously in the dirt, which can easily cause a foreign object to affect the eye. Most dogs will show discomfort by closing the eye, whining, pawing or trying to rub at the eye - all of which can make the injury worse. Take your dog to a vet near you right away to have their eye examined for trauma (e.g. abrasions) to the cornea. 


As in humans, allergies can make some dogs' eyes quite watery. With proper diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian or vet specialist, you should be able to manage your dog's allergy symptoms with prescribed antihistamines.

Tear Duct Obstruction

If your dog's tear ducts become blocked or inflamed, the eye's natural tears overflow rather than draining through the nose as normal. 

Dry Eye

Contrary to appearances, your dog's eye area appearing 'wet' doesn't always mean overproduction of tears. In the case of dry eye in dogs, a lack of eye lubrication can lead to extreme eye irritation and a thick, sticky discharge, eye infections, and even impair your dog's sight. 

Excessive Teariness In Cats 

Your feline friend naturally has a tear film over their eyes, which helps to remove debris and keeps their eyes healthy. A common cause of the tell-tale sign of eye irritation in cats – redness and inflammation – is conjunctivitis (pinkeye). This condition can be due to allergies, eye infection, or irritants like dirt or smoke irritating the eye, and is extremely infectious. Pinkeye can also be caused by feline herpes virus, but kittens can receive preventive shots to protect them and infected cats can be treated with veterinary antibiotics. 

When To Seek Veterinary Care

Watery eyes are less usual in cats than in dogs, but regardless it's important to head to the vet sooner rather than later if you notice the following symptoms in your pet:

  • Eye discharge with odor
  • Yellowish or greenish eye discharge
  • Squinting or twitching eye
  • Redness or swelling of eye or the surrounding area
  • Pawing or rubbing at eye / face
  • Onset of visual problems

Your veterinarian or vet specialist can examine and diagnose the underlying cause of your beloved feline friend or canine companion's watery eyes and start effective treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog or cat has excessively watery eyes or is showing signs of an eye infection or other issues affecting their vision, contact our Renton vet specialists right away!

New Patients Welcome By Referral

Northwest Animal Eye Specialists is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the eye health of animals. Talk to your vet today about getting a referral to our clinics serving patients from Renton, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas.

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