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Q&A With Dr. Katy: Why Does My Dog Have Watery Eyes?


When your furry friend greeted you with the exuberant morning greeting you’ve come to love, he looked a bit like he’d been…crying overnight?

Your dog can’t grab a tissue when he has a bit of eye discharge, so a case of watery eyes can seem more alarming than it is. Most of the time, the situation is harmless, caused by anything from his body’s attempt to flush away a spec of dirt or dust, to allergies, to the occasional infection or illness.

Here are five of the more common reasons your dog’s eyes may be watering:

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5 Reasons Your Dog’s Eyes May Be Watery or Goopy

With many breeds, the shape of the eye socket and/or position of surrounding fur and/or eyelashes can cause tears to spill out. This is often accompanied by staining of the fur in the corners of the eye. This condition is common with breeds with a flattened nose and wrinkled face.

1. Obstructed Tear Duct: A tear duct can become blocked for many reasons — as a result of the dog’s anatomy, a foreign body, sinus problems, inflammation or more rarely, a growth or tumor.

2. Allergies: Your dog’s eyes are sensitive to many of the same irritants as human eyes, such as dust, seasonal changes, inhaled substances or mold.

3. Infectious Conjunctivitis: This contagious, inflammatory condition is easily spread among dogs (but don’t worry — it doesn’t pass from dog to human). If your pup goes to doggie day care or socializes at parks, he may have picked up a case of conjunctivitis.

4. Trauma: A scratch or graze to the eye is common with active dogs or those that live with cats, but even the homebody can take wrong turn on his way to the water bowl and scratch his eye.

5. Corneal Ulcer: This condition can result from numerous causes, such as a trauma, exposure to chemicals, foreign object or breed predisposition. It can also be a sign of infection or disease.

What to Do If Your Dog Won’t Stop Rubbing His Eyes

If your dog’s eyes have suddenly become runny, monitor the problem. Keep them clean by gently wiping away the discharge with a warm, soft washcloth. If there are no other symptoms, a day or two of clear discharge or slight crustiness is usually nothing to worry about, and often clears up on its own. But if it persists or is accompanied by any of these other symptoms, it’s best to check in with your veterinarian:

  • Excessive rubbing or swatting at eyes with his paws.
  • Discharge that changes to yellow or greenish, or has a bad smell.
  • Excessive crustiness around the eye.
  • Swelling, bulging or recessing of the eyeball.
  • Apparent difficulties with vision.
  • Physical changes, such as loss of appetite, disorientation, unusual lethargy or fever.
  • Your own nagging feeling that your dog isn’t quite acting like himself.

Dog Eye Care Treatment

A trip to the veterinarian will include a visual examination, and possibly blood or allergy tests to pinpoint the cause. Be ready to discuss any changes in household products, exposure to different inhalants, or recent trips or interactions with other animals. Depending on the cause, treatment options can range from eye drops or oral antibiotics, to allergy medications, to surgery to correct an anatomical issue.

Dogs are so carefree and happy, it can be unsettling to see tear-streaked eyes. But understanding the cause is important, so check in with your veterinarian and follow their advice. Soon your dog will look more like his usual bright eyed, cheerful self!


MZX_6893-Edit (2) Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan.  She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio.  Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.

A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond.  She is also the co-executive producer on “Tell Them I Am Kind,” a documentary set to air on the PBS Broadcasting network in 2015.  The documentary tells the story of the family of Catherine Violet Hubbard, one of the 20 children killed in December of 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and their mission to build an animal sanctuary in her honor.

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