In dogs, weeping eye, also called lacrimation or epiphora, is not a single disease, but it is one of the signs of most eye diseases. This sign can also be a side symptom of a general illness.
There are two main types of epiphora:
- an active epiphora linked to increased tear production by the lacrimal glands (secondary to inflammation or pain)
- a passive epiphora linked to a defect in the drainage of tears by the tear duct: in fact, the latter normally leads the tears produced by the eye to the nose. When the lumen of this duct is obstructed (secondary to inflammatory stenosis, infection, foreign body, breed-related conformational abnormality – flat-nosed dogs, brachycephalic breeds), tears accumulate at the base of the eye, then they “overflow” from the eye.
When the lacrimation becomes thick and purulent, yellowish or greenish, it is called “chassie”.
Definition of eye conditions
The dog’s eye, like that of man, has several parts, as well as “appendages”, such as the eyelids, the inflammation of which can cause epiphora.
Depending on the location of the inflammation, we will speak of conjunctivitis (associated with the mucous membrane present under the eyelid), keratitis (corresponding to the cornea, anterior transparent membrane of the eyeball) but also uveitis when the inflammation concerns the tissues deep in the eye.
The causes of these affections are innumerable, some harmless, others dreadful and possibly irreversible.
Among the most frequent causes of conjunctivitis, we can evoke infectious, viral or bacterial, allergic or traumatic origins (irritation of the conjunctiva by dust for example). In most cases, these conjunctivitis affects both eyes simultaneously.
Corneal diseases, keratitis and ulcer, can also have infectious and parasitic causes. Some viruses, such as those responsible for distemper or Rubarth’s hepatitis, can cause keratitis or keratoconjunctivitis. Some of these conditions can originate from injuries caused by foreign bodies or cat scratching, for example. These eye diseases, often unilateral, require emergency treatment, medical eye drops, or even surgery.
Finally, certain diseases affecting the internal functioning of the eye, such as glaucoma and uveitis, may also cause lacrimation.
In all of these cases, it is an active epiphora.
Affection of the appendages of the eye
Inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) or tear glands (dacryocystitis) can also cause tearing.
Diagnosis and treatment
Even more than with any other sign appearing suddenly or gradually in your companion, it is essential to make a diagnosis on which the implementation of the appropriate treatment will depend.
We will first try to check whether the lacrimation is accompanied by general signs such as fever or respiratory signs, to know if we are in the presence of a general infectious disease.
A careful examination of the “weeping eye” should be performed. Certain simple tests (Schirmer’s test to assess the amount of tears produced, fluorescein test to highlight a corneal injury) as well as a direct examination of the eye will determine the sector or sectors affected by inflammation.
In some cases, more sophisticated examinations performed by a specialist (indirect ophthalmoscopy, measurement of intraocular pressure for example) will have to be set up to complete the diagnosis.
Among the many diseases mentioned, some can have dramatic consequences, sometimes very short term, on the condition of the eye and its functioning, not to mention the evolution of a possible general disease associated with eye problems.
Self-medication represents a serious risk of allowing a situation to develop which may become irreversible and certain eye drops used indiscriminately may worsen a pre-existing situation (eye drops containing a corticosteroid aggravating a corneal ulcer).
Careful monitoring of your dog’s eyes, regular maintenance using eye cleaners, and regular screening for certain issues that are prominent in certain breeds can help prevent some of the situations discussed.
However, a consultation with your veterinarian can be essential in most of the cases mentioned.