Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Watery?

“Why are my dog’s eyes watery?” If your dog has watery eyes, in this blog we explore the potential reasons your dog’s eyes are watering and what you can do to help…

Oct 04, 2023·7 min read
Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Watery?

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Does your pup suffer from unsightly marks on their face and look like they’ve been crying? Well, don’t worry: they aren’t “crying” per se! Rest assured, your dog isn’t upset or sad but your dog’s eyes are weeping for other reasons.

The dark reddish-brown tear stains under your dog’s eyes can indicate a lot of different things, so it is important to see your vet if your dog suddenly develops these marks.

Tear stains are more common in certain breeds, but when they appear out of the blue, it could be a sign that there is something wrong with your pet’s eyes and their health. Let’s dive deeper into why dogs’ eyes water and the proper treatment options to prevent this issue.

Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Watery?

a small white and brown Jack Russell rests their chin on the edge of a couch and has distinctive tear stains that run from the inner corner of their eye

Have you ever looked down at your pup and thought they look like they have been crying? Their fur has dampened and the fur around the dog’s eye is a slightly dark brown or there’s a reddish mark that has appeared under their eye. Well, these are tear stains that have developed over time due to the weeping of the eye, otherwise known as epiphora.

Commonly seen on dogs with lighter fur, epiphora is a condition that comes from excessive tearing or a complication when tears aren’t able to drain correctly. Instead, these tears will spill from the eyes and stream down the face, alongside the nose, and through the fur. When porphyrin, a pigment found in tears, builds up under your dog’s eyes, it can cause reddish stains to appear on their fur.

Epiphora can be caused by several things – ranging from acute to chronic, which can make discovering the cause of the tear stain more difficult. But, here are 7 potential reasons your dog has watery eyes.

Potential Causes

fluffy dog with tear stains

There are a lot of causes of tear stains, from eye infections or chronic eye issues to external irritants. Let’s look at seven of the most common reasons why dogs’ eyes water.


The reason your pup has developed tears stains could be due to an eye infection called conjunctivitis. Our four-legged friends can suffer from an inflammation in the lining of the eye that can then produce mucus, pus, and ocular discharge. As this infection takes hold, your pup will struggle to open their eyes due to the solidifying of mucus and dog eye discharge. This can be uncomfortable for your pup and may even distress them.


small brown dog

Just like us humans, our dogs can fall victim to the same health complaints such as the optic nerve disease, glaucoma. This condition occurs when pressure is placed on the eye, resulting in drainage difficulties in the eye and socket. If left unattended and untreated, the condition can become chronic, resulting in permanent damage to the optic nerve and ultimately can cause blindness.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, with 40 percent of dogs affected by the illness becoming blind within the first year. But don’t panic; if caught early, you can help preserve their vision for longer. So, if your dog suddenly develops watery eyes, get them looked at by the vet.

Corneal Ulcer

Watery eyes in dogs can also be a sign of a corneal ulcer. A corneal ulcer occurs when the cornea is damaged, and fluid begins to accumulate in the layers of the eye. A corneal ulcer could be caused by external trauma, bacterial infections, viral infections, and other diseases. If you suspect your dog has a corneal ulcer, take them to the vet right away. 


Distichiasis is a condition where a dog might have extra eyelashes that irritate their eye. Often, these eyelashes are long and stiff and rub against the cornea. With repeated irritation, distichiasis can even cause a corneal ulcer. While all dogs can suffer from the condition, some breeds are more genetically disposed to it. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, English Bulldogs, and Pekingese. 

To treat distichiasis, a vet may have to perform surgery to permanently remove the extra hairs.

Irritants or Seasonal/Food Allergies

Sometimes, a dog has watery eyes due to a reaction to something in the air. Dust, smoke, and some perfumes can get into your pup’s eyes and irritate them, resulting in occasional redness, and itching. The eyes will water and stream to try and remove the foreign invader, which will, in turn, cause stains under the eyes.

Likewise, if your pup is suffering from a food allergy, they can react in all sorts of ways, including skin irritations, behavioral problems, and abnormalities in the eye. Once the eye begins to struggle with drainage and excess moisture, tear stains will become a problem.

Shallow Eye Sockets

white dog in the snow

This type of complication normally affects dogs with shorter snouts (brachycephalic breeds), including Pugs, Pekingese, French or English Bulldogs, and Boxers. With these breeds, the eyes will bulge and protrude from the socket, making it harder for the pooch to close their eyelids fully around the eyeball resulting in watery eyes.

With this lack of protection and frequent lubrication, the eye can become vulnerable to irritants and damage from foreign objects, dust, and sometimes their own paws/claws when grooming.


Your pup’s lifestyle can have a huge effect on eye conditions such as epiphora, with anxiousness and stress being a large contributor to hindering their eye health. Like humans, when your pup is dealing with stress, their bodies can become vulnerable to more serious complications.

While their bodies are focusing on tension, stress, and upset, a dog’s eye discomfort can take hold and cause issues, including eye conditions that will cause weeping and tear stains. Think your dog is stressed or anxious? We’ve also written in detail about how to calm a stressed dog.


small dog on fluffy floor

Due to the many causes of this problem, treatment is very varied, which is why we would advise that you seek advice from your vet as soon as possible. Once you know the root of the problem, you’ll be able to help your pup get back to full health without hindering their vision.

If the cause of the problem is an irritant, your vet will flush the eye through to remove the object or whatever is causing the irritation. 

However, if the root of the eye issue is an infection, your vet may put your pup on a course of antibiotics or drops, which may take a few weeks to complete and clear. 

Whatever the cause, your vet will guide you on how best to help the situation. Still, there are things you can do to help prevent the cause of the tear stain, such as regularly cleaning your dog’s eyes, limiting irritants such as synthetic fragrances or harmful cleaning supplies in your home.

Dog Has Watery Eyes

Regardless of the reason your dog has watery eyes, it is wise to try and beat the problem before it begins. Take some extra time to pay attention to your dog’s eyes, bathing them regularly and making sure that they’re as healthy as possible from the inside out.

Get your pooch to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect that their watery eyes are caused by a more serious health condition.

Becca TriggB

Becca Trigg

An all round animal lover, who absolutely adores writing and researching anything puppy! Over the past few years, I have been able to gain ample pet knowledge; specifically joint health and dental hygiene. When I'm not typing away in the office, I can be found sitting in a country pub or growing chillies

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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