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Published: Jul 17, 2012

If your dog has fluid coming out of its eyes, you might assume that the animal is crying. However, it's important for pet owners to note that dogs cannot cry in the way that humans do. If a dog's eyes are discharging liquid, it is because something is wrong, not because the animal is overcome with emotion.

Just about all creatures with eyes have tear ducts of some kind, as fluid is critical to keeping the eye functioning. In dogs, these tear ducts drain the liquid back into the dog's nose and throat area. However, if this tear duct becomes blocked in some way, the tears may begin flowing out of the eyes, a sign that the animal should be taken to a veterinarian. This eye discharge is referred to as epiphora in dogs.

Epiphora is not a disease or condition in and of itself, but rather a sign of an issue with the dog's eyes. Owners can spot epiphora rather easily - the area around the dog's eyes will likely be damp due to the fluid leaking out of the eye. Prolonged epiphora may result in skin irritation around the eyes, typically resulting in reddish or brown patches of fur. If a dog's face is consistently damp, it's possible that epiphora is the cause.

There are many different causes for epiphora, which is why it's imperative that you take the dog to the vet for an official diagnosis. Corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, abnormal eyelashes, allergies, eye infections and glaucoma in dogs can all cause issues with the tear ducts, which will in turn cause the fluid to leak from the eye. Treatment of the condition will ultimately depend on which of these issues is causing the problem.

Some breeds are at a greater risk for epiphora than others. The anatomical design of the dog's face may play a role in how the fluid stays in the eye. Dogs with "squished-in" or flat faces may experience more leakage than other dogs, especially if hair around the eyes begins to interfere, reports VCA Animal Hospitals. Typically, this type of epiphora is mild and not considered serious.

In some cases, the vet will need to intervene in order to re-open the tear ducts and allow things to function properly. The first step the vet will take is to anesthetize the animal and flush out the eyes with a special instrument. This is often enough to open up the ducts and get things working properly again. In some cases, the animal may need surgery to correct the issue.