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What are Watery Eyes?

Watery eyes, known as epiphora in the veterinary world, is defined as an abnormal overflow of tears. Veterinarians commonly see epiphora in brachycephalic breeds, such as Himalayans and Persians, whose congenital abnormalities cause an over exposure of the eyeball to the outside world. Watery eyes are also connected to other congenital abnormalities including distichiasis and entropion, conditions in which the eyelids or eyelashes turn inward causing irritation to the eyeball. 

If your cat has allergies, a foreign object trapped in the eye, or a viral infection similar to the common cold, her eyes could become excessively watery for a temporary period of time. However, if your cat’s eyes have been abnormally watery since birth or for an extended period of time, the problem could be the symptom of a genetic and congenital disease.

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Watery Eyes Average Cost

From 350 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Watery Eyes in Cats

Watery eyes in cats is fairly easy to recognize, especially in white-haired felines as the overproduction of tears causes a brown/reddish staining on the face, just below the eyes. Other symptoms of watery eyes in cats include: 

  • Red eyes
  • Squinting 
  • Scratching of the eyes
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Eye discharge 
  • Droopy skin around the eyes orbit
  • Ulceration of the cornea
  • Eye rubbing
  • Fur loss around the eyes
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Causes of Watery Eyes in Cats

Watery Eyes in cats can be caused by a number of underlying health complications, but it is commonly seen in short faced cats. Short faced, or brachycephalic cat breeds, are genetically predisposed to have short noses and bulging eyes. The bulging eyes are not protected from dirt, pollen and other elements that can scratch and inflame the eye, causing the eyes to water.  Other causes of watery eyes in cats include the following: 

  • Eyelid Tumors 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): extremely rare, but the most commonly seen eye-associated tumor in cats. White cats are the most commonly affected group. 
  • Glaucoma: increased pressure within the eye
  • Trauma
  • Scratches (self-inflicted or from another animal or foreign object)
  • Facial bone fractures (hit-by-car accidents)
  • Trapped foreign elements in the eye
  • Distemper
  • FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)  
  • Tear duct blockage due to a structural deformity of the tear duct or inflammation caused by a secondary condition. 
  • Distichiasis: irregular growth of eyelashes
  • Entropion: turning inward of the eyelashes
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Diagnosis of Watery Eyes in Cats

Any information regarding your cat’s medical history and behavior that you can provide the veterinarian can aid him or her in the diagnosis. To better pinpoint the cause of your cat’s watery eyes, the veterinarian may also perform:

  • A physical examination 
  • An allergy test to rule out allergies as the cause
  • A fluorescein stain test to view trauma the eye that are not easily seen. This is a non-invasive test that will not cause pain to your cat. The veterinarian simply stains the eyeball and shines a blue light into the eye for viewing purposes. 
  • The Schirmer tear test, a test using small strips to evaluate tear levels of the eye. 
  • A tonometry test, performed to evaluate the intraocular pressure or fluid within the eye. This test is commonly performed to rule out or diagnose glaucoma. 
  • Radiographs, an MRI, or a CT to check for internal abnormalities within the skull. 
  • Laboratory analysis of cultured discharged from the eye.
  • Cytology of the cells of the eye
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Treatment of Watery Eyes in Cats

Treating watery eyes in your cat will depend on the underlying cause. Treatment of watery eyes in cats may be include of the following:

  • Removal of the foreign body lodged in the eye
  • Antihistamine treatment to manage allergies 
  • Topical antibiotics for treatment of infection or conjunctivitis
  • Pain relief, anti inflammatories and the use of a buster collar to prevent rubbing

In the case of tear duct blockage, a catheter may be placed within the tear duct to open the duct and allow fluid to pass. Surgical repair of the eyelid may be necessary to treat abnormal eyelid formation such as an Entropion. 

Distichiasis can be treated by removing the hairs using a process called cryosurgery. 

Eyelid tumors will require aggressive treatment and if caught early, can be surgically removed. 

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Recovery of Watery Eyes in Cats

Recovery and management of watery eyes in your cat is dependent of the severity of the condition. If your cat has been prescribed medication to alleviate pain due to a foreign object obstruction or antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms, recovery should begin within a few days. Management will mainly take place at home with occasional trips to the veterinarian. However, if you cat has undergone a surgical procedure, recovery and management will take longer, requiring more veterinarian attention. Your veterinarian will want to reevaluate your cat and check on the progress of the treatment. 

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Watery Eyes Average Cost

From 350 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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Watery Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Ragdoll

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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12 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes

Cat has watery eyes. Always has a run of where you can see the tears have dried up on his face. He is otherwise in good health. He has just had a bath in this photo to and I cleaned his eyes with warm water to see if it was just old but it still has done the same thing again.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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12 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may have a blocked tear duct, or an abnormality with his tear production. His eyes appear healthy otherwise in the picture that you sent, and he may just need to have his face cleaned frequently. If you are concerned, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem.

Oct. 8, 2020

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Domestic cat

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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18 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Watering And Squinting

Hi, my cat has a watery/gunky eye (only one). Can’t see any scratches or any foreign objects in it but he is squinting a lot or keeping it closed. He is eating, drinking and toileting as normal though. I’ve been wiping it clean with just water and tissue regularly but should I seek veterinary advice? Many thanks for any help

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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18 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Viral disease is common in cats, and can sometimes be seen as a squinty, watery eye. If he is holding the eye open for the most part and not pawing at it or bothering with it, you should be okay to keep it clean and monitor him. If he starts pawing at the eye, or it is not getting better over a few days, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them and see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Watery Eyes Average Cost

From 350 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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