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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 is also connected to two 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 condition that requires veterinary attention.

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
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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 outset eyes are not protected from dirt, pollen and other elements that can scratch and inflame the eye, causing the eyes to water. The condition in which portions of the eye become scratched, referring to the conjunctiva of the eye, is known as conjunctivitis. 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: eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve commonly seen in older felines. 
  • Trauma
  • Scratches (elements or other animals)
  • Facial bone fractures (hit-by-car accidents)
  • Trapped foreign elements in the eye
  • Parasites
  • 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.
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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
  • Pain alleviating ointments to aid the healing of trauma, conjunctivitis, and congenital abnormalities

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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tabby cat

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3-4 months

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Runny Eyes, Sneezing And Cold

I think my kitten has dust/pollen allergy. But before jumping into conclusions, I prefer taking a vet's advice. Could you please help me out with the situation?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. In a young kitten it is much more common to have a viral upper respiratory infection than allergies, unless your kitchen is in a very dusty environment. If the problem is not improving, it may be best to have your kitten seen by a veterinarian. As she may need medications to help her get over these signs. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 2, 2020

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House cat

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes With Discharge

My cat has been having watery eyes and today there was a little bit of discharge and I've noticed him squinting a little lately

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello From what you are describing, it sounds like your pet could have an upper respiratory infection (URI) or conjunctivitis. I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Cat

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12 weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes

Both of her eyes are very runny most of the time. She doesn't seem to be bothered. (It made me pick symptom choices. I don't believe her eyes are itchy.) She also seems to be displaying no other symptoms. Should I be worried?

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Kittens are quite commonly affected by viral diseases that will make their eyes a little bit runny or red. If the only thing you see is that her eyes are a little bit more wheepy than normal, then you should be able to keep an eye on her and monitor. If things are getting worse, signs you might see would include sneezing, congestion when breathing, coughing, or red itchy eyes. If any of those happen, then you should have her seen by a veterinarian. The signs of these viral infections typically resolve in about 5 to 7 days if everything goes well. I hope that everything is fine with your kitten!

July 22, 2020

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Lexi

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tabby

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12 Weeks

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes ,Sneezing

We adopted a female kitten from a shelter just last mon, and all the kittens in the room were all sneezing! She has been very playful up to yesterday, she slept all day was sneezing has watery eyes started in left eye now the right side is starting to water also, she woke up this morning at 6 am ate and has been sleeping since, she feels warm also?

Sept. 8, 2018

Lexi's Owner

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Ava

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Sphynx

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12 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes And Stainin
Watery Eyes And Staining

I recently got a Sphynx kitten she has blue eyes and light colored.She is about 12ks old. Before we were able to take her home when she was 8wks old she had conjunctivitis and the owner was taking her to the vet. It cleared up by the time we took her home about 2wks later. She has had flare ups since I have had her. Will this go away?

Aug. 16, 2018

Ava's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It is possible that Ava will continue to have flare ups of conjunctivitis, but it may clear up as she get older and her immune system gets better; however some cats do seem to get conjunctivitis more than others. You should treat with an antibiotic ophthalmic ointment as before and if this keeps recurring think about having a culture and sensitivity test done to see if a more suitable antibiotic may be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 17, 2018

I am going to bring her back to the vet this week, but thank you for the feedback it was helpful. I did notice she is sensitive in ve to sunlight and does tear more. We have started to call her Elvira!! Lol

Aug. 20, 2018

Ava's Owner

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shakespeare

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short hair

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes
Watery Eyes, Squinting

My cat Shakespeare has watery eyes that came out of the blue but he has been sneezing for some time due to allergies. I don't have a lot of money right now to take my cat to the vets. He is squinting now and then and looks like the eye is smaller than the other but a tiny bit when he looks at me, however there is no discharge and he is eating and drinking fine so I am not sure if I should just continue to monitor it and I try to use a warm cotton ball and wipe around his eye, however, it has not done much to change his watery eyes. Is there something natural I can give him or just wait it out. Thank you.

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Echo

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Domestic long hair

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eye
One Eye
Wet Food

We adopted two kittens (a boy and a girl) from the same litter about two months ago. We continued them on the wet food that the foster family had been giving them and had no problems. Just a couple of days ago, the boy's right eye started watering after eating wet food. We've monitored him eating dry food and drinking water, and it definitely only happens with the wet food. He has no other symptoms, and the liquid coming out is clear. The thing we don't understand is why it would start now. They've been on the same food for four months and have been in our apartment for two months. We haven't changed anything in the feeding routine and also his sister doesn't have any symptoms. Thanks so much for your help!

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Tiger

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Domestic House Cat (Black Tabby)

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14 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes
Sensitivity To Light

My cat’s eyes are watering, and she is keeping her eyes closed or barely open. She still wants petted and is seemingly comfortable on my bed. I just painted my nails, so she could possibly be allergic, but nothing like that has ever happened before. I’m worried about her eye sight.

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Sox

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tabby

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5 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Watering Eyes

I have 3 stray cats the i got from a nearby barn, 1 of which has watery eyes problems...His eyes water brown unlike his siblings I just wiped it away not knowing what caused. I asked My mother "Why is His eyes doing that" She responded with "Its because you mess with them too much" I so, did not believe her and moved on. To this day his eyes still water..?

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Hope

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Black and gray tabby

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Just Watery Eyes

1 year old cat had has watery eyes since I found her as a 5 week old kitten. No other symptoms. She is up to date on vaccines.thinking she has allergies.Any advice?

Watery Eyes Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

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