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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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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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1 Recommendations

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

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

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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2 found helpful

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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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2 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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Junipurr

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Mix

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Watery Eyes

Yesterday I brought my kitten to the vet.I told them about her sneezing. They thought it was just alergies. Today I noticed she started coughing and her left eye is itchy/watering. I will admit that it could be just the smoke in the air ( I live in oregon and there are a few fires). I think it is just irritation but how do I help her?

Aug. 8, 2018

Junipurr's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Watery eyes and sneezing may be due to allergies, irritation from environmental contaminants among other causes (infections, foreign objects among other causes); if the cause is due to irritation from smoke in the air, there is no real effective treatment apart from keeping Junipurr indoors and limiting exposure (air filter etc…). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

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Quasi

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domestic short hair

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Mainly One Watery Eye, Gets Dark

Is there anything I can do for my cats watery eye? I’ve taken him to the vet before they didn’t run any tests but said it was due to his overly big eyes like a Persian he would be susceptible to watery eyes and staining. But it’s just one eye, it gets really dark and hard after just a day, I wipe it and it’s pink and irritated so I try not to cause more irritation by wiping it several times a day. He also gets like little boogers, but he’s been like that since he was born so the vet ruled out it wasn’t a cold.

Aug. 7, 2018

Quasi's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are various different causes for watery eyes including confirmation deformities, in these cases the eye or eyelids are abnormal and may cause irritation or poor flow of tears; this would be something that needs to be seen in person to determine whether there are any options for correction but I would recommend seeing another Veterinarian for a second opinion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Sky

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Orange taddy cat

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1 Month

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tears On His Eyes,
Tears On His Eyes,Feve
Tears,Diarrhea,Fever,Vomited

my cat feels bad he looks sad and had tears on its eyes and he eats less then usual then it looked like he got fever but he vomited 1 time he has dierrhea I dont know what to do. Please help me as soon as you get this.

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T

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Siamese

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6 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eyes
Squinting
Scratching
Puffiness

Hello! I recently rescued my 6-month-old kitten. When I brought him home, he had every sign of conjunctivitis in his right eye so I took him to the vet the next day. He was given Ofloxacin eye drops, and within 1 week the pinkeye/redness cleared up. However, his right eye still waters every day, is noticeably puffier underneath the eye than the left and he squints it more often. Also, I give him Viralys twice a day and he was treated for roundworms twice. Do you have any idea why this might be? Or should I bring him back to the vet for further tests? Thank you!

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Lennox

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dsh

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8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Discharge
Watery Eye
Eye Drain

My cat about 8 months old is having discharge from one eye, pkus it seems to be watering a lot today! Anything I can do? He is a ting fine, just super vocal today

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maemae

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Black

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Watery Eye And Swollen Lid
Both Eyes

My 2 year old black cat, out of nowhere, had a watery eye with a swollen eyelid. She was squinting. I applied a warm compress, and shortly thereafter she was able to keep her eye wide open- however it still seemed as though her eyelid remained somewhat inflamed. When I came home a couple hours later, it seemed ok. A few hours later she came downstairs and her other eye presented with clear watery discharge and slightly inflamed eyelid. Again, warm compress- and it seemed to be fine. I still feel the first eye has a swollen eyelid. There are no foreign objects in her eye, there is no redness, it's just the top eyelid that appears to be ever so slightly visibly inflamed. If there's discharge it's clear. Could this be allergies? Herpes virus? Our other cat has herpes and we've seen similar flareups though the eyelid seems to be more inflamed than I'm used to. I will see a vet but am curious for input. She is eating just fine, seems ok... She sleeps a lot in general so I can't be sure that she's more sleepy than usual...

Watery Eyes Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

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