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What is Tear Duct Surgery?

Your dog’s tear ducts drain tears, produced to lubricate the eye, into the back of the nose and throat. These ducts, called lacrimal or naso-lacrimal ducts, are located at the corner of the eye next to the nose. When insufficient drainage occurs, called epiphora, overflow of tears results. The most common cause of insufficient drainage of tear duct failure is blockage. Blockage can be caused by a variety of conditions from neoplasia, foreign matter or congenital defect. The primary method sought to rectify this condition is to flush out the tear duct and remove blockage, however, if this treatment is unsuccessful, surgical opening of the tear duct to allow appropriate drainage may be required. This surgery is performed under general anesthesia by an experienced ophthalmic veterinarian, as structures involved are very delicate and the optical region is highly sensitive and can easily sustain damage if not managed correctly.

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Tear Duct Surgery Procedure in Dogs

Your ophthalmic veterinary surgeon will perform extensive preoperative examinations which may include radiographs to ensure a complete understanding of structural blockages, positioning, and disorder and malfunctioning in tear ducts. Prior to surgery you will be required to fast your dog, as general anesthetic will be administered. Your dog will be sedated on the day of surgery prior to administration of intravenous and gaseous general anesthesia. Your ophthalmic veterinarian will use an operating microscope to aid in visualization of the delicate eye structures and small tear ducts requiring surgery at the corner of your dog's eye. An opening will be surgically created using specialized instruments to open the tear duct, remove abnormal tissue from punctal atresia, blockage, or scar tissue. This may involve dilation of structures with balloon catheters and the use of small ophthalmic probes that can be introduced into the tiny tear duct structure. A dacryocystorhinostomy procedure to create a new route into the nasal passage for tear drainage may be required if the tear duct can not be unblocked or salvaged. In some cases, a first surgical attempt results in the opening scarring over and the condition occurring again. A cannula is placed into the new opening to ensure it remains open post surgery. Antibiotics and other eye medications to control inflammation and lubricate the area may be administered prior to and during surgery.

Your dog will be observed during recovery and aided as they regain consciousness to ensure they do not harm themselves or the eye area where they are experiencing post surgery discomfort. 

Efficacy of Tear Duct Surgery in Dogs

The effectiveness of tear duct surgery is varied and depends on the cause of tear duct malfunction. As the structure is very small and delicate, surgical procedures in this area can be complex and may not be repairable, requiring rerouting of tears into the nasal passage by creating a new passage for drainage. Recurrence of blockage is common, and if it occurs, surgery may need to be repeated, and a cannula inserted to keep the tear duct open. Lazy tear duct may occur even after successful surgery, resulting in the eye remaining watery and incomplete drainage remaining. 

Tear Duct Surgery Recovery in Dogs

After surgery, you will need to ensure your dog does not interfere with their eye area. An E-collar may be employed to protect the face area from attempts to scratch the eye, which will experience some post surgery discomfort. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and lubricants may be prescribed post surgery and should be administered as directed. Some medications may be oral but instillation of eye drops post-surgery is commonly required. 

Tear staining removal products may be used after successful resolution of the condition to remove stains on your dog's face from tear overflow. These products are commercially available.

Cost of Tear Duct Surgery in Dogs

As this procedure is very delicate and requires special training and expertise by an ophthalmic veterinarian, costs can range from $500 to $1,500 per tear duct. Cost includes examination, tests, anesthetic, procedure, and medication to aid in recovery.

Dog Tear Duct Surgery Considerations

The eye and associated tear ducts are very delicate, sensitive structures, and surgical interference must be conducted with care to ensure damage does not occur, and a successful result is obtained. Due to the difficult nature of unblocking these tiny structures, recurrence is common and incomplete resolution of the condition may be experienced.

Tear Duct Surgery Prevention in Dogs

When selecting a breed that is predisposed to tear duct openings being incomplete, selecting a breeder that ensures this trait is minimized in their dogs is recommended. Preventing your dog from getting material and infection in their eye by protecting them from debris in the air that is likely to contaminate your dog's eye will prevent some cases of tear duct malfunction.

Tear Duct Surgery Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

staining wet

Our new puppy was diagnossed with tear duct blockage at 12 weeks by a VCA vet in Long Beach Ca. the Vet said we could go to an ophthalmic vet or let it go bc sometimes the surgery doesnt solve the problem. What is your recommendation? He is a maltese/shit-zhu and will be 4 months in 12 days.

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toy poodle
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


My toy poodle always has rusty stains under eyes and I always clean them. I notice that when she sleeps her eyes don't close all the way. Could that be why she is always tearing? Would the tear duct surgery help her?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Tear duct surgery would be a last resort and has it’s own problems as well; the underlying cause of the excessive tearing needs to be determine which may be due to nasolacrimal duct blockage, allergies, eye irritation among other causes. No Veterinarian is going to perform tear duct surgery without a stronger cause than tear staining which is normal for this breed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My Yorky, was born without a tear duct on her left eye. We constantly have to put in eyedrops, anabiotic’s, and use warm wash cloths. We are considering getting the surgery for her. Replacing her tear duct with saliva gland. Would you suggest that? Is there possibly anything else we could do better? Thank you

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