Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eye is Tearing or Watering (in Adult)

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • Most eye problems are considered veterinary emergencies.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the eye appears otherwise normal.
  • The eye does not seem painful and the horse does not seem distressed.

Lacrimation, (tear production) is a constant process and functions to clean, moisten and lubricate the eye. Tears are produced by glands within the eyelids called lacrimal glands. Drainage of tears normally happens through a duct called the naso-lacrimal duct, that empties through a tiny hole in the wall of the nostril.

Increased tear production is a natural response to irritation on the surface of the eye or within the conjunctival sac, the membranes which enclose all but the clear front of the eye. As such, tearing is a sign of almost any problem associated with the eye or surrounding tissues. Dust, wind, and flies are among the common irritant causes.

Tearing can also be caused by a blockage of the outflow tube (the naso-lacrimal duct). Tearing is also a response to pain, it is commonly seen in inflammatory conditions like Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) or Moon Blindness.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s eyes carefully. Look especially for grayness or any erosions in the clear surface of the eye (the cornea). Look for environmental causes such as dust, wind or flies. Manage those things as well as you can.

Place a fly mask, and control flies. It is safe to rinse eyes with saline if you feel confident doing so. Look for other signs of eye problems. Recognize that eye problems can worsen rapidly and be prepared to consult your vet if tearing continues.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet typically examines the eye, and general health, looking for a cause for the tearing. If the nasal opening to the duct is dry it indicates blockage of the duct.

Flushing of the duct can be helpful, but a predisposing cause for blockage should usually be sought. Staining of the cornea with fluorescein helps rule out ulcers.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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