What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Watery Eye, Dry Nasal Tear Duct Opening


The normal tear duct runs from the inside corner of the eye to a small opening inside the nostril on the same side (nasal puncta). In a normal horse, this tiny opening should be moist, indicating tear passage through it. If the eye is watering and the puncta is dry, it follows that the nasolacrimal duct is probably blocked as a result of another problem.

This situation also occurs frequently when there is injury to or inflammation in the eye. The drainage system becomes overwhelmed by inflammatory debris and becomes blocked. The horse then has a runny, irritated eye and a dry nasal puncta. In this case, there may be more required for treatment than simply flushing the naso-lacrimal duct.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you notice any change in appearance of the eye itself.
    • If you notice other problems with the eye or the eye seems inflamed and painful.
    • If you notice other problems with the eye or the eye seems inflamed and painful.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the eye appears otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Sponge the eye off with a wet, warm, clean towel. Examine the eye for injury or other abnormality. If the eye appears normal and there is little squinting, swelling or reddening, you may be able to monitor this yourself for awhile. However, if this condition worsens or is accompanied by any other abnormality, contact your vet immediately with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet assesses the health of the eye and flushes the nasolacrimal duct if needed. Most importantly, they diagnose and treat conditions that may be causing the blockage and watery eye.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse appear to be itching the eye?
  • Do you see foreign material in the eye?
  • Do you notice the horse squinting or blinking?
  • Do you notice the horse showing any other signs of a problem?
  • Are both eyes affected?
  • Do you notice the horse squinting or holding the eye closed?
  • Can you see the appearance of the eye itself?
  • Do you notice any change in the surface of the eye?
  • What makes you think the horse has a blocked tear duct?
  • Are flies bothering the horse's eyes?
  • Is the small orifice inside the nostril dry on the same side as the watery eye?
  • Does the horse have a watery eye?
  • Does the horse lack pigment (have pink skin) around the eye?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP