For the Love of Your Pets: Certain breeds more prone to hyperactive tear ducts

By John Beck

I have a Maltese and her eyes are always running leaving behind stains and a bad smell. What causes this and what can I do to get rid of the staining and odor?

The Maltese breed makes very cute dogs, but they always seem to have this eye problem. They aren't the only ones. Yorkshire terriers, Pekinese, Shih-Tzus, poodles, etc., are all breeds that battle this same problem. The staining and bad smell is from tear production. The hyperactivity of the tear duct can be caused by a couple of different things.

The simplest is genetics. Some dogs are just genetically apt to produce more tears than the average bear (or dog, in this case). Another very common reason is the hair growing between the eyes and on the snout. That hair is often trimmed back so that you can see the dog's eyes and so that the dog can see you. When it begins to grow back out, it can get in their eyes, occasionally poking them and causing irritation. Irritation causes increased tear production. Another problem is disticia. This is when the eyelashes curl back or grow toward the eye, instead of out. This also causes eye irritation and if really bad, can cause eye ulceration. The last and probably most common cause is allergies. Living in South Texas, I think we can all relate to this problem. As you might have experienced yourself, sneezing, coughing and watery eyes all are symptoms of allergies.

This tear production can cause reoccurring eye infections. The moisture around the eye can make a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to grow. A sure sign of infection is when the discharge from the eye no longer appears to be tears or clear. When it becomes red, yellow or green you probably have an infection. Make sure you are checking with your veterinarian, at least bi-annually, to make sure you don't have either one of these infections. They will need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid other problems like ulceration or loss of vision. The odor is a result of the area staying wet all the time. It is like having a wet dishrag sitting on your counter all the time.

Wiping around the eye area gently with a soft, clean cloth moistened with water, (once a day), will help decrease staining and odor. There are wipes that can be prescribed by your vet that are quick and easy for on-the-go. There is also a powder that is made to sprinkle on top of the food that will eliminate that staining.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian for more information.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at dr johnbeck@hotmail.com.