Puppy Epiphora

Possible Injury, Possible Birth Defect


I am in the process of purchasing a Lab puppy from a litter of 8. The one I picked seems to have a small amount of tearing, the others do not. Should I be concerned that might lead to eye problems later on? Or is this normal?

Dr. Nichol:

You may have reason for concern. If that new baby has a minor infection (conjunctivitis) it should be easy to manage with ointment or drops. On the other hand, tears may be overflowing onto your puppy’s face because the tear ducts are blocked with discharge or not fully formed. Either way, this youngster needs to see the doctor.


Your veterinarian can apply a fluorescent stain to those eyes that will show an impressive green color when an ultraviolet light (remember black lights?) is shined on his face. If the tear ducts are open and functioning, the stain will flow to the nostrils. It will also reveal injuries to the corneas (the outer surface of the eyes). If the eyes are fine and the plumbing works the doctor can dispense an eye medication to clear up any low-grade infection.


What if his tear ducts don’t work? With the puppy under light anesthesia the doctor can use a lacrimal canula to flush any discharge out of those ducts. If it turns out that the tear ducts never fully formed in the first place, the doctor can do a minor procedure to make an opening.


This may sound like a lot. But if you picked a puppy with a healthy personality, it’s a small price for the lifetime of love that a great dog can give. Be careful. Cover your risk with a written agreement from the breeder. If there are other defects too, you may want to return that puppy and start again.