A closer look: Blocked Tear Ducts (Dacryocystitis) in Dogs
Tears are an important part of the body’s defenses, protecting the eyes and keeping them lubricated. Insufficient drainage of tears within the nasal passages can lead to more severe eye disease.
In more severe cases, bacteria might start to grow in the moist area around the eyes, which can develop into a more serious infection.
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Dacryocystitis is a rare condition in dogs and it is not life-threatening, but medical attention is recommended for any signs of eye disease. Left untreated, blocked tear ducts can lead to complications that threaten eyesight or the integrity of the eye itself.
In some cases, dacryocystitis is caused by hereditary or congenital anomalies of the eye or the eyelids. Sometimes it is breed related, affecting in particular Cocker Spaniels. In most cases, the block occurs because of the shape of the eye, the nose, and the face. It can also be caused by foreign objects lodged in the duct.
Testing and diagnosis
The diagnostic process involves a complete ophthalmic examination and an evaluation of nasolacrimal fluorescein dye travel time (Jones test). To conduct a Jones test, drops of glowing dye are placed in the eye and observed as they appear from the nose and mouth after traveling through the nasolacrimal duct. If the dye fails to appear, this indicates a blocked nasolacrimal duct.
With the patient under sedation, a cannula is inserted into the duct and water or saline solution is flushed into the nasolacrimal duct. Flushing works as a treatment for mild obstruction and can help detect a more serious blockage. Flushing also may provide samples of debris that can be evaluated to help identify the cause of dacryocystitis.
Dacryoendoscopy is an advanced imaging technique that involves insertion of a tiny camera into the tear duct to directly visualize the obstruction.
Sometimes, a CT scan of the skull is necessary to diagnose long term obstructions.
Steps to Recovery
Flushing debris from the nasolacrimal duct during diagnosis is sometimes curative for mild obstructions. Anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics are usually prescribed and follow up visits are necessary to monitor progress. In more severe cases, surgery is necessary to remove tumors and foreign objects or to enlarge the opening of the duct.
In some situations, the veterinarian might suggest a stent be surgically placed to allow the normal flowing of tears.
The prognosis is generally good. Surgical intervention is usually successful with only 5% of cases presenting complications such as conjunctivitis or corneal scarring.
Dacryocystitis is not contagious. Prevention is difficult as the condition has anatomical and inherited causes. Preventing dogs from running in tall grass may help as dacryocystitis can also be caused by plant-based foreign objects.
Are Blocked Tear Ducts (Dacryocystitis) in Dogs common?
Dacryocystitis is a rare condition in dogs, with some breeds, especially Cocker Spaniels, being more predisposed to it.
- Saline flush
- Anti inflammatories