Cat Tear Duct Blockage in Cats

The cat tear duct is located at the corner of the eye, and consists of a tiny tube that carries moisture and liquid, commonly called tears, down into the nose. When the eye is attempting to flush out irritants or foreign objects, it will produce an excess of tears. This tiny drainage system will collect the overflow and prevent the tears from flowing down the face or cheeks. When a cat tear duct is clogged or has some sort of blockage, the tears will overflow, often causing staining, skin infections or irritation. This is called "epiphora". Due to the mixture of fur and dampness, yeast and bacteria have a suitable environment for rapid growth. Red yeast may cause dark staining on the facial fur of a cat.

Symptoms of Cat Tear Duct Blockage

While the most common symptom of cat tear duct blockage is the reddish staining alongside the nose, there are several other more subtle symptoms of this condition. A clogged tear duct can cause discharge, crustiness on the eyelids, inflammation or swelling of the eyelids. You may also notice your cat blinking excessively, squinting or rubbing the eyelids or area around the eyes. Vision impairments can also be caused by blocked tear ducts.

What Causes Cat Tear Duct Blockage?

There are a number of conditions which may cause your cat's tear ducts to malfunction. Blockage can be caused by any type of inflammation of the eyes, such as conjunctivitis. Any trauma to the eye, like physical fights, or toxic chemicals, soaps, shampoos or other foreign objects may created blockage. Allergens such as smoke, dust, or food or airborne allergies can build up in the tear ducts causing overflow. Occasionally, eyelashes may grow incorrectly. This can cause permanent damage to a cat's tear ducts, and surgery is usually necessary to correct this problem. Upper respiratory infection may cause severe and permanent damage as well. Cats with shortened muzzles, such as some breeds of Persian and Himalayan, are famous for defective tear ducts.

How Is Cat Tear Duct Blockage Treated?

Generally speaking, there is no nonspecific treatment for blockage of cat tear ducts. Treatment will depend greatly upon what is causing the overflow. Causes of excessive tearing, like infections, inflammation or other conditions must be treated with appropriate anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics. If there is an obstruction to the tear ducts such as a backwards eyelash or other growth, it may need to be surgically removed. Irritants like dust or other allergens that cause clogging should be eliminated from the cat's environment. Keeping your cat's face dry and clean will prevent buildup of bacteria, therefore lowering the risk of complications during treatment.

Chronic Epiphora

Sometimes, corrective measures cannot be taken, or do not succeed. In these cases, you may wish to incorporate a daily routine for maintenance of cat tear duct blockage and excessive tear overflow. Wash and dry the affected area at least once per day with warm water and a gentle cloth. Use appropriate antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications periodically to reduce tear staining and decrease irritation caused by this condition.