Clogged Tear Duct of a Cat

There are several topics that come to mind in respect of the clogged tear duct of a cat:

  1. What are the symptoms of a cat’s clogged tear duct
  2. Is it a clogged tear duct or a defective tear duct, meaning one that is not working properly because it is the wrong shape?
  3. Is the cat producing too many tears and if that is the case, why?
  4. Is a well known product like Angel’s Eyes, which can be bought over the counter or online going to be the answer?


The symptoms are fairly well known and documented, namely tear duct overflow. The medical term is epiphora. Because the tears cannot drain through the duct, the tears flow down the face of the cat onto the fur below and dries there. This causes staining. This is because the damp conditions and the hair are a good environment for bacteria and yeast. Red yeast causes the staining that we see.

The staining extends downwards from the lower corner of the eye that is nearest the nose. This is the exact location of the opening through which tears from the eye pass into the tear duct. The tears would normally go down the duct into the nose. When we cry our nose runs as well. This is the reason.

tear duct

The anatomy of people and cats is similar in many ways (that’s why cats are used sometimes in medical experiments). The picture, right, is of the tear duct of a human. The configuration is similar for a cat.

“Basically the tear ducts of the cat consist of a very tiny almost invisible opening on the inner aspect of the eyelid on the side the nose. These opening lead to the actual tear ducts which connect to the nose.” ( Scott Nimmo BVMS – new window)

Clogged tear duct of a cat – blocked or defective?

If the tear duct is defective it is not clogged. I know of only one case where the tear duct of a cat is inherently defective through breeding and that is in the flat faced Persian cat and the Himalayan cat (a pointed Persian cat). Tear duct overflow in these cats is a medical condition brought about by irresponsible breeding. These cat breeds should not have been brought into existence. The doll face Persian does not suffer from the same condition because the face has a normal anatomy. Please see Cat Health Problems and Persian Health Problems.

If there is tear duct overflow in a cat other than a flat faced Persian it is probable that it is blocked. An operation under anaesthetic can be performed to clear it.


Clogged tear duct of a cat – too many tears?

Tear duct overflow might be due to the over production of tears that overburden the tear duct or partly due to over tearing and partly due to blockage. A vet will advise.

Over production of tears can be due to a number of causes – these are examples:

  1. Infections in the tear ducts (this would seem to be circuitous – a blockage may result in infection, which in turn exacerbates tearing).
  2. Allergies and irritation from cigarette smoke, dust, food allergies, water allergies, airborne allergies etc. (see feline allergies , hypoallergenic food , grain free cat food, feline eye disease .
  3. Hair from around the eyes.
  4. Eyelashes that grow into the eye.

Both over tearing and tear duct blockage would, it seems, need to be checked if there are signs of staining.

Clogged tear duct of a cat – Angel’s Eyes

As I understand it, Angel’s Eyes is a pet food supplement that comes in various flavours, the active ingredient of which is tylosin as tartrate (Angel’s Eyes description) and which is designed to “eliminate unsightly tear stains from the inside out”.

Tylosin is….an antibiotic used in veterinary medicine. Tylosin is used in veterinary medicine to treat bacterial infections in a wide range of species and has a high margin of safety.

A tartrate is a salt…As food additives, tartrates are used as antioxidants….Antioxidants are also widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements in the hope of maintaining health and preventing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease. Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large clinical trials did not detect any benefit and suggested instead that excess supplementation may be harmful. (Wikipedia)

The way the ingredient is described as “tylosin as tartrate” indicates that its presence is as both as a broad spectrum antibiotic and a food supplement antioxidant. The Wikipedia author also says this about Tylosin:

…it has been used…as a way of reducing epiphora (tear staining) around the eyes of white faced dogs. (note Angel’s eyes is also used on cats). It should be noted that no marketing authority exists for the use of tylosin as a tear stain remover and thus it is not legal to use it for such purposes- the exception being as a Prescription Only Medicine of last resort by vets under the Cascading Rule (UK) or the Extra Label rule (US).

Note: the manufacturers of Angel’s Eyes admit that the Food and Drug Administration have not evaluated their claims.

It has been said that broad spectrum antibiotics are not ideal. Ideally the causative agent of the infection (causing the tear duct blockage or as a result of the tear duct blockage) should be identified and a more narrow and targeted antibiotic used instead.

One contributor in a dog forum (I don’t know her or his qualifications) said that broad spectrum antibiotics can kill the good bacteria and the bad. This seems a sensible comment. On that basis it may be wise to seek advice as to how to offset that (e.g. probiotics). There are other issues attached to regularly giving an antibiotic over a long period (if that is the case with Angel’s eyes) such as immune system damage and liver damage, she says. Clearing or preventing the clogged ear duct of a cat or managing tear duct overflow with Angel’s Eyes carries some risk it seems.

Clogged Tear Duct of a Cat – Photos:

  1. Picture of human tear duct published under a Wikimedia Commons license.
  2. Picture of Himalayan cat – copyright Stockxpert.

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About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!


Clogged Tear Duct of a Cat — 2 Comments

  1. Are there any tear duct problems that Siamese are prone to? We’re not sure if ours is a purebred, although he looks as if he could be. We’ve had him for about 18 months and have taken him back to the vet numerous times for greenish discharge, especially from the left eye. He’s had a lacrymal flush done to the left tear duct, but it only stopped the problem for about 3 weeks before it started up again, this time in both eyes. A test was done where little strips of tissue between the lower eyelid and cornea, and apparently he doesn’t make enough tears, so we’re seeing a veterinary ophthalmologist in a few weeks. Any ideas?

    • Hi Rhoda, this is the list of genetic diseases in Siamese:

      Mast cell tumors
      Cutaneous asthenia
      Esophageal hypomotility
      Cutaneous mastocytomas
      Cervical neck lesions
      Hip dysplasia
      Feline hyperesthesia syndrome
      Feline endocrine alopecia
      Adenocarcinomas of the small intestine
      Malignant mammary tumors
      Numerous congenital heart defects (PDA, aortic stenosis, AV valve Malformation, pyloric stenosis, etc)
      Primary endocardial fibroelastosis
      Chronic Degenerative Keratitis
      Seems predisposed to feline oral resorptive lesions (lesions on the teeth).
      Hepatic Amyloidosis
      Congenital heart defects

      This list comes from this page:

      In addition there is a page on Siamese cat health:

      Of all the inherited diseases this cat breed has (and there are lots) I have not heard of Siamese being prone to tear duct problems. I wonder if this is a tear duct problem, though. Could this be a URI – a bacterial infection or sinusitis (also a bacterial infection of the sinuses). The discharge indicates bacteria to me but I am not a trained medic. This is a wild guess. Siamese cats can have depressed immune systems leading to chronic conditions. Good luck Rhoda.

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