If your cocker spaniel's tear stains are clear or reddish-brown, he's probably not suffering from an eye infection. However, if the discharge is greenish-yellow, bloody or constant, no matter what color, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Any eye issue is always a veterinary red-alert. Don't panic -- most times, a tear stain is just cosmetic -- but contact your vet if your dog's eye appears irritated.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Blocked tear ducts commonly cause tear stains in cocker spaniels. If your dog has experienced previous eye infections, scar tissue might block his ducts, resulting in excessive tearing. Your vet can flush out your dog's tear ducts, although the ducts may become blocked again. It might take a few vet visits and flushes for the problem to clear up.
Punctal atresia, the formal name for lack of tear duct development, occurs most often in cocker spaniels and golden retrievers. Your vet must surgically create an opening in the tear duct while your dog is under anesthesia. Unfortunately, the new opening often scars over, necessitating a second surgery. This involves permanently placing a tiny, thin tube in the new opening. The tube can cause constant eye watering, so your dog always has some tear staining.
Cocker spaniels often inherit problems with the drainage channel dispersing fluid flow from the eye. That makes the breed susceptible to glaucoma, when there's a fluid build-up inside the eyeball with increasing pressure. Since glaucoma can flare up suddenly, take your dog to the emergency vet if he starts tearing and his eyeball appears red and his cornea cloudy. While prompt treatment can save his eye, he may not regain vision.
Because eye problems occur so frequently in the breed, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists recommends that all cocker spaniels receive an annual screening of by one of their board-certified diplomates. You might want to take your dog to an annual visit with a veterinary ophthalmologist just to nip any potential problems in the bud, especially if your dog experiences frequent tear stains.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.