Polarised light biomicroscopy was used to examine the normal pre-corneal tear film in 21 eyes of 12 pekingese dogs. The purpose of the study was to examine the influence of excessive exophthalmos on the pre-corneal tear film in the dog. The majority of the animals were found to have high levels of ocular surface contamination by particulate material and plaques of viscous mucus. Other abnormalities included surface lipid with an abnormal granular (three dogs) or 'curdled' (two dogs) appearance; excessive thinning of the lipid layer of the tear film; and the presence of dark globular structures in two dogs, which were presumed to be abnormal meibomian lipid. Break up of the tear film was observed in one dog. Grossly, a thread of viscous mucus was frequently observed along the margin of the lower eyelid. It is postulated that this thread forms because of the excessively exophthalmic conformation of the breed, which prevents the normal access of effete mucus and entrapped debris to the lower conjunctival fornix. The combination of the above factors in the pekingese is suggested as the mechanism whereby the tear film has a reduced stability, thus enhancing the risk from factors more usually considered to initiate corneal ulceration in the breed. The possible adverse effects of lid splitting for the mass removal of distichiae in exophthalmic dogs is discussed.