Tear stains…they drive you crazy!

How to clear up tear stains is one of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers.  Because tear stains themselves are reddish-brown, they tend to be more obvious in breeds with light-colored coats like the Maltese.

And most popular commercial tear stain products, including Angels’ Eyes, Angels’ Glow and Pets’ Spark, contain the antibiotic tylosin tartrate, which is not approved for use in dogs or cats.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is as much a problem for animals as it is for people, so avoid using products such as these.

What’s more is that while usually tear stains are simply an unsightly annoyance they can sometimes be a symptom of a  more serious eye health problem.  So, before we explore how to treat tear stains, let’s first look at its causes.

  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Ear Infection
  • Secondhand smoke exposure
  • Plastic food bowls
  • Stress
  • Poor-quality diet
  • Medications
  • Excessive tear production
  • Insufficient tear drainage
  • Shallow or inverted eyelids
  • Eye infection
  • Eye injury
  • Teething in puppies (if this is the case, tear stains should only be a temporary condition)

As you can see, there are a number of causes that you’ll want to rule out before treating, so it’s best to see your vet first (check out our Local Resources Guide for a list of great local vets).  Once you’ve made sure that your dog’s tear stains are not the result of a more serious injury or trauma, you can begin to consider treatments.  

Tear stains are typically the result of porphyrins which are naturally occurring molecules containing iron – waste products that are normally removed from the body through defecation (ie. pooping).  In dogs and cats, however, porphyrin can be excreted through saliva, tears and urine.  Some dogs simply produce more porphyrin.  It’s not a dangerous thing; it just leads to annoying tear stains!  When tears or saliva containing higher levels of porphyrins sit on light-colored fur, staining will occur.  What’s more, because of the iron content, the stains darken when exposed to sunlight.

As previously mentioned, tear stains are usually reddish brown.  However, if the stains are more brown than red, it’s possible that your pet has a yeast infection.  Besides the brown coloring, your dog’s face may smell, which is indicative of a yeast infection.  Figuring out if your dog suffers from a yeast infection vs a porphyrin stained face is important in determining the course of treatment. To make matters more confusing though, your dog could suffer from both simultaneously!

The final note, before getting to the “Just tell me what to do!” part of this blog is to realize that genetic predisposition plays a role in tear staining.  While we suggest you test out different treatments, staining may continue to occur and complete elimination may never happen, depending on your dog’s genes.  (How’s that for being the bearer of bad news!)

So, let’s get rid of these tear stains!

  • First and foremost, keep your dog’s face clean by gently wiping his face two times a day with a clean, warm, damp, soft towel, see out face washing video on Facebook.
  • Come visit our groomers and have them trim the hair around your dogs eyes.
  • Feed your dog a high quality, natural diet – raw food if possible.  A good quality diet will help boost your dog’s immune system, if you need help selecting the best food for your dog, please call us for your free personalized diet consult.
  • Use glass or stainless steel bowls instead of plastic.  Plastic can harbor bacteria that can cause irritation and contamination.  Some cool bowls we think you’ll love are the PawNosh Cubby Bowl   and Singyep
  • Use distilled or filtered drinking water instead of tap water which is often high in minerals and other impurities.
  • After brewing some Organic Chamomile Tea take a cotton ball, soak it in the tea and gently clean your dog’s eyes.
  • Use In Clover OptaGest Digestive Aid to support your dog’s immune system.
  • Using a cotton ball, wipe your dog’s eyes with Colloidal Silver(118ml) which is completely safe to use around the eyes.  Colloidal Silver has antimicrobial properties that can help clear up yeast infections as well as treat allergies, inflammation and infections.

The most important thing when it comes to your dog’s tear stains is to make sure there is not a serious underlying issue.  Once you’ve determined that this is not the case, try out some of the suggestions above.  With time, your dog’s tear stains will hopefully become a thing of the past.  But, if your dog is just cursed with a genetic predisposition to tear stains, just remember, beauty is more than skin deep!  Let’s face it; your dog loves YOU regardless of what YOU look like!  We know you feel the same about your dog!