Tear stains are grody-looking reddish-brown streaks that occur under the eyes of some dogs.
We’ll talk about the causes of these unsightly stains, explain why you’ll want to have your vet take a look at them, and let you know what you can do on your own below.
Our Top Pick? Burts Bees Tear Strain Remover – the only one we’ve found to be safe and non-toxic.
What Causes Dog Tear Stains?
The actual tear stains your dog gets usually aren’t a big problem. They’re a symptom, not a disease. It’s usually (but not always) related to a condition called epiphora, which just means that your dog produces a lot of tears.
Epiphora and the tear stains it often causes can happen for a ton of different reasons.
This is why it’s important to discuss your pup’s tear stains with your vet.
Most tear stains turn out to be harmless, but they can be caused by a few dangerous things that you’ll need your vet to treat.
A few of the most common reasons dogs get tear stains are:
- Bacterial Infections – Bacterial infections that occur near your dog’s eyes may cause red or brown stains. There’s no way for you to know if your dog’s tear stains are caused by bacteria or not, but your vet can tell pretty easily.
- Yeast Infections – Yeasts (which are tiny, one-celled organisms) can commonly cause yeast infections on a dog’s paws, but yeast can also infect the skin or fur under your dog’s eyes and cause them to look brownish. are also common. Once again, your vet will help you determine if a yeast infection is causing your dog’s issue.
- Clogged or Malformed Tear Ducts – Wonky tear ducts can cause all kinds of problems, including tear stains. Your vet will simply need to examine your dog’s eyes, figure out what the problem is, and decide on the best way to treat it.
- Porphyrin – Porphyrins are chemicals your dog’s body produces all the time. They come out in several ways, including urine and saliva, as well as your dog’s tear ducts. Porphyrins are red to brown colored pigments, which is the reason they often cause the actual staining. It is thought that some dogs just produce more porphyrin than others.
- Eyelash Problems – Dogs with inward-facing eyelashes may produce a lot more tears than normal, which can lead to staining.
Which Dogs Are Most Susceptible to Tear Stains?
Tear stains can happen for any dog, but they are much more common in some than others.
For starters, they’re most common in dogs with white or light-colored fur, but that’s probably only because they’re easy to see. Breed wise, they’re most common in:
- Bichon Frises
- Shih Tzus
Dogs who battle a lot of skin infections may also be more likely to get tear stains, and some people think that dogs who drink water with a lot of iron in it are also more likely to get them.
How to Get Rid of Dog Tear Stains
The first thing you need to do when you notice your dog has tear stains is to make an appointment with your vet. A lot of different things can cause tear stains, and the only way to treat them is to fix the underlying problem.
Additionally, while tear stains usually aren’t caused by seriously dangerous things, it’s important to rule out things like bacterial and yeast infections.
But, there are a few things you can do to help your dog look her best while working with your vet to solve the true cause.
Some of the things you may want to try are discussed below. We’ve covered some medical solution as well as a few natural tear stain removing solutions and home remedies.
1. Switch to Bottled or Filtered Water
Water with a lot of iron in it may cause tear stains in some cases. Some owners have found that switching to bottled or filtered water has helped clear up the stained area over time. Some dog water fountains have built-in charcoal filters, so you may consider switching to that style of water bowl.
2. Get Rid of Plastic Bowls
Nobody really knows why, but it seems that some dogs get tear stains from eating out of plastic food and water dishes.
A lot of owners have noticed their dog’s tear stains go away after switching to ceramic bowls or stainless-steel dishes.
Honestly, most owners should go ahead and make this switch, as plastic bowls are harder to keep clean.
3. Have Your Groomer Pay Special Attention to Your Dog’s Eye Area
It can often be a good idea to have your groomer trim the fur under your dog’s eyes. This will not only remove some of the stained hair immediately, but it’ll also help keep the area cleaner. It’ll probably be more comfortable for your pooch too.
4. Use a Grooming Comb Frequently
When a dog produces a lot of tears, it can not only lead to stains, but it can also cause the hair near your dog’s eyes to become crusty and matted.
This isn’t just gross – it can also provide the kind of conditions bacteria or yeasts need to grow. A fine-toothed grooming comb can help separate these kinds of tangles, and generally keep the hair in better, healthier condition.
The Mindful Pets Tear Stain Remover Comb Two-Pack is a good choice. It is affordable, easy to use, and – most importantly – well-built. It comes with two combs (which are each slightly different in shape and size), and each one features 65 stainless-steel pins and a large plastic handle that’s easy to hold.
These combs are also backed by the manufacturer’s 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you can buy this package with confidence.
5. Use Tear Stain Rinses
You can clean your pup’s eye region with nothing more than a damp rag, but a lot of owners have achieved better results by using some of the commercially produced tear-stain rinses.
However, you need to be careful using these products, as some fail to disclose the ingredients used in their product, and others include things that may harm your pet’s eyes.
With that said, Burt’s Bees All-Natural Tear Stain Remover deserves consideration, as it contains ingredients that are generally considered safe.
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It’s mostly made from water, glycerin, chamomile extract, and dandelion extract. They don’t explain exactly how chamomile or dandelion are supposed to help get rid of tear stains, but they’re both thought to be safe, and a lot of dog owners have reported that they do seem to help.
Note that the manufacturer does caution owners that it may take 15 to 30 days for the rinse to completely eliminate tear stains.
Antibiotics are often helpful in treating tear stains. This suggests that there is either a bacterial infection present or the microorganism populations living around your dog’s eye are out of whack.
The antibiotic should kill off any bad bacteria present, which helps put an end to the tear stains.
However, you should never give your dog an antibiotic (or any other medication) without first consulting your vet. Some dog antibiotics can trigger allergic reactions, and others can simply make some dogs sick. It’s also important to remember that the improper use of antibiotics can result in resistance, which is a very serious problem.
But it is worth discussing the possibility of using antibiotics with your vet. Particularly if nothing else seems to have worked.
Be Careful Out There! Not All Tear Stain Products Are Safe
Unfortunately, there are a lot of tear-stain removing products on the market that aren’t safe for dogs.
For example, some contain hydrogen peroxide, which may hurt your dog’s eye. And at least one product was even cited by the FDA for including antibiotics without listing them on the product label.
A lot of other products incorporate herbs and other ingredients that haven’t been studied very much in dogs. Remember: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe! Plenty of natural things are dangerous and may sicken your dog.
So, just be sure to consider any product you’ll be using carefully. If you aren’t sure whether or not it is safe, you should ask your vet before using it on your pooch.
Tear stains are certainly unattractive, but they’re usually nothing more than an aesthetic problem. Just be sure to take your pooch to the vet, so that you can begin trying to address the cause of the problem and remember to be careful when selecting products to use.
Have you found a tear-stain removing product that’s worked well for you? Let us know all about it in the comments below!
December 7, 2021
What are people doing in 2021 for tear stain on our Maltese?
December 8, 2021
Hey there, Michele.
We still think the Burt’s Bees tear stain remover is the best one around.
Best of luck!
August 30, 2019
It is good to know that the heavily ionized water is causing the stains thank you