Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Pet Expert: Why Do Dogs Get Tear Stains?

When we look at our dogs, it makes our hearts feel full. However, when they look back at us with unsightly tearing and staining around their beautiful eyes, it certainly has a negative effect on their general appearance, and is a clear indication of an underlying issue needing attention.

Tear staining is a common issue for many dogs, and thankfully, is usually easy to remedy by making a few simple changes.

Tear stains are the dark ring of staining found around a dog’s eyes, and are most commonly found in long-haired smaller breeds, such as Bichon Frise, Miniature Poodles, and more. Tear staining is caused by overactive tear production, which is also referred to as “epiphora”. The reddish staining is caused when porphyrin, a pigment found in tears, develops under the eyes. This constant moisture beneath the eyes can result in yeast infections, causing a rust coloured discolouration.

While not considered overly painful or life-threatening, tear stains certainly look unappealing. If left untreated over time, tear staining can build up to the point of causing irritation and discomfort.

Tears are a natural way for dogs to keep their eyes free from dust and debris; after all, they can’t simply wipe their eyes as humans can. Tears fall down from the eyelids, and into a part of the eye known as the nasolacrimal duct. Finally, the tears empty into the nose. However, it is possible for this duct to become blocked, causing tears to then redirect from the eyes.

Certain breeds are more prone to tear staining due to their shallow eye sockets. This is a result of decades, if not centuries, of selective breeding. Dogs with shorter noses, like bulldogs and pugs, tend to have this type of facial structure. Sometimes, ingrown hairs or eyelashes make their way into the tear ducts, which can also cause excessive tearing.

Allergies and sensitivities can also be a leading cause of tear stain formation. Dogs can suffer from allergies or sensitivities to any number of things, most commonly dietary and/or environmental factors. If your pooch only has issues with tear stains throughout certain times of the year, this could be an indicator of a seasonal allergy. Alternatively, if your dog suffers from constant tearing and staining no matter the season, it may be an indication of a dietary reaction.

If your dog experiences tear staining, start by trying the following tips:

  1. Wipe their eye area daily with warm water. To get the most thorough clean possible, consider using a specific eye cleaning wipe or tear stain-removing solution that can be easily purchased at your local pet store.
  2. Use filtered water in your dog’s water bowl. Sometimes, minerals in tap water can cause or increase tear staining in dogs.
  3. Regularly have the fur around your dog’s eyes trimmed to prevent irritation. If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, speak to a qualified pet groomer for assistance.
  4. It may be time for a new dog food. Consider consulting with a qualified pet health professional about hypoallergenic food and treat options.
  5. Consider supplementing with a tear stain-specific product, such as a liquid water additive. These products can be highly effective, and are readily available in the grooming section of your local pet retailer.
  6. If these tips do not help over time, veterinarians can prescribe an oral medication.

If your dog has dark brown tear staining that is often accompanied with a foul odour, it’s possible they have a yeast infection. In this case, it is important to see your veterinarian for proper treatment.

By getting to the root cause of tear staining, unsightly tear stains can be safely eliminated. By following a few simple steps, we can keep our dogs looking and feeling their absolute best!

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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