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How To Prevent & Clean Dog Tear Stains

If you thought tear stains were a problem reserved for light-coated dog breeds, you aren’t alone. Tear stains, and the conditions that cause them, can occur with any breed; it is simply that the stains are less noticeable on darker coats. While tear stains may seem like a grooming problem, they are usually a sign that something more is going on. We’ll discuss the causes of tear stains, how to prevent them and how to clean tear stains so that your dog not only feels better but looks its best.

What Are Dog Tear Stains?

Dog tear stains are a reddish-brown discoloration that typically occurs around a dog’s eyes, muzzle and toes. This discoloration is often accompanied by some noticeable discharge. More often than not, tear stains are a sign that something is an underlying condition that needs attention.

Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains?

Just like humans, dogs produce tears to keep their eyes moist and to flush away any irritants. When there is an issue with this process, the area around your dog’s eyes may develop a reddish-brown or rust color. The reddish stains are often the result of a buildup of porphyrin, which is a pigment found in your dog’s tears. A brown or rust color can be the sign of a yeast infection caused by the constant moisture from the tears. Excessive tear production or the inability to drain tears properly is referred to as “epiphora,” and tear stains are one of the main symptoms of this condition.

Knowing why your dog is experiencing epiphora is important for creating a prevention plan that is right for your dog. Common causes of epiphora include:

Health issues Eye shape Blocked tear ducts Teething Ear infection Allergies

If you notice that sudden and aggressive tear stains appear on your dog, consult your vet right away.

Dog Breeds Susceptible to Tear Stains

As we previously mentioned, most people assume tear stains are only a problem with light-coated dog breeds. The truth is that tear stains are just more noticeable on those breeds but tear stains can occur with any dog. With that said, some breeds are more susceptible to tear stains and epiphora. Dogs known for having eye problems or predispositions to eye irritation are at most risk. Characteristics such as shallow eye sockets, eyelids that don’t fully close or fur that hangs in the eyes can all make your dog more susceptible to eye problems.

Short-nosed breeds are notorious for epiphora. Other breeds known for tear stains include:

  • Maltese
  • Shih tzu
  • Poodle
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Boston terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Bichon frise

How To Prevent Tear Stains Around a Dog’s Eyes

Before we discuss cleaning tear stains, it is important to know how to prevent tear stains. Once your dog has tear stains, it is very difficult to clean them, which is why it is better to focus on prevention. It’s also important to remember that tear stains are not just an aesthetic problem. They signal an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Treating that condition will not only prevent tear stains but also help your dog feel its best. The first step in your prevention plan is to consult with your vet to identify the underlying cause of the tear stains.

If your dog’s tear stains are caused by an allergy, start with its diet. Research your dog’s breed and ensure that you are feeding the right food for its nutritional needs. What might be right for one dog may not be right for another, so do your research and pay attention to how the food you feed your dog is affecting it.

Another cause of eye irritation can be the hair on your dog’s face. If it has a pretty fluffy face, be sure to keep the hair around the eyes trimmed. This simple trick can be a quick way to give your dog some much-needed relief and lead to healthier eyes overall.

Finally, practicing consistent eye and mouth hygiene is a great way to ensure the eyes stay healthy, especially if your dog is breed prone to eye problems or epiphora. Using a canine eye wash is helpful for breeds whose eyelids do not close all the way, as their eyes are prone to dryness and therefore they are not able to flush irritants from their eyes. You can also use a cotton ball and canine eye wash to clean the area around your dog’s eyes and prevent the buildup of porphyrin (that pigment that causes discoloration) or an infection.

How To Clean Dog Tear Stains

Tear stains on your dog’s face can be difficult to remove, and the process is going to require some patience. Be wary of any products that focus only on removing the stain or whitening the area. Instead, opt for a product that can gently clean the area, remove any debris or secretions and slowly remove the tear stains. This will require consistent use but is worth the time and effort. We recommend Optixcare Eye Cleaner, which is a gentle cleanser that helps reduce tear stains. With consistent use, your dog’s eyes should start to look and feel better, making this one of the best tear stain removers for dogs.

How To Use Optixcare Eye Cleaner To Remove Dog Tear Stains:

  1. Generously pour solution onto a cotton pad or wipe or apply it directly to the area.
  2. Wipe the area surrounding the eyes, corners of eyes and coat on any major stain areas.
  3. Using a new, clean cotton pad, wipe away the product, being careful not to get the cotton pad in your pet’s eyes.
  4. Repeat this process twice daily for one to two weeks and then as needed.

The Best Products for Dog Tear Stains

Before using any products on your dog’s eyes, consult with your veterinarian. The following are some of our favorites that make maintaining good eye hygiene easy.

Apexa Ophthalmic Solution Eyewash - Safe and gentle enough for everyday use, this eyewash is a good product to have around in the event your dog experiences irritation or allergies or is prone to dry eyes.

Optixcare Eye Cleaning Wipes - These wipes make daily eye cleaning easy. Made with a mild cleanser, these wipes will effectively soothe and clean the area. These are also great for dogs with conjunctivitis as you can use the wipes to remove any crust or debris before administering eye drops.

Vet Classics Tear Stain Remover - This water-based formula is a great alternative to the Optixcare Eye Cleaner and is gentle enough for daily use.

Vet Classics Tear Stain Soft Chew - Another way to improve eye health is from the inside out. These soft chews use ingredients like cranberry extract, vitamin C and linolenic acid Omega-3 and Omega-6 to support the immune system and help lubricate the eyes naturally. Consult your vet before adding supplements to your pet’s regimen.

Vetericyn Pink Eye Spray - If adding solution directly to your dog’s eyes is a struggle, opt for a spray instead! This eyewash comes in a spray that makes it easy to apply. Simply spray gently into the eyes and wipe away any excess. It requires no rinsing and can be used two to four times a day if necessary. This is also a great antimicrobial/antibacterial option.

View all our Medi-Vet eye-care products here!