Canva Puppy having tear stains on its eyes

All About Tear Stains

Tear stains are little streaks of brown running down your dogs face. They can be quite annoying to look at making your doggo look unkempt and even sick. To me they are just another fact of dog ownership. If you get a lighter dog most likely you’re going to have to deal with tear stains to some. Treatment for tear stains is easy if done the correct way, if not, you run the risk of injuring your dog’s eyes possibly for the rest of their lives!

When I was really young my mother had a Shih Tzu, Wendy, who had terrible tear stains, but we had never had an issue with tear staining in our goldens until recently. Our newest golden, Salem, had issues with tear staining since we brought him home. Seeing as he is our newest show and breeding prospect it was rather disappointing that this beautiful boy had brown streaks running down his face like idrty clown make-up!

What Are Tear Stains?

Maltese dog showing a significant tear stain.

Epiphora is the fancy scientific word for tear stains. And, it might surprise you, it isn’t just found around the eyes, it can be found around the nose, muzzle, and even between their toes! That’s because the rusty brown discoloring is due to a pigment called porphyrins that are excreted in tears, saliva, and urine. The more porphyrin filled discharge the more likely your dog is going to have tear stains. Even though it’s most noticeable on lighter dogs ALL dogs can have tear stains, but it is most commonly found in Shih Tzus, Maltese, Pugs, Pekingese, and Toy Poodles. The good news is that tear staining is nothing to worry about in and of itself. Other than being a little unsightly it is completely harmless! It can be a symptom of an underlying issue and if your worried about it have your vet check out your baby’s eyes at their next appointment.

When to Call the Vet?

Canva Eye control at vet
Closeup of a veterinary woman holding a magnifier glass while doing a control to dog’s eyes.

Like I said earlier, tear stains can be a symptom of an underlying health issue so any time you see a significant change in tearing or behavior it’s time to call in the vet. Dogs with injuries to their eyes will rub them with their paws. These are your baby’s eyes you don’t want to take any chances!

Possible Eye Issues That Cause Increased Tear Staining!

There are many possible causes for an increase in tear production and staining. Your veterinarian may be able to rule out a few but many time an actual Veterinary Ophthalmologist is needed to make sure your dog’s eyes are in tiptop shape. If an issue is found treating it should alleviate the tearing and staining.

  • Injury
  • Allergies
  • Eye Infection
  • Ear Infection
  • Dry Eye
  • Blocked Tear Duct
  • Enlarged Tear Glands
  • Undersized Tear Duct
  • Entropion (condition where the eyelid folds inwards)
  • Trichiasis (abnormally positioned eyelashes)
  • Glaucoma

How to Get Rid Of Tear Stains

Canva Vet medical examination
Jack Russell Terrier at the doctor vet treats eye

Dealing with the stains is actually quite simple. You will need to wash out your dog’s eye twice to three times daily with saline solution or a rinse like Vetericyn. Then take a clean cotton pad or ball and wipe the surrounding area clean. The less time the tears are sitting on the fur the less they can stain. If your dog is squirmy you may need help to hold him down.

Over the Counter Tear Stain Treatments

There are quite a few anti-staining wipes and other products available through pet stores. These are specifically used on the exterior area around the eye. Try to avoid cleaners that contain Tylosin. Tylosin is marketed as an antibiotic but is only approved to be used on cattle, swine, chicken, and turkey. The FDA has prohibited its use in dogs and cats but it can be found as an ingredient in many tear stain cleaners.

Tear stains often affect pugs.

 Speak to you vet before trying any online home remedy. There are a lot of home recipes out that that can be harmful to your dog’s eyes. I found some that included bleach which can cause blindness. Even you’re not intending it to get in the eyes it can.

When it comes to eye health it is always better to err on the side of caution and talk to your vet before you worry too much. Most the time tear stains are just that and nothing bigger. In Salem’s case we found a slight scar on his third eyelid probably from a litter mate. Nothing horrible! He is definitely not crying because he’s unhappy! Your dog is your baby with or without tear stains.  

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