Grooming Tips for Pet Parents

What are Tear Stains and How to Help Reduce Them on your Pets

Tear stains are those pesky brown or reddish spots that develop under your dogs’ eyes, muzzle and feet. We noticed this mostly on lighter colored dogs, but this can develop on dark colored coats too. 

What are they exactly? According to Dogtime.com, these stains are a build up of porphyrin which is a pigment that is found in tears. Now, the reason this build up occurs is typically due to a condition called Epiphora. This condition causes an excess production of tears or is the inability to drain tears correctly. 

Dogs who typically have a hard time with draining their tears are poodles and cocker spaniels due to possible genetic conditions that prevent the tear duct from developing correctly, but this can happen to many breeds. Dogs who are brachycephalic, think pugs and shih tzu, sometimes have a hard time closing their eyes all the way along with these development issues. This inability to close their eyes causes more debris and irritants to be able to come in contact with their eyes creating more tears (dogtime.com). 

There are many medical reasons why your dog is developing tear stains, but this article won’t dive too deep into these. I will provide links to the information I found at the end of this article if you would like to dig deeper! I HIGHLY recommend and encourage talking to your veterinarian. Everything that I said does not come as medical advice for your dog and I am strictly here to help you understand what may be occurring with your dog. Every dog is different, and the veterinarian field is always changing! Again, speak with your vet for better understanding. 

Besides medical issues, in my grooming experience and also listed by dogtime.com, tear stains are also created or are made worse by dyes in a dog’s food, minerals in their water, or stress. 

So what can we do about these tear stains? 

Again, the first thing I would recommend is talk to your vet. Make sure your dog does not have a yeast build up or any other medical conditions that could be causing this build up. As you can see, there are so many factors that can come into play so it’s better to be safe!

After we have seen our vet and made sure that nothing serious is going on, here are 4 things you can look into and try to see if they help reduce/eliminate these stains.

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Look into the quality of your dog’s food

A big contributor for tear stains are the dyes that are in some dog foods. I generally tell my clients to avoid foods that have different colors in them. This is just to appeal to us, the owners. Pick foods that do not start with ‘corn’ or ‘corn meal’ in their ingredients as these are just fillers and convert into sugar. No corn, no dyes!

Look into your dog’s water supply

Some of the brown colors coming out of those tear ducts may be the extra minerals that are found in tap water. For this, the solution is pretty simple! Filtered water helps to remove all that excess ‘stuff’ that you find in tap water and will hopefully help to relieve some of those stains!

Start a daily eye hygiene routine with your dog

Pet stores and some online retailers (I would try chewy.com if you can’t make it into your local pet store! I’m not affiliated in any way, they just have a great selection of products) sell wipes that you can use around the eyes to help reduce tear stains. Be careful to make sure not to get any product into the eye itself. With some dogs it will take practice and patience until they are used to having their face handled, but don’t give up and just stay calm and patient. 

When face shy dogs come into my salon or I am grooming them house call, I talk to them in a gentle soothing voice as I pet the top of their head until they calm down. I then work around the checks until they eventually let me touch around their eyes. And yes, sometimes it can take several visits and several tries until the dog trusts me enough to really clean those eyes out like their mom and dad may want. It’s all about trust building!

Keep these areas as dry as possible

If you can, keep some soft paper towels or cloths around and when you notice that there is moisture there, dry it up the best you can. The more moisture that sits there the more of a chance for yeast and other bacteria will build up which can make the stains worse. Again, just like the daily hygiene routine this can take a bit of time before your pup doesn’t make you wiping around their eyes. 

I hope that the information provided and tips given help you get rid of those pesky tear stains! Some of this information is also useful if you find some staining around the mouth and the feet as well! 

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References:

Tear Stains Under Dogs’ Eyes: What They Mean And What You Should Do About Them

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/tear-stains/