Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains?

Have you ever noticed how many dogs have reddish brown staining of their fur? It occurs most commonly where tears moisten the fur around the dog’s eyes or around their mouth where saliva wets their fur as well as where they lick their feet and forelegs.

What is causing the stains in dogs?
This discoloration is caused by a chemical called porphyrin. Porphyrins are excreted primarily through bile and the intestinal tract, but in dogs a significant amount of porphyrin is excreted through tears, saliva and also urine. Saliva and tears contain substances called porphyrins, which stain light fur pink, red or brown. Porphyrins are a group of organic compounds of which many occur in nature. One of the best-known porphyrins is heme, the pigment in red blood cells. If you have ever noticed a white dog that has been licking or chewing on his leg, the hair in that area will turn iron-brown in color. The actual cause of stains is the porphyrin in the tears and saliva.

Why do stains occur in dogs?
Some dogs produce excessive tears – primarily because when humans turned wolves into today's best friend selective breeding created short noses and protruding eyes that contribute to abnormally narrow and often crooked tear ducts. Some medical conditions that result in excess tearing and licking are associated with the excess staining but are not the cause of the stain. In addition to allergies and irritants that may cause excess licking, anatomical problems such as ingrown eyelashes, entropion, abnormally small tear duct openings and irritants such as cigarette smoke may be causes1.

When porphyrins remain in contact with hair, particularly in white coats, for any time, the chemical stain develops. It is virtually impossible to remove once it develops.

Is porphyrin staining serious in dogs?
Fortunately, porphyrin staining is in itself a cosmetic problem and causes the dog no harm. However, the underlying or causative problem can be significant. Eyelid abnormalities may cause significant discomfort. Excess salivation may be caused by oral discomfort such as gum disease or dental problems. And dogs that lick and scratch their faces, feet, armpits and genitals frequently are affected by allergies that can cause distress.

If your dog is experiencing porphyrin staining be sure to have your veterinarian perform a complete physical examination to rule in or out these problems.

Can porphyrin staining be managed in dogs?
Obviously part of the answer is preventing the porphyrin containing fluids from remaining in contact with the hair. Regular cleaning can provide minimal help. Keeping long hair from rubbing in the eyes may also help keep the areas clean and dry.

How is staining treated in dogs?
Although somewhat unsightly, the staining caused by porphyrines is just that -- cosmetically unsightly. The stains cause no discomfort. Although in the past antibiotics have been used with mixed results to control staining, the use of antibiotics for a cosmetic problem cannot be recommended.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

  • My dog’s eyes are stained with blood colored tears. What is causing the staining?
  • What caused my dog’s feet to be stained red?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


  1. Magnusson, Greg. "A Veterinary Guide to Tear Stains." Leo's Pet Care Veterinary Clinic. 27 July 2012. Web.

Dog Tear Stains: How To Safely Get Rid Of Eye Marks

Your dog is stinkin’ cute. You know it. I know it. The case is closed on that one. But there is maybe one way they could get just a little bit cuter—addressing those tear stains under their eyes.

Dog tear stains are a common problem for many dog breeds, and it’s not usually a major cause for alarm. However, they can appear unsightly, and there are a few underlying health issues you’ll want to investigate to resolve the problem.

Keep reading to learn what tear stains are, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

In this guide:

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Tear Staining

Tear staining is a common problem in Maltese. Tear staining is the reddish brown discoloration that is found on the hair under the eyes. It occurs in other breeds as well, but with the white face, does make it show up more in the Maltese.
Tear staining is caused by excessive tear production (epiphora). The hair under the eyes is constantly wet and this can lead to it staining.
One interesting fact is if there is no excessive tearing, there will be no tear staining. It's also not unusual to have littermates---one who stains and one who doesn't. Genetics does play a role in tear staining.

First and foremost, it is very important to see your vet or ophthalmologist first to rule out any medical causes for excessive tearing. ***This can't be stressed enough.
Some medical causes include: ingrown eyelashes, infection of the eye, unusually large tear glands, unusually small or blocked tear ducts, glaucoma, entropion (inverted eyelid), large prominent eyes, ear infection, dental issues, some kind of systemic issue and certain medications.

There are other elements that can cause excessive tearing: stress, hormonal changes, higher humidity, smog, high winds, allergens, irritants, second hand smoke, plastic food/water bowls, high mineral content of water, allergies, type of food fed, hair in the eyes and teething.

As you can see, there are many possible reasons for excessive tearing.

Tear stains are usually the result of porphyrins. Porphyrins are iron containing molecules that are produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. Some of these porphyrins are excreted through tears, saliva and the pads of the feet.
When tears containing porphyrins sit on the hair for any period of time, staining will occur. And yes, the iron related stains will darken if exposed to sunlight.

Besides porphyrins, red yeast (Pityrosporum) can also contribute to tear staining. Yeast loves moist areas, so wet hair under the eyes would certainly be favourable for it to flourish. Yeast infection under the eyes will have a noticeable odour.
It is quite possible for a dog to have both porphyrins and yeast at the same time.

To add to the confusion, bacteria seem to be involved somehow. The mechanism of bacteria is not well understood. What is clear is that some dogs who are given certain antibiotics will result in the tear staining clearing up.

So what to do?
Once the vet has ruled out any medical issues, there are a number of things you can try to reduce the staining:
--Keep the facial hair clean and dry. This may require tending to the wet area 2-3 times a day. Avoid using commercial liquid products. You want to keep the area dry, not wet.
Use a flea comb to remove any eye debris and blot with a tissue.
A favourite recipe is to take a pinch of half cornstarch/half boric acid powder and work it into the wet hair with your fingers, then leave it. The cornstarch helps dry the area while the boric acid will gradually lighten the staining. If you do this diligently every day, usually within a month, you can see a noticeable change.
--Try changing the diet. Food allergies can contribute to staining.
--Adding a probiotic may be of benefit
--Use glass or stainless steel food dishes. Plastic dishes can harbour bacteria. Many breeders use "water bottles" to help keep the faces dry.
--Try distilled or filtered water instead of tap water
--For pets, trim the hair at the corner of the eyes. It helps prevent the tears from "wicking" down the moustache.
--For some, flushing the eyes daily with an eyewash containing boric acid eg. Collyrium can help
--If the tear ducts are plugged, your vet might be able to flush them out. Be aware however, that this is often a temporary measure, as the ducts often plug up again with time.
--Air filters or air purifiers can be helpful
Just to mention, Tums, apple cider vinegar and buttermilk have been "said" to change the pH of the tears. There is little evidence to show this is the case and results are very variable.

Last but not least is going the antibiotic route. This is something that should not be taken lightly. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a huge problem in the world.
If all of the above has failed, then perhaps trying a course of antibiotics might be worth looking into.
You and your vet will have to work together on to figure out the correct dosage and for how long.
Tylan (tylosin) seems to be the drug of choice these days.
Antibiotics for tear staining doesn't work on all dogs, so if the staining isn't clearing up after a reasonable length of time, don't continue using it.
Likewise, an antibiotic may work, but you can't keep them on it for a long length of time either.

As you might gather, there is no magic wand for stopping tear staining. Every dog is different, but with perseverance, it should be possible to get staining down to a minimum.

The 5 most Common Reasons for Dog Tear Stains

A beautiful white maltese with beard and tear stains

If you’ve ever seen a dog with red or brown marks in the areas around and just under the eyes, you’ve seen a dog that is suffering from tear staining . The staining can matte around the dog’s eyes and leave a gooey, thick mess that is hard to clean. Most people assume that the stains are caused by excessive moisture from the dog’s eyes and that they’re just a fact of life. In fact though, tear stains have many different causes, and figuring out the root of the problem could end up saving you some work and also improve your dog’s life.

1.) Ear Infections

Tear staining can be linked back to ear infections, so it’s important to keep your dog’s ears as clean and dry as possible. If you notice that your dog is getting a lot of ear infections which also coincide with excessive tearing, the two are probably related. Use a good cleansing product to make sure the ears are clean and your dog’s tear stains might be reduced as a result.

2.) Allergies

Dogs can experience reactions to thing just like humans, and tear staining can often be a reaction to allergens or irritants. In fact, some dogs will suffer reactions to their food which will change the pH level in your dog’s system which in turn can cause excessive tearing. If you notice that your dog’s tear stains get worse in certain situations than it might be an environmental factor that is adding to the problem.

3.) Blocked Tear Ducts

Some dogs are born with tear ducts that are closed which need to be surgically opened by a vet, but this isn’t the only way a duct can be blocked. At times, a dog can develop clogged tear ducts which can add to excessive tearing, and unfortunately, a trip to the vet will be needed to irrigate the ducts. Luckily, this isn’t a very common problem, but if you suspect clogged tear ducts, it should be taken care of, lest your dog suffer unnecessarily.

4.) Red Yeast

One of the biggest causes of tear staining is from a dog having an excessive amount of tears. This high level of moisture can keep the hair around the face wet, which then becomes an area where bacteria can breed. One of the most common forms of this bacteria is called Red Yeast, which causes a yeast infection around the eyes and leads to the brownish-red stains that you sometimes see on dogs.

Some waters contain a high mineral content, which can cause staining on a dog’s entire face and beard. A lot of moisture can remain on the face trapped in the hairs after a dog drinks, which can be moved to eye level by the dog trying to lick his face clean. And, if the mineral content is high, it will increase the level of red-brown staining on a dog’s face. If you notice both tear stains and a discolored beard, try switching your dog’s water to combat the problem.

Red or brown tear stains are not attractive to look at, and they can be a symptom of a larger problem. If your dog has excessive staining around they eyes and on its face, it might be worth looking into what the cause of the staining is.

There is not a full proof solution out there. You can try Angel Eye’s Soft Chews. There are also wipes, supplements and facial cleansers for this problem.

Why is it that dogs with white or light-colored fur always seem to have brown stains near their eyes? What causes this type of staining and what can you do about it? Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that your dog is depressed and requires serious therapy. Nope, it’s a physical condition that’s much easier to treat. If you have a dog that suffers from frequent tear staining, you should take the time to learn the causes of this problem and explore some options for treatment.

Causes of Tear Staining

There are a number of reasons that could lead to tear staining in dogs. In some cases it is simply because your dog’s eyes are irritated by an ingrown eyelash, an inverted eyelid, or hair growing too close to the eye (all painful, but easily treatable conditions). It is also possible that your dog’s tear ducts are not draining properly. Certain medical conditions including glaucoma and eye infections could also produce excessive tears which result in staining. In regard to insufficient drainage, there are several things that could contribute to this problem:

  • Inward-turned eyelids: This condition is referred to as entropion and it can lead to excessive tearing or blockage of the puncta (aka the drainage holes for doggy tears).
  • Hair growth around the eye: If your dog’s hair grows too close to his eyes it could cause irritation or blockage of the puncta.
  • Shallow eye sockets: Some dogs simply have eye sockets that are too shallow – if the eye sockets aren’t deep enough to contain the tears they may spill over onto the fur surrounding the eyes
  • Infection or scar tissue: If your dog has suffered from an eye infection he could have scar tissue that may block the drainage of the puncta

The causes of tear staining can vary from one dog to another, but there are certain breeds which are more prone to tear-staining than others. Short-faced breeds in particular are at high risk for staining – these breeds include Pekingese, Maltese, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and others. Breeds most likely to suffer from blocked tear ducts include Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Also, dogs that have white hair on the face or long hair have a higher risk for staining. This is one of the challenges inherent in their particular type of dog hair.

How to Get Rid of Stains

Getting rid of your dog’s tear stains is fairly easy but you shouldn’t just take steps to remove the stains. You need to treat the cause of the stains as well. The first step is, as always, to seek out the advice of a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine the cause of the staining and then you can use one of these methods to clean the stains:

  • White Vinegar: Add a teaspoon of distilled white vinegar to your dog’s water to increase the acidity of your dog’s body pH. After cleaning the tear stains, the alkalinity of your dog’s body will help to prevent bacteria or yeast infections from recurring and causing the staining to come back. Apple cider vinegar will have the same benefits.
  • Milk of Magnesia: Mix a solution of equal parts milk of magnesia and hydrogen peroxide, and then add a little cornstarch to turn it into a paste. Rub the paste into the stained area and let it set for four hours before thoroughly washing it out.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: To remove tear stains, soak a cotton pad in a water-diluted hydrogen peroxide mixture (one part hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts water) and use it to carefully clean the stained area. Be careful not to get any of the hydrogen peroxide in your dog’s eye.

In addition to these options you can find herbal or all-natural tear stain removers at your local pet store or online. Be careful when cleaning your dog’s face to avoid getting anything into his eyes, and when in doubt of your shaky hands, ask your groomer for help.

Our Top Five Products That Will Get Rid of Dog Tear Stains

If the homemade solutions aren’t properly removing your dog’s tear stains, or if you’d rather depend on a professionally manufactured product than a homespun solution, we have some suggestions. These are some of the best options available for cleaning dog stains. They may vary in terms of cost, design, and ingredients, but any of these options should clear up your dog’s tear stains with little fuss and even less muss.

Bodhi Dog’s slogan for this product says it all. This solution is “gentle on your pet, but tough on stains.” This safe, reliable, and professionally manufactured solution easily and gently removes dog tear stains in a few easy steps. As an added bonus, the product has been proven to effectively remove tear stains on cats, rabbits, and horses in addition to dogs. So, if you have a house (and stable, apparently) full of pets with unsightly tear stains, this single product will remove them all!

Part of the SPA by Tropiclean (which offers the same pampering spa day experience beloved by humans for dogs), this all-natural solution will remove tear stains from your pooch’s face in a soothing manner. Completely devoid of soap and other such harmful additives, this gentle solution will remove your pup’s tear stains without any fear of irritation. It even uses aromatherapy too make the experience more pleasant for your pup. If you’re seeking for a luxurious tear stain solution that your dog will enjoy, look no further!

If you’re looking for an easy way to remove those unfortunate tear stains from your pup’s adorable eyes, then Petpost’s medicate wipes just might be the right solution for you. These disposable wipes make streamline the process, while the powerful (yet safe) solution can cut through the deepest of stains and even remove unsightly eye crust at the same time. Best of all, the wipes are easily removed and disposed to make the process as easy for the humans as it is effective for the dogs.

Looking for a way to remove your dog’s tear stains without having to wipe chemicals near Fido’s eyeballs? While it may sound like that’s impossible dream, the good folks at Petpost managed to make it a reality. Believe it or not these cheese flavored treats will do the trick. Granted, it’s a much slower solution to the problem. It will take about six to eight weeks for the treats to build up the necessary immunity in your pup’s system to adjust and the permanently stained fur around his eyes will need to be trimmed or removed. However, once the treats do their trick, your dog will build up an immunity to tear stains and they will never spoil your pup’s cute face again. Thanks science! We needed this.

Finally, if you are weary of putting and chemicals onto your dog’s face (or into their body), but still want to remove tear stains, then consider this comb. Obviously it won’t be as efficient at removing those unsightly stains, but it will get the job done. A simple grooming solution for anyone wary of cleaning solutions or magic treats.

Angel’s Eyes products are designed to get rid of tear stains in cats and dogs and their impressive formulas have made them a leader on the market. Mild enough to be used on a daily basis yet powerful enough to remove dried mucus, secretions, and tear stains with ease, these tear stain wipes can be used on all dogs over 12 weeks of age. They are completely safe for pets and contain no bleach, antibiotics, or harsh chemicals. Convenient and easy to use on the go, they don’t require rinsing and can fit in your purse.

Who doesn’t love the wonderful Burt’s Bees product – they are natural, smell like heaven, and are really well made, and the same is true for their range of pet goodies. This all-natural tear stain remover with chamomile boasts a pH-balanced formula that contains no parabens, phthalates, petroleum, synthetic fragrances, or SLS. The rinseless cruelty-free formula is applied simply- just use a cotton ball to generously distribute the product once a day.

If you’re willing to splurge to keep your furbaby’s white fur spotless, this premium set of tear stain removing products needs to be in your shopping cart. Eye Envy tear stain removers are among the most popular on the market and this pack allows you to get all of their bestsellers for a tantalizing price. The set includes a vinyl bag for storage, a liquid solution, white powder, a bag of 30 applicator pads, and a small ProPowder brush. The formulas are dog-safe, non-toxic, and gentle and rely on natural ingredients to fight tear stains and this one set will last you 60 to 90 days, depending on how many pooches use it.

As the name suggests, Squishface wrinkle paste is designed especially for the needs of our cute squishy-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Mastiffs, and Frenchies- to name a few. The unique formula makes this product versatile and multi-functional as this paste can be used for tail pockets and skin folds in the tail region, to create a protective antibacterial barrier in between wrinkles and most importantly, to get rid of tear stains by targeting the underlying cause of this pesky issue: overgrowth of bacteria and fungus as well as excess moisture. While you’ll get the most value for money if you get this for a wrinkly dog, there are no limitations- dogs of all breeds can use this product for tear staining.

NaturVet dog supplements have a long tradition and countless pet parents singing them praise, all owing to their high-quality formulas and budget-friendly prices. This tear stain supplement is no solution as it is both affordable and highly efficient. The formula includes eyebright, cranberry extract, marshmallow root, Oregon grape root, and others, all of which are natural ingredients meant to boost your pet’s immune system and lubricate mucous membranes in order to prevent tear staining. And since these soft chews taste like treats, you’ll have no problem getting your pooch to take them.

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Watch the video: I Pour Melted Coconut Oil on My Dog (October 2021).

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