“How do I get rid of dog tear stains?”
This is a common question fielded by the team at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care, and it’s one of the most frustrating challenges for pet parents. While tear stains can occur in any breed of dog, these reddish-brown stains are more apparent in white or lighter-coated breeds. And while we greatly sympathize with the frustration and worry that comes with dealing with staining, we try to remind our clients that these blemishes are, in most cases, purely cosmetic.
We also like to remind our clients that trying to compare our pets to dogs appearing in the show ring and magazine pictures is a faulty comparison, as these dogs have likely undergone a lightening process. It’s not that these beautiful, white dogs never suffer from dog tear stains – it’s simply that they’re runway models with perfect makeup.
Just like their human owners, all dogs produce a natural amount of tears to keep their eyes lubricated. Some dogs are more prone to excess tearing, and frustratingly, there is no definitive one reason for dog tear stains. However, there are several possible contributing factors to the excess tearing that causes these stains.
Occasionally genetics are at play and the natural shape of a dog’s eye contributes to the problem – eyelids could be too small or the eyes, themselves, too bulbous, preventing the animal’s eyelids from closing completely when they blink. There may also be a slight imperfection in the eyelashes that cause irritation with every blink of the eyes. Or, sometimes over the course of life some of the tear ducts could become blocked.
Dental issues such as tartar build up or broken teeth can also cause pain and inflammation that could cause excess tearing. Such problems can only be addressed with proper veterinary care.
We tend to offer clients the following advice when it comes to preventing and treating those dog tear stains:
- Flush tear ducts. Your dog’s next dental appointment or during any procedures needing sedation offers an ideal opportunity to ask your veterinarian to flush his or her tear ducts, since the dog will already be anesthetized. Often, when puppies have their first dental, if the ducts are flushed thoroughly, and stubborn baby teeth removed, the risk of future staining can be reduced significantly. Routine spaying or neutering appointments are also good times to request this service.
- Choose a high-quality food. Unnecessary dyes, preservatives, and fillers can cause sensitivity reactions that lead to dog tear stains. In cases where those troublesome reddish-brown stains migrate from the eyes to the muzzle and/or the feet, a dietary or environmental allergy issue may be contributing. This can be a harder problem to address. Talk to your veterinarian to see if a change in diet and/or dog food brand may be in order.
- Practice proper ‘pup’ hygiene. Take a little time out of each day to gently groom the hair under your dog’s eyes with a flea comb. Occasionally, we recommend treating the area with a small amount of eye lubricant (mineral oil and silica – natural tears), then drying with a paper towel or soft cotton ball. This helps the eye area to stay clean and dry. The important thing is to practice good hygiene with your dog and do your best to keep the fur around their eyes neat and groomed.
- Try filtered or distilled water. The quality of the water you give your dog may contribute to dog tear stains. We’ve heard many people tout distilled water as a remedy, but the question is: can your dog be sustained on distilled water, alone? There are still certain minerals your dog relies on to remain healthy and happy, so we often recommend filtered water to our pet parents.
It is important to keep in mind that each dog is different. A trial and error process may be necessary to determine just what measures work best for your pet. Most importantly – defer to your vet to rule out underlying medical conditions. Seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian– like those at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care for more balanced, long-term solutions.