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The Complete Guide to Managing Your Dog’s Tear Stains

This article was reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Lisa Coder of Vital Animal Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Coder was compensated for the review of this article but is in no way affiliated with Angels’ Eyes.

Dark, unsightly tear stains are incredibly common and are especially visible on light-haired dogs. But why do they appear? And is there any way to get rid of them?

What Is Tear Staining?

Tear staining refers to the reddish-brown stains that some dogs get on their faces. These stains start from the inner eye and then run alongside a dog’s nose or snout.

Unlike dirt or debris, tear stains cannot be easily wiped away. Think of it like if you’re cleaning your shirt - dirt might be easily brushed off, but a stain requires more work to remove. 

What Causes Tear Stains in Dogs?

Tear stains are caused by a chemical called porphyrin. This naturally occurring cleansing chemical is produced by all dogs, and it is usually excreted through the tears, saliva, urine, and intestinal tract. It also contains iron, which is where the reddish-brown color comes from.

While all dogs produce porphyrin, not every dog will have noticeable tear stains. That’s because on a dog with darker fur, they simply don’t show up. When your dog has lighter fur, however, tear stains can be all too visible.

Dogs with short noses, like pugs, bulldogs, boxers, or Pekingese, for example, are also more prone to tear staining than others. Since their eyes tend to bulge out more than other breeds, it may be more difficult for them to totally close their eyelids. This means their eyes are prone to watering more to keep them clean, and more tears mean more tear stains. They are also at a higher risk of minor eye injury, such as a small scratch, that can cause a temporary increase in tear production.

Breeds like cocker spaniels, labradors, and poodles may experience tear staining due to a congenital condition (called imperforate punctum) that is common in their breeds. This condition affects their tear ducts, which can lead to staining. You may not notice it, though, as many of these breeds have darker coats.

Another “risk factor” for visible tear staining is long hair around the eyes. This is commonly found in breeds like schnauzers or terriers. The hair can cause minor irritation and lead to an increase in tear production.

And, finally, a white dog of any breed is likely to have visible tear staining at some point in their lives just because of how light their fur is.

The Best Dog Tear Stain Remover

Removing dog tear stains usually takes a multi-step approach to be completely effective.

First, you want to understand the cause of your dog’s tear stains. If your dog is one of the stain-prone breeds listed above, or if they’ve had them all their life, then your dog is likely just predisposed to tear stains.

However, If your dog suddenly develops tear stains after years of stain-free eyes, talk to your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons for the change. Infections, injury, conjunctivitis, or ingrown eyelashes may be at fault.

dog receiving angels

Allergies to the environment or food can also be at the root of the tear stain problem. Your veterinarian can help determine if that’s the case and recommend a healthy allergen-free diet or suggest environmental factors to avoid, such as scented household products, smoke, or essential oils.

Once any medical reasons have been ruled out, you can begin treating your dog’s tear stains.

Most pet parents see the best results by treating their dogs’ stains both inside and out. In addition to gentle stain removers or cleansing wipes, like Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes , to remove stains on the outside, a supplement high in antioxidants, like Angels’ Eyes natural plus tear stain chews and powders , can help minimize staining from the inside. 

How to Remove and Manage Your Dog’s Tear Stains

While it would be nice if we could treat our dog’s tear stains once and be done, it requires regular effort to keep them looking and feeling their best.

It’s also important to remember that, no matter what you do, tear stains won’t disappear overnight. But they can disappear!

For external tear stain removal, daily use is critical. This is true whether you decide to use a tear stain removal solution or convenient tear stain wipes, like Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes . By consistently performing a daily cleaning of any discharge and excess tears, you’ll be able to work away those tear stains and, eventually, keep them away.

Tear stain supplements also can be given daily for best results. As with any new supplement, speak to your veterinarian first to see if it’s right for them, especially if your dog is currently on prescription medication.

Once your vet has given their approval, you can choose the supplement product that’s best for you and your dog. If your dog loves their treats, a chewable treat-like supplement like Angels’ Eyes NATURAL PLUS Tear Stain Chews for Dogs may be the best choice. It even comes in multiple flavors to suit your dog’s taste.

For other dogs, a powder may work better. Angels’ Eyes NATURAL PLUS Tear Stain Powder for Dogs has limited ingredients and comes in flavors like chicken and beef along with sweet potato for a vegetarian option.

With regular and consistent treatment, most pet parents see results in 4-6 weeks, while with others it may take as long as 12 weeks.

When to See Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Tear Stains

You know your dog best, so you know when something’s not right. Always listen to your gut, especially when it comes to your dog’s eye health. If you suspect your dog’s tear stains are caused by an eye infection or injury, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog is new to you or the tear stains are suddenly changed, it is a good idea to check in with your veterinarian.

Tear stain removal products have one purpose: removing tear stains. They will not be able to treat other health issues, like conjunctivitis, which might be causing the stains.

As mentioned previously, allergies can also contribute to your dog’s tear stains. If your dog has no signs of eye infection but you don’t see any signs of tear stain improvement after treatment, allergies may be to blame. Speak with your veterinarian to see about identifying possible allergens and what treatment plan is right for your dog.

The Final Woof

While tear stains may not be very nice to look at, there are things you can do to treat and even prevent them. By identifying any medical causes behind the stains and then regularly treating your dog with daily eye cleansing and tear stain removal supplements, you can make sure your dog is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use coconut oil to remove dog tear stains?

Coconut oil, although a natural product, is not recommended for use near your dog’s eyes. Imagine how you would feel with oil in your tear duct! Additionally, there’s no evidence that coconut oil can successfully manage your dog’s tear stains.

How can you get rid of tear stains on white dogs?

First, speak with your veterinarian if you suspect an infection or allergy is to blame. Next, begin daily cleaning with a gentle tear stain removal solution or wipes like those made by Angels’ Eyes. Because their wipes and tear removal solution are both made with no bleaching agents, they are safer to use around the eye area.

Then, if your veterinarian approves, consider supplementing their diet with antioxidant-rich tear stain removal chews or powders to help stop tear stains at the source.

An allergy to plastic, although rare in dogs, may be contributing to inflammation around the eyes and face. If you’re unsure, use a stainless steel bowl.

What foods cause tear stains in dogs?

If your dog has a food allergy, it can contribute to tear stains. That’s because allergic reactions often come with excessive tears, and extra tears mean extra staining. Most dogs with food allergies are allergic to specific animal proteins, so consider consulting with your veterinarian for a novel protein (such as rabbit, or game proteins) or hydrolyzed diet.

Dogs can also develop plastic or rubber allergies from repeated exposure to those substances such as in a food or water bowl made of plastic or rubber. These allergies can appear as contact allergies where the material touches them or whole-body reactions. Stainless steel bowls are often recommended for dogs in these situations.

Are drops or wipes better for removing dog tear stains?

While both drops and wipes are useful and effective for removing dog tear stains, the gentle friction that comes with a wipe can often help loosen and remove dog tear stains more effectively. Just make sure you’re not wiping directly on your dog’s eyeball!

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