How do I get rid of my dog’s tear stains?

Maltese with tear stains

Most owners of small white dogs take great pride in keeping their dogs spotlessly clean. You can imagine then how frustrating it is to have to deal with those annoying tear stains below the eyes.

Tear staining can occur in any breed of dog, it’s just less obvious and therefore not as big a problem on dogs with darker coats. While the tears are initially clear, bacteria can grow on the moist hair, and that’s what’s responsible for making the stains the familiar red color.

I’ll Cry If I Want To..

There are really only two causes of epiphora, which is the scientific word for tears spilling down the face. Firstly, it can be caused by excess tear production which doesn’t drain down the tear duct. This little duct goes from the inner eyelid to inside the nasal cavity, and carries excess tears away. That’s why when you cry, you usually get a runny nose too! The tear duct is narrow, and if there are too many tears being produced, it just can’t cope with them all, and the tears trickle down the face.

Weepy eyes often occur in dogs with allergies, infections or irritation due to dust. Some dogs have eyelashes growing in unusual places, such as inside the eyelid. These will rub on the eye and cause pain and increased tear production. A similar problem occurs in short nosed breeds such as British Bulldogs or Pugs – their short nose may result in the facial skin being pushed up towards the eyes, which can also lead to hair rubbing and irritation.

The second reason tear spillage occurs is because the tear duct is blocked, and doesn’t drain tears from the eyes. This is usually a conformation, or head shape, problem. Some breeds of dog such as the Bedlington Terrier or Lhasa Apso may be born without a tear duct opening in their eyelids, so the tears can’t drain at all. Other breeds have very prominent eyes, and this doesn’t leave much space for tears to collect and drain down the tear duct. This may happen in Chihuahuas, Pekingese and similar breeds.

Why So Sad?

If your dog has a chronic tear staining problem, it’s a good idea to have him checked by your veterinarian. You need to find out if there is an underlying medical problem. Hair rubbing on the eye is painful, and may lead to more serious conditions such as an ulcer on the cornea. Infections usually need a course of antibiotics to clear them up. Stray eyelashes and skin folds which cause hair to rub on the eyes may need corrective surgery. If your dog has any of these problems, you’ll probably notice other symptoms such as squinting, or rubbing at the eye with a paw.

If your dog has a blocked tear duct, sometimes flushing it can help. However, because the problem with the duct is usually related to the dog’s conformation, this doesn’t often improve the situation.

Your only real option is to control the staining.

Dry Those Tears

Your first step is to keep the hair around the eyes trimmed nice and short. This helps the hair dry out quicker and slows the growth of any bacteria.

Some vets recommend using antibiotics to control the bacteria that cause the staining. This isn’t a good long term solution because you may end up with the bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic.

There has been some suggestions that changing a dog’s diet can reduce tear staining. It’s not known if the change in diet has a direct effect on the staining, or whether the tear staining is secondary to a food allergy, and the dietary change reduces the symptoms of that allergy.

There are also many anecdotal cures, such as giving your dog demineralised water to drink, avoiding foods containing beet pulp, and adding buttermilk to the diet. None of these have been proven to consistently make any difference.

Many dog owners prefer a natural product to clear away tear stains, and Happy Tails Eye Pack does the job beautifully. It contains Eyepads to remove the stain, and Eyemunity , a nutritional supplement to boost your dog’s immune system and help him fight the bacteria which cause staining.

The Eyepads are infused with eyebright, an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic herb, and golden seal, well known for its effectiveness against eye irritation. They also contain colloidal silver, a natural antibiotic which helps to reduce the bacteria on the hair around the eyes.

Regular use of the Eye Pack will keep your dog’s eyes sparkling, and his coat white. No more red stains on his face, and no more frustration for you, his hardworking owner!

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