Dog Tear Stains: Causes And Treatments

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
It’s not that your dog is sad. Sometimes, he can’t help tearing up. There are many possible reasons why. If he hasn’t been watching the end of “Lassie,” here are a few reasons for those dog tear stains and what you can do about them.

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.

Related: The Importance Of Grooming Your Dog Regularly

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

Related: Understanding Your Dog’s Special Grooming Needs

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.

1. Bodhi Dog Tear Stain Remover

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!

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2. TropiClean SPA Tear Stain Remover

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!

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3. Petpost Tear Stain Remover Pack

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.

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4. Petpost Tear Stain Soft Chews

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.

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5. Mindful Pets Tear Stain Remover Combs For Dogs

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.

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6. Angel’s Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes

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.

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7. Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Tear Stain Remover

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.

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8. Eye Envy NR Tear Stain Remover Premium Pack

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.

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9. Squishface Wrinkle Paste

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.

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10. NaturVet Tear Stain Supplement with Lutein

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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Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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