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Tear Stains on Dogs and Cats

Everyone agrees tear stains are not very attractive. They can make your pet look sad and sickly. Besides being unsightly, tear stains can pose problems to your pet’s health. If tear stains are allowed to build up over time, they can cause infections, discomfort and facial irritation. Tear stains are more commonly a problem for dogs, but cats can be afflicted with this unsightly problem too. What causes tear stains and what can a dog or cat owner do?

What Causes Tear Stains on Dogs

There can be many reasons for why your pet gets tear stains. Different causes include blocked tear ducts, eye diseases, parasites, bacterial infections, allergies, abnormally shaped eyes and genetic predisposition.

The most common cause of tear staining is excessive tearing, a condition called epiphora. This makes the hair around the eyes damp, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. Red yeast produces a reddish brown discoloration on the face, and it is a common cause of tear stain problems. This staining is not only unsightly but also may be very irritating to your pet and emit a moderate to noticeably strong odor.

How to Treat & Prevent Tear Stains on Dogs

Treating and preventing tear stains includes seeing your veterinarian, managing and treating parasites, eliminating allergens, adopting good grooming habits, and giving a probiotic and tear stain removal product.

Do I Need to Take My Dog To The Vet For Tear Stains

First, make an appointment with your veterinarian to try and determine the cause of the staining. Your veterinarian will want to make sure the staining isn’t due to an underlying health problem. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to unblock obstructed tear ducts. Unfortunately, there are some pets genetically predisposed to excessive tearing because of how their eyes are made. If this is the case, there is little that can be done.

Manage and Treat for Parasites

Excess tearing can be a response to irritation. Parasites such as fleas and ear mites can be the source of this irritation. Fleas need moisture and your pet’s tears provide the perfect solution to satisfy their need. Flea dirt around the eyes can cause a brown discoloration of the hair. Ear mites, a common invader of cat’s and dog’s ears, cause infection which can also lead to excess tearing. Checking and treating for parasites on a regular basis will help prevent many health issues.

Eliminate Allergens

Dust or other allergens can irritate your pet’s eyes and cause them to water. Dust and airborne allergens can be controlled with air purifiers. Artificial food colorings (dyes), artificial food additives and preservatives, and cereals such as wheat can cause allergies in cats and dogs. Signs of allergies are face rubbing, licking of front paws, head shaking, and ear inflammations. Water minerals can also add to tear staining. Consider giving bottled or filtered water in a stainless steel bowl.

Can Good Grooming Help With Tear Stains?

Clean your pet’s eyes regularly. You can start by cleaning the area around the eye twice daily with cotton balls soaked in warm water. Use one cotton ball per eye and make sure you wash your hands first before touching your pet’s eyes. There are also many great eye care products on the market to help relieve eye irritation and infection. Another way to keep this area healthy and stain-free is to keep the fur below the eye clipped short. You can do this yourself with a trimmer designed specifically for this purpose or visit a professional groomer.

Do Probiotics Help With Dog Tear Stains?

It is being discovered that good intestinal health can be the answer to many problems, including tear staining. All-natural probiotic products put good bacteria and enzymes into the stomach and colon to improve not only digestive issues, but also support a healthy immune system and overall health.

How Do You Prevent Tear Stains on Dogs?

Supplements like Doc Roy’s® Healthy Eyes eliminate tear stains from the inside out. Combine these products with proper grooming, and the stains will disappear with the new hair growing in clean. Vet Basics® ChlorConazole Wipes will also assist in eliminating tear stains caused by red yeast.

Tear stains can be caused by many different issues. Finding the cause will help you eliminate tear stains and prevent them from reappearing.

If you need help with tear stains on your dog or cat, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Donald Bramlage, DVM

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.