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Dog Tear Stains: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

What causes tear staining in dogs and how to know if you need to seek veterinary attention

Dog Tear Stains: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Ever wonder about those reddish tear stains that seem to be a regular feature of some dog’s faces? If your pup looks like it’s always crying, or if the tear staining is profound, you’ve come to the right place.

There’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there concerning the causes and best remedies for tear staining. But before we look at solutions, let’s examine the problem.

What is Tear Staining in Dogs?

The most common and often-noticed symptom of tear staining is a reddish or rust-colored discharge that collects on your animal’s face, just below the tear duct. This staining can range from mild to profound, and gives the visual impression that your dog is crying.

Don’t worry, tear staining, isn’t a sign that your dog is unhappy. The most common cause is the fact that selective breeding has altered the physical structure of many dog breeds, especially smaller animals. As a result, tear ducts can be crooked, spilling their contents onto your animal’s face.

The red staining is caused by naturally occurring chemicals called porphyrins. These porphyrins are the result of normal red-blood-cell breakdown and are typically excreted in the tears, saliva, and urine. A narrow or crooked duct then spills the porphyrins along your dogs nose, and exposure to light makes the iron particles show as red or rust-colored stains.

Potential Medical Causes of Tear Staining

While most tear staining is not the result of illness or injury, your vet should rule outsome potential causes. These include:

  • ingrown eyelashes

  • large tear-producing glands

  • narrow tear ducts

  • stress

  • Allergies

  • poor diet

  • and environmental irritants

Another potential cause of tear staining is bacterial or yeast infection, resulting from the fur around your dog’s eyes being persistently moist. A yeast infection, once diagnosed and confirmed by your vet, can be treated with antibiotics and careful grooming.

How to Treat Tear Staining in Dogs

If a veterinary exam has ruled out any pathological causes for your pet’s persistent tear stains, there are still some things you can do at home:

  1. Regularly clean your animal’s face, and groom carefully to trim away long hairs around the eyes.

  2. Use a mild boric acid solution to wipe your dog’s face (you can also use liquid Vitamin C on a cotton ball).

  3. Give your dog spring water rather than tap. Tap water can contain minerals that may exacerbate staining.

  4. Ensure your dog is eating a nutritious diet, low in carbohydrate fillers.

  5. Consult your vet—they may prescribe antibiotics, such as doxycycline, metronidazole or enrofloxacin to treat any potential bacterial infection of the tear ducts or glands.

Bonus tip: a little cornstarch under your pet’s eyes can help absorb excess moisture and keep damp areas dry. As always, if your pet has persistent or severe symptoms or seems in obvious discomfort, see your vet. At Figo, we care about your pet’s health. That’s why we offer a broad range of pet health insurance options—one to fit every pet and every budget. Get a custom quote and learn how Figo can help protect your pet from the unexpected.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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