It is an unfortunate fact that many white or light colored dogs have under-eye discoloration called “tear stains.”This discoloration is unsightly and can make the dog appear to look dirty, ungroomed, or even sickly; despite the grooming effort you make to remove them. And longhaired white dogs are not the only dogs affected by tear stains – other breeds like the Shih-Tzu, Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, Shar-pei and even some of the larger breeds, like the St Bernard and Newfoundland suffer from tear staining.

Why Does My Dog Get Tear Stains?

In general, your dog’s tear stains are usually due to an excess of bacteria or yeast growth. This is usually due to an unpleasant organism called “red yeast” which produces those reddish-brown facial stains and unpleasant odor your dog may be dealing with. The bacteria and yeast thrive in a moist environment, so the tear ducts in the eye are a perfect place for the bacteria and yeast to grow.

Another cause of the tear staining may be due to allergies to a particular dog food or the environment, especially if you notice the tear staining occurs during a specific season. It may also be aggravated by the pH of your dog’s drinking water or the mineral content within it.

Finally, genetics may also be a cause of the tear staining. Over breeding with some dogs suffering excessive tearing due to the shape and structure of their eyes or physical deformities of their face or tear ducts leads to a bloodline that may suffer from excessive tearing. Whatever the cause is, it is best to always take your dog to a trusted vet for a general examination first if you notice excessive tearing and tear stains. The vet will detect any serious problems – such as tear duct infection or blockage.

Determining the cause of excessive staining is very important as no matter how effectively it is removed, it will just return if you do not discover the reason for it and tackle the source of the problem.

However, it always helps to keep the dog’s face clean all the time, particularly the hair underneath the eye. Wipe this and other areas of the face several times a day by dabbing with some warm water or dilute lemon juice or salt water, taking extreme care not to get anything into the actual eye. Also keep the hair around the eye trimmed.

How To Keep Hair Out of the Eyes

Professional pet groomers and online pet stores carry specialized commercial products for dealing with tear stains but these often only lighten the stain’s color, never completely removing the stain. Unless your dog is a show dog, this is not really a serious issue. However, you can also try some home remedies which can be just as effective. The most common one is a mixture of equal volume milk of magnesia, and peroxide, plus cornstarch, made into a paste and very carefully and gently rubbed into the area of the stain, around the eye. Leave to dry and then rinse thoroughly, taking extreme care not to splash anything into the dog’s eye or allow any solution to wick through the facial hair and into the eye area.

You may need to repeat this application over several days if the stain is stubborn. Another option is to use a mild solution of bleach designed for human hair (usually hydrogen peroxide) – however, this is a very harsh treatment and best left to the experienced groomers or breeders.

As most tear stains are due to an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, your best option for eliminating them completely is to control and eradicate these organisms. One way is to add a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water, thus changing the pH and preventing the yeast and bacteria from growing. Another option – which can be discussed with your vet – is to put your dog on a very low dose course of antibiotics which will eliminate bacterial overgrowth. However, this is very much a last resort and should not be used for continued treatment. It should also not be considered for puppies that have not got their adult teeth yet, as the antibiotics can cause the new teeth to stain yellow.

Always go with the least invasive treatment first and give it some time to work before moving on to the next option – never use multiple treatments at the same time.

Filed under: Dog Grooming Tips

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