How to Prevent Tear Stains

A young girl is holding her little dog.
A young girl is holding her little dog. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

In most cases, a dog's tear stains are the visible result of the breakdown of red blood cells within his body. The process creates porphyrins, which contain iron. When exposed to oxygen, those molecules oxidize and appear on your dog's facial fur as pink- to rust-colored stains. Tear stains appear more readily on light-colored dogs and occur more frequently in breeds such as the Maltese, the Lhasa apso, the Shih Tzu and the bichon frise.

Reducing Iron

Reducing the amount of iron in your dog's food and water can help reduce the appearance of tear stains on his face. Feed your dog a high-quality diet appropriate for his age and breed that contains minimal fillers, dyes and other unnecessary ingredients. Provide distilled water for drinking, which contains fewer minerals and toxins than tap water. Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon of drinking water to help prevent oxidation of minerals.

Persistent Primping

One of the easiest ways to prevent or reduce tear stains is to keep your dog's face exceptionally clean. Have your groomer trim your dog's facial hair, especially any excess hair around the eyes. Gently wipe your dog's face several times per day with a warm, damp cloth. Wipe the eye area daily with colloidal silver, using a cotton ball. Colloidal silver, safe for use on your dog's face, can reduce the occurrences of yeast infections and dermatitis. Use natural shampoos to bathe your dog, and use herbal eye washes formulated for dogs to remove dirt and debris from his eyes.

Helpful Herbs

Probiotic supplements can aid your dog's digestion, improving bodily functions and therefore helping to reduce visible tear staining. Other supplements that may help your dog in a similar way include chlorophyll, milk thistle, dandelion and olive leaf. Prior to giving your dog supplements, consult your veterinarian to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your pet.

Ruling Out Trouble

Tear stains are usually only a cosmetic annoyance; they pose no significant health risk. Occasionally, excessive tear staining can point to another health issue such as ingrown eyelashes, unusually large or small tear ducts, completely blocked tear ducts, an eye or ear infection, inverted eyelids or glaucoma. Tearing occurs naturally in teething puppies and subsides on its own. Certain irritants such as secondhand smoke, bacteria from plastic food bowls or wind blowing in the face while riding in the car can exacerbate tearing. Dark brown tear stains can indicate the presence of a yeast infection. If you notice anything unusual with your dog's eyes, consult your veterinarian to rule out or treat medical problems.

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