Tear Stains on Dogs in Charleston, SC: What They are and How to Treat Them

For dog owners who have light-colored dogs, one of the more challenging things about owning these types of dogs is dealing with tear stains. Tear stains on dogs can look unsightly and can give off a strange odor, but there are ways to deal with tear stains. Though generally not dangerous or painful themselves, tear stains in dogs can be unattractive, and sometimes signify an underlying medical condition. Getting to the root of your dog’s tear stains will help you remove them and prevent them from happening in the future, however, if you suspect something unusual, you should first have your dog examined by a veterinarian.

Because all dogs are different, causes of tear stains vary from one dog to another. However, certain breeds are predisposed to tear stains, such as Pekingese, Pugs, Maltese, and Shih Tzus. Also, blocked tear ducts can cause tear staining, and Cocker Spaniels and Poodles seem to be prone to these issues.

Tear Stains on Dogs in Charleston, SC

Causes of Tear Stains on Dogs in Charleston, SC

Several conditions lead to tear stains in dogs, including:

  • Porphyrin: Porphyrin is a pigment formed by the breakdown of red blood cells, and it is excreted in tears and saliva. It is this pigment that causes tear stains.
  • Genetics: As mentioned above, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to tear stains, and dogs with light-colored fur will have more obvious tear-staining than will dogs with darker hair.
  • Brachycephalic: Short-nosed dogs can be more prone to tear staining as well. The reason is that the shape of the head and the placement of the eyes is flatter, so the tears tend to accumulate under the eyes instead of flowing through the ducts that normally drain them away from the eye. Also, when the eye sockets are shallow, the tears tend to spill onto the fur beneath the eyes.
  • Environment: Environment factors also come into play. For instance, water that is high in iron may be a culprit, as are allergies to plastic food bowls. Signs of an allergic reaction to plastic bowls can be redness and inflammation around your dog’s eyes, ears, nose, and lips. In these cases, stainless steel or ceramic bowls are best.
  • Infection: An infection of the skin around the eyes can cause symptoms that may look like tear stains. If you notice that the stain is brownish, it might be caused by an accumulation of yeast. Your veterinarian is your best resource in ruling this out.
  • Abnormal Eyelashes and tear ducts: Some dogs may have ingrown or abnormal eyelashes, as well as tear duct issues. Eyelashes can rub on the surface of the eye due to an “entropion,” where your dog’s eyelids fold inward, causing the eye to produce more tears than normal.
  • Hair growth around the eye: If you have a dog who has hair that is too close to his eyes, the hair can irritate or create a blockage of the drainage holes for tears (the puncta).
  • Inward-turned eyelids (Entropion): This can lead to excessive tearing or blockage of the puncta.
  • Infection or scar tissue: Eye infections can lead to scarring of the tissue that blocks the drainage of the puncta.

Preventing and Treating Tear Stains on Dogs in Charleston, SC

It’s always best to consult your veterinarian before treating your dog’s tear stains, but there are steps you can take to help prevent the presence of tear stains, especially if your dog is prone to them. The best way is to implement daily hygiene and maintenance. You can also ask your veterinarian or a groomer to trim the hair around the eyes to help prevent the accumulation of tears, and then you can use a damp, warm washcloth to clean around the eye and to wipe away the tear stains. It’s always important to reduce the build-up of moisture in the tear duct area and to keep the fur clean and dry. Depending on your veterinarian’s diagnosis, common options include dietary changes, the use of antibiotics for an infection, or surgery for eyelash-related issues such as an entropion.

Treating Tear Stains at Home

Your veterinarian is your best resource in treating tear stains at home:

  • Over the counter products: Perhaps the best option is to purchase a product recommended by your veterinarian or your groomer. There are many products available, ranging from drops to wipes that can help manage your dog’s tear stains.

As with any grooming that needs to be done around your dog’s eyes, it is important to be extremely careful when cleaning your dog’s face and to avoid getting anything into his eyes. If you are worried or don’t trust yourself, ask your veterinarian or your groomer for help.

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West Ashley Veterinary Clinic in Charleston, SC offers a full range of veterinary services to keep your pets happy and healthy through all stages of life!