Some dogs have more trouble with tear stains than others. There are a few reasons for this, including medical reasons, breed and genetics, and more. To help you better care for your dog’s eye health, read on to learn more about what causes tear stains, what dogs are more prone to excessive tearing, and how to manage tear stains.
What Are Tear Stains?
Tear stains are usually caused by porphyrins, iron-containing molecules produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. Dogs excrete a significant amount of porphyrin in their tears, saliva, and urine.
When porphyrin-containing tears or saliva sits on the fur for any length of time, stains form. Stains can also happen when a dog licks or chews an area excessively.
These iron-related stains intensify/darken in the presence of sunlight. All dogs produce porphyrin, but the stains are most noticeable on light-colored dogs. Dogs that produce excessive tears are more likely to struggle with tear stains.
Are Brown Stains the Same as Tear Stains?
Brown or rust-color stains may be the result of a yeast infection on the skin under the eyes. Yeast thrives because of the constant moisture from tears building up on the skin. It’s important to remove excess tears and tear stains.
Some Breeds Produce an Excess of Tears
For some breeds, selective breeding has produced dogs with short noses and protruding eyes. An unforeseen result is that these dogs also have abnormally narrow and often crooked tear ducts, which contribute to excessive tears or watery eyes, known as epiphora. These breeds are more prone to tear stains. While the excessive tearing probably can’t be fixed, the tear stains can be managed. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog has epiphora.
Medical Causes for Excessive Tearing
- Ingrown eyelashes
- Abnormally large tear glands
- Abnormally small tear duct openings
- Poor-quality diet
- Being in a house with smokers
- Ear infections
- Plastic food bowls (small cracks can harbor bacteria and cause facial irritation)
Some Dogs Make More Porphyrin Than Others
An excess of porphyrin can make dogs prone to tear stains. Experts think that excessive porphyrin is related to bacteria, but nobody is certain which bacteria. It could be chronic low-grade bacterial infections that are the cause of tear stains in some dogs.
It’s not a good idea to use broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat this issue. Regular use of antibiotics can encourage bacterial resistance, a problem humans have as well.
Managing Tear Stains Naturally
Proper grooming and face cleaning is the primary treatment for tear stains. Here are some tips:
- Wipe your pup’s face at least twice daily with Jax & Cali’s all-natural Tear Stain Wipes to dilute and wash away tears.
- Keep the hair around the eyes and nose as short as possible.
- Use stainless steel, porcelain, or glass food bowls.
- If your tap water is high in minerals or iron, consider giving your dog filtered or bottled water.
- Keep the area around your dog’s eyes dry.
- See your vet if your pup’s eyes become red, inflamed, or irritated.