How to Get Rid of Your Dog's Tear Stains

Updated on November 15, 2016

Meet My Dog, Sugar Pie

Sugar Pie when she was a puppy.
Sugar Pie when she was a puppy. | Source
Sugar Pie is a fashion statement at times. Here she snuggles with her favorite toy we call her "baby".
Sugar Pie is a fashion statement at times. Here she snuggles with her favorite toy we call her "baby". | Source

Light colored dogs are sometimes prone to a condition called tear staining, wherein, on an otherwise well-groomed pet, the fur around the eyes has unsightly dark stains. The tear stains may start gradually or very quickly, but once they take hold, seem almost impossible to remedy.

Trust me, I know about this problem because I have a white dog that is a Maltshipoo (Maltese, Shih Tzu, Poodle Mix) named Sugar Pie. She is my furry little canine daughter that I love very much, and she was plagued with tears stains for the first two years of her life. But, after constant research, I found a cure for her!

What Causes Dog Tear Stains?

Tear stains are most noticeable on white or light colored dogs, who might be otherwise well groomed and well cared for. Sugar Pie started out with beautiful white fur everywhere, but the area around her eyes started to show dark discoloration once the tear staining started. In researching tear stains, I discovered many possible reasons she might have developed this aggravating conditon:

  • Genes - Maltese, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu breeds seem to be most prone for tear stains.
  • Excessive tearing - Wet fur around her eyes can be a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.
  • Blocked tear ducts - Her tear ducts could be blocked or completely closed.
  • Irritation - Long hair around her eyes could be irritating her eyes.
  • Cutting Teeth - Cutting teeth can put pressure on her tear ducts.
  • Ear Infections - Water can get into her ears during bathing and cause ear infections that result in excessive tearing.
  • Allergies - Just like me, she may be allergic to smoke or other allergens in our environment.
  • Diet or Water - Minerals in the water or additives in her dog food could be the culprit.

I Touched Up Photos to Hide Sugar Pie's Tear Stains!

Sugar Pie is part of our family, and almost as important to me as my daughters and grandkids!
Sugar Pie is part of our family, and almost as important to me as my daughters and grandkids! | Source

Things I Tried for My Dog's Tear Stains

As soon as those tear stains started showing up, I consulted her Veterinarian about the condition. He told me that tear staining was very typical in Maltese breeds, so at first, I decided to try to live with it.

At every subsequent appointment I brought it up again, so he checked her tear ducts, and even gave me eye drops and antihistamine tablets. I thought meds for dogs seemed kind of silly, so I stopped using them, and researched online about home remedies for tear staining and tried different wipes and diet addictives. I even read that adding vinegar to her drinking water might help, so I tried it. However, when I mentioned the vinegar to the Vet, he advised against it and I stopped.

I have Sugar Pie groomed regularly and always ask the groomer to trim closely around her eyes. She is an inside dog who sits with me on the couch and sleeps on the covers of my bed! so she gets a shower with me once a week. Yet, as diligent as I have been about keeping her clean and trying to resolve this tear staining problem., it persisted and drove me crazy enough that I used photoshop around her eyes for online photos!


We Love Perfect Coat Shampoo & Conditioner and Espree Facial Cleanser for keeping Sugar Pie clean.
We Love Perfect Coat Shampoo & Conditioner and Espree Facial Cleanser for keeping Sugar Pie clean. | Source

My Solution for Tear Staining

There are lots of online articles about how to treat tear staining with products and home remedies, so I am not going to cover all the methods that I had researched over the years. Instead, I am going to tell you what is working for me. And I am even going to be as product-specific as I can!

First of all, I didn't change her diet or water. She still drinks tap water and eats the same quality brand of dog food that she has been eating since a puppy. I reward her with pet treats, as well as pieces of veggies that won't hurt her, such as red bell pepper, broccoli, green beans and carrots. I was glad to find out that I wouldn't have to make changes to these things to get rid of those tear stains!

  1. Regular Bathing (or in Sugar Pie's case, showers) - Sugar Pie's fur is thoroughly washed once a week. I use a whitening shampoo that I bought at a pet store for around $10.00. You can find one in many stores and online. They all smell good and brighten her white coat. The instructions say to avoid the eyes, so I wash around her eyes in the shower with baby shampoo. (One bottle lasts me for 3-4 months.)
  2. Face Washings - If I notice heavy crusting or discoloration in-between showers, I wash the area around her eyes with a product my dog groomer recommended, Espree Facial Cleanser. I LOVE this product and it works great. I couldn't find it in a pet store so I shopped around online to find the best deal. It is a foaming cleanser that comes in several fragrances I paid around $8.00 for 5 fl.oz. Shipping was almost as much as the product, so next time I'll buy more than one bottle. Sugar Pie seems to like getting her face washed.
  3. Eye treatment - After accepting that my dog might need eye drops and an antihistamine to clear up the problem, I asked the Vet for them again and decided to be religious about their use. He also suggested a new wipe product they carried. I left his office with 100 wipes, plus the Opthalmic Solution (NeoPolyDex) and 30 antihistamine tablets (Chlorpheniramine). This purchase set me back somewhere around $50, but has lasted for three months now. The Vet's instructions were: 1 wipe daily, 1 drop of solution in each eye, 3 times a day, and 1/2 tablet 2-3 times a day until the condition improves. After I started to see positive changes, I reduced this somewhat. Now approximately every other day, I use one wipe around her eyes, place 1 drop of the solution in each eye, and give her 1/2 of each allergy tablet wrapped in a piece of sliced turkey lunch meat. Since her condition has improved so much over the past few months, the Vet said I should only use the eye drops and antihistamine temporarily when her allergies flare up He said I could use the wipes every day, all year long. NOTE: I recently found pet eye wipes at Walmart for around $5.00, and they worked great!

Tear Stain Before and After Photos

Before: The tear stains were Very apparent ..this was right before I began treatment.
Before: The tear stains were Very apparent ..this was right before I began treatment. | Source
After: This photo shows her tear stains have been nearly erradicated. Thid photo has not been photoshopped!
After: This photo shows her tear stains have been nearly erradicated. Thid photo has not been photoshopped! | Source

Tear Stains Almost Gone!

I want to make it clear that I am not a Veterinarian, nor do I guarantee success, or have any financial interest in any of these products. I am simply sharing my excitement over finally finding a solution for my dog's two year tear staining dilemma. I admit, my solution does take a little time, money and effort, but my precious dog companion is worth it.

You should still see your Vet and listen to his advice, but it doesn't hurt to share this information with him and see what he thinks, does it? And since I've accepted that my dog's tear staining will have to be kept under control, I've done some research and started shopping around.

I've discovered that all of the products I got from my Vet are available online, so once your Vet has assessed your dog's situation, compare his prices with the cost for the same product online. in fact, my Vet's office told me that the antihistimine they provide is the same one used for humans, Benedryl, and that I could use it Instead. I give her a half tab when her eyes start looking watery.

After just three months my baby's tear stains improved dramatically, as you can see in these "before" and "after" pictures! Isn't she gorgeous now that those tear stains are almost gone?

Update 6/18/2012.  Tear Stains all gone!
Update 6/18/2012. Tear Stains all gone! | Source
Update 6/18/2012. I no longer have to run through the eye routine daily. I do wipe her eyes when they get gooey and give her meds during allergy season.
Update 6/18/2012. I no longer have to run through the eye routine daily. I do wipe her eyes when they get gooey and give her meds during allergy season. | Source

Tear Stain Breeds

If your dog has tear stains, what breed is it?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        6 months ago

        My zuchon puppy is now 6 months. I had tried everything for her tear stains and what I have finally figured out is I changed to bottled spring water and science diet dog food for small breed puppies, by her next grooming she'll have had all stains removed and she'll be white again :)

      • profile image

        Joyce Hosaflook 

        12 months ago

        My very best way to prevent pinkish tear staining, it to their make up on every morning and maybe a fresh up during the day! I would say, " come on girls, let's get your make up on!" They would walk onto my lap waiting for their make-up! What is their make-up?

        Desitin, or if wanted (the same thing) actually, and maybe less expensive, is a tube of Zinc Oxide. This is what the Life Guards were wear on their noses to prevent sun burn. Probably better, without the perfumes or smell good stuff the put in Desitin. I would dry the spot and take a small amount on my little finger and carefully put it under her eye where the stain would come. It helped miraculously! Do not knock it tell you have tried it. The Breeder that I got my precious girl is told me that trick. The. As they got older, their tearing seemed to drop. If they were excited, or stressed, they seemed to tear more. Wonderful puppy dogs they were and they loved their bruising and ending up with their make up to make them look even more pretty! Try it. I think you will be pleased with the results.

      • profile image

        Pamela Maddock 

        15 months ago

        Proxide on a cotton bud will remove tear stain too

      • profile image

        faye cross 

        5 years ago

        Thank you so much my lil Zoe is special to us and it seems to torture him Ill get right on this method thanks.

      • profile image


        5 years ago


        Great hub. very interesting. I never had any problems with tear stains on my dogs. Voted up!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        hi everyone, there is a simple and inexpensive way to avoid tear staining in the bichon breed using water which generally works, has any one heard about this method?

      • Sinea Pies profile image

        Sinea Pies 

        7 years ago from Northeastern United States

        That's what I love about Hub Pages. We all help each other!

      • JLPeterson profile imageAUTHOR


        7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

        Thanks,Sinea....I am SO glad you helped me learn this!

      • Sinea Pies profile image

        Sinea Pies 

        7 years ago from Northeastern United States

        Great hub. I have a yellow lab so tear stains are not an issue. Earwax is! However, my husband's family used to own a little white poodle and he had tear stains all the time.

        By the way...this is a little trick I learned that helped me to keep my readers on my page. When you put links in your hub, go to the html code and enter target="_blank" to open the link in a new window. Here is the hub that I learned it from:

        You gave a lot of great links in your article but your readers may forget to click the "back" button and you'll lose them. If the link opens in another window, when they close it your page will still be open on their screen!

      • SuperheroSales profile image


        7 years ago

        I've had Bichon Frise's most of my life and they've all had tear stains. I know have a Bichon-Shih Tzu mix as well and she has the same issue. You gave some good advice in this hub, I'll have to try those things out.

      • profile image

        Charles Hilton 

        7 years ago

        My aunt had a toy poodle with the same problem and I have since learned that poodles are prone to it.

        My Jack Russell, Maxx, gets it intermittently and the length of its duration varies, as in Phoebe Pike's case. But, lately, it's been all but alleviated on its own---or maybe there's some connection to what I'm doing that I'm unaware of.

      • profile image

        Phoebe Pike 

        7 years ago

        Very interesting hub. My little dog had the same problem. Sometimes it went away and other times it would stay for months at a time.


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