Jan lives in Arizona, has a fur-baby, and retired from banking after 30 years. She currently is a songwriter and cyber-journalist.
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. Not only are they unsightly, but the wet fur around her eyes can be a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. The tear stains may start gradually or very quickly, but once they take hold, they seem almost impossible to remedy. Luckily, it isn't.
Trust me, I know about this problem because I have a white Maltshipoo (Maltese, Shih Tzu, Poodle mix) named Sugar Pie. She is my furry little canine daughter, and I love her very much. Sadly, 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 a Dog's 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 condition:
- Genes: Maltese, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu breeds seem to be most prone for tear stains.
- 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.
- Minerals: Minerals in the water or additives in her dog food could be the culprit.
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. Eventually, I stopped using them and researched online about home remedies for tear staining and tried different wipes and diet additives. 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 once a week. Yet, as diligent as I was 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!
How to Prevent 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. Bathe Regularly
(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. Use a Face Wash
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. Use Other Eye Treatments
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
Tear Stains Almost Gone!
I want to make it clear that I am not a veterinarian, nor do I guarantee success. I also do not 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 their advice, but it doesn't hurt to share this information with them and see what they think, 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 their prices with the cost for the same product online. In fact, my vet's office told me that the antihistamine 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?
Tear Stain Breeds
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.
© 2011 Jan Peterson
Frances on February 21, 2020:
We give our Poodle “Bella” distilled water only and it is working very well
Lindsie on January 20, 2020:
I have a Maltese/bichon/poodle/King Charles mix so 3 out of 4 breeds prone to tear stains she had them as a puppy but I switched her to filtered water and grain free food the went away quickly and stayed away for about 3.5 years a year ago they came back. Her eyes are very wet and she sometimes rubs them with her paws. I did ask the vet about it but he said it’s just the breed. I will try her with the benedryl. I’ve switched her to a raw food diet too hoping they’ll clear up. Thanks for the article - lots of useful tips
Kacie on November 19, 2018:
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 :)
Joyce Hosaflook on May 09, 2018:
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.
Pamela Maddock on February 03, 2018:
Proxide on a cotton bud will remove tear stain too
faye cross on June 06, 2013:
Thank you so much my lil Zoe is special to us and it seems to torture him Ill get right on this method thanks.
dogfond on May 23, 2013:
Great hub. very interesting. I never had any problems with tear stains on my dogs. Voted up!
declan1958 on January 25, 2012:
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 from Northeastern United States on July 14, 2011:
That's what I love about Hub Pages. We all help each other!
Jan Peterson (author) from Sun City, AZ on July 13, 2011:
Thanks,Sinea....I am SO glad you helped me learn this!
Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on July 11, 2011:
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: https://hubpages.com/hub/create_links_that_open_a_...
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 on July 09, 2011:
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.
Charles Hilton on July 09, 2011:
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.
Phoebe Pike on July 09, 2011:
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.