Tear stains—two words that are all too familiar—and all too annoying and inconvenient—for us humans whose pooches have to endure this unsightly and uncomfortable reddish-brown streaks. While some causes of these rusty streaks may not warrant an emergency trip to the vet, it helps to know how to remove tears stains and keep them away—without using anything that may harm or compromise your dog’s health.
Recognizing the Signs—Beyond the Obvious, That Is
Tear stains are caused by the overproduction of tears in your pup’s eyes and failure to drain it down the proper way, called epiphora. Some of the reasons behind this may include:
- Congenital (inborn) defects in or total absence of the puncta (tiny holes in the corner of the eyes that serve as primary drainage pathways leading to the nasolacrimal duct system)
- Allergic reactions to food, grooming products, pollen, dust, smoke, or other allergens
- Irritation of the eyes caused by foreign objects
- Eyelids and / or eyelashes growing inwards instead of out
- Injury or scarring along the tear drainage system
- Teething for puppies (though epiphora should lessen after this period)
- Fungal or bacterial infection
- Overactive tear glands
Dogs with flatter facial structures, or deep set eyes often get the short end of the stick when it comes to epiphora—Pugs, Maltese, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and the like are more than likely to experience having tear stains marring their beautiful faces at one point of their lives—and for some, for the most part. It is also more obvious for pooches with light colored coats and long facial fur (as tears get stagnant around the eyes by pooling under and around the lids, sticking to the hair follicles and skin).
So what makes the tear stains reddish? Tears contain substances similar to dye called porphyrins, just like saliva and urine. Porphyrin is iron-rich, and once exposed to air and sunlight, rusty, brownish staining occurs. The longer the tears remain stagnant in the coat, the more it darkens and discolors the fur.
Some of these causes may require more up close veterinary intervention and observation, and with the case of the obstruction of the puncta, surgery may be needed to remove the scar tissue or widen the opening of the holes to permit easier drainage of the tears.
But once you’ve confirmed with your favorite doc that Fido’s epiphora is due to more manageable circumstances such as seasonal or dietary allergies, the occasional teary eyes because of too much fun in the pool, or that incident in the park sand box, there are easy and safe ways to get rid of those ugly red marks on your beloved canine buddy’s face at the comfort of your home.
Choosing Your Grooming Tools
Wanting to know how to remove tear stains the natural and safe way puts you on the right track to ensuring that you get a good handle of these unattractive streaks without putting chemicals and other synthetic ingredients that may make things worse, or cause other health problems to Buster—you want to stop his tears, not start yours.
What most well-meaning humans don’t know is that a lot (if not most of) supposed effective and safe tear stain removers contain antibiotics—yes, antibiotics. For some reason, Tylosin has managed to find its way into grooming product shelves in the market, and with FDA’s blessing, too. Not only does it pose a risk in causing major damage in your dog’s liver, Bruno may also develop antibiotic resistance due to repeated use of these grooming aids—this will not bode well once he falls sick and actually needs these antibiotics to cure him. Other countries have already demanded a recall on stain removers containing this ingredient.
Fortunately, there are all-natural tear stain removers that you can still conveniently stock up on for your pooch. The magic word: coconut oil.
Yup! This superfood not only boost the immune system and regulates appetite, healthy digestion, and a whole enchilada of other benefits for the internal canine system, it also makes for a superb grooming partner and—you guessed it—tear stain buster.
How do you develop your own home-based tear stain removing regimen?
- Choose a comfy spot for Spot. While most well-socialized dogs tolerate face grooming, it can be a challenge for some, especially if their eyes are irritated. Cuddle for a minute or two with Scruffy until he doesn’t eye your grooming kit with suspicion—maybe add a treat or two in the mix, and you’ll get him—and yourself—in the zone in no time.
- Use damp, well-woven cotton pads or wipes to clear off the gunk and tears. Avoid using cotton balls that may leave wisps stuck to your dog’s eyes—it will cause more irritation, and not to mention more cleanup. Never use any wet wipes containing alcohol because if you don’t like the way it stings when it goes anywhere near your eyes, it goes without saying that poor Goldie won’t be too happy with it either.
- Snip away. Preferably using blunt-tipped scissors, of course. Trim away the matted, clumped fur around the eyes for easier access to the skin underneath. If you don’t get to clean the area thoroughly, it will become a veritable breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
- The main event: the tear stain remover. Use the product according to its instructions (they’re there for a reason; going trigger happy with the fluid may not help at all and cause a lot of mess, and a lot of unnecessary cleanup).
- Bonus round: keep those wipes handy. You have to make sure Ginger’s eyes are always dry, so get ready to wipe when you see your pooch’s eyes acting up in between grooming sessions.
Consistency is Key
Staying committed to keeping your dog tear stain-free will require your dedication to your grooming regimen. No product can get rid of tear stains in one go (though you’ll be surprised at how many of them promise to do so). Good things come to those who wait, and stain-free puppy eyes come to those who clean it regularly.
The best thing that you can do for your dog today is purchase our popular tear stain remover and join the thousands of groomers, vets, and dog owners that have clean and happy dogs! You can click here to purchase your Tear Stain Remover today!
Have you ever had a run in with tears stains? Tell us how you keep your canine baby clear-faced and tear-free in the comments below!