Dog Tear Stains - The Expert's Guide to Causes and Cures


Suffering Poodle with Dog Tear Stains
You've found the perfect dog for you. You take little breaks at work to check out all the pictures on the internet you can, thinking about that cuddly ball of fur. You've read about the breed, you know the temperament, and you've been keeping yourself awake at night thinking about how awesome it's going to be when you finally get that new friend home. 

What those pictures and articles often leave out are the grooming issues that come with many breeds. A long coat will need to be brushed regularly, but dogs usually love that. Some breeds will shed, but you can anticipate that with the change of seasons. One of the things you won't see in the perfect pictures, and might not think about until you've had Pickles for a while, are dog tear stains. Certain breeds are more prone to these superficial blemishes. Thankfully, getting rid only takes a few minutes of care each week.

Here is your expert guide to dealing with dog tear stains.


Investigate the Causes of Your Dog's Tear Stains

It's true, some breeds seem to be more prone to tear stains than others. Tears themselves are not causing the stains, though. If a dog has excessive tearing or if the tears don't drain naturally, they can collect dirt which turns the fur reddish brown. These problems are usually due to inherent physical features. It could be any of the following.

  • Shallow eye sockets - Certain breeds such as Chihuahuas or Pugs have eyes that protrude more than others. With more of the eye exposed to the elements, more surface is available for irritation.
  • Eyelids turning inward - In some dogs, the eyelid can turn so far inward that it actually blocks the holes that tears naturally drain through.
  • Hair growth - The same flowing coat that drew you to your perfect pet can also contribute to the stains. In breeds like the Maltese, the hair can drop into the eye irritating it. In other instances, long fur around the eye can prevent proper drainage.
  • Blocked drainage holes - For some dogs, the holes through which tears normally drain become blocked possibly through scarring or other allergies.

In these situations, you're going to find little that you can do about excessive tears. In a small number of cases, the tearing can be a reaction to diet. You do have a few things you might be able to adjust to control the tears themselves.

  • Diet - Many of today's foods come with grain or color additives which can cause allergic reactions.
  • Water - Some dogs are allergic to the chlorine and fluoride added to tap water. 
  • Bowls - Plastic bowls can leech chemicals into the water and food that dogs react to. 

Dog with eyes closed on red couch

Prevent the Problem

If the tearing is related to the fur around the eyes or the hair falling into the eyes, you may be able to minimize it with proper grooming. You should ask the next time you take your Pickles to get a hair cut.

You can also modify things to see if you can help through her diet. If you're using plastic bowls, switch to steel and see if things improve over a few weeks. It's hard to imagine Colonel Pinkbelly stalking prey for his survival, but millennia ago his ancestors were in fact carnivores fending for their own survival. Check the ingredients in her food to see that it's all natural and with limited filler. You can also see about giving her fresh water. If you're not ready to break out a case of Evian, you can use filtered water to see if that helps. You can change all of these at once or do them slowly to determine the exact problem.

Close up Face of White Dog

For most breeds, dog tear stains come with the territory. It could be related to a physical cause, or it could just be that the stains show up better on white or light fur. In those cases, you're going to find yourself treating the stain itself, and the best method of prevention is frequent cleaning.


Develop a Cleaning Routine

When you treat dog tear stains, keep in mind that you're treating a superficial condition that results from a healthy reaction. You want to prevent the tears from collecting on the coat as well as dirt collecting in the tears.

The first step is to start cleaning the area regularly. When treating dog tear stains, your primary goal is to stop them from getting worse, and then eventually the permanently dyed fur will grow out and beautiful fresh fur will grow in. Use cotton balls and a natural cleaning solution (like our AWESOME Coconut Oil Based Tear Stain Remover) to remove the dirt that has built up. The solution itself won't turn the stained fur back to its natural color, but it will prevent further staining. Here's a simple routine to follow.

  1. Gather all of your materials in one place (4 to 5 cotton balls and tear stain remover).
  2. Have Fluffy lay down and reassure her.
  3. Apply the solution to the cotton ball or pour it into a cup and dip the cotton ball in it.
  4. Gently rub the solution on the area to remove any build up.
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4 for the other eye.
  6. Give her a treat and scratch her belly so she wants to do it next time.

The advantage of our coconut oil based tear stain remover is that it is a plant-based solution made of the absolute highest quality extracts from coconut and palm. These natural oils provide a barrier that prevents tears from soaking into the fur and collecting dirt. It also gives Roxy's coat a healthy sheen.

Repeat that process for 5 to 7 consecutive days and then weekly to prevent further staining. As the fur starts to grow in, you'll notice that the roots are coming in their natural color. You could trim away the stained area, but it will eventually grow out on its own. Besides, using scissors or trimmers around a dog's eye is very dangerous. If you want to return the area to a lighter color, you can make your own dye mixture of 10% hydrogen peroxide and water. Under no circumstances should you ever use bleach near your pet's eyes. Let's repeat that. Under no circumstances should you ever use bleach near your pet's eyes. Any product that claims to immediately whiten the areas around your dog's eyes should be immediately reported to the FDA.

Smiling Dog is Happy and Tear Stain Free

Now You're the Local Expert of Dog Tear Stains

Dog tear stains aren't something we typically think about when we're picking out that perfect pup. Fortunately, getting rid of them is a simple process that will help your pet get back to looking her best. If you benefitted from this guide, send us a picture of your dog and we will post it on our instagram or facebook page, which you should follow if are not already.

Causes and Cures for Dog Tear Stains


  • Kristie

    I have a 4 months old toy poodle and when I got her from the breeder . She already has a think reddish and brownish eye tears stain surrounded her eyes which very visible as she has pure white fur . I tried use the dog eyes tear remover pad and comb but they don’t work well . Please advise

  • Monica Morales

    I changed my dog’s food to Dogs For The Earth, organic, dehydrated with no fillers, it’s amazing, not only the tear stains are gone, my dog has energy, loves his food and looks better! Check them out… Good luck.

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