Care for tear stained eyes

How to Treat Tear Stained Eyes

If you have a white or light colored dog, you’ve likely noticed tear stains in the corners of their eyes from time to time. These reddish-brown stains that well up around your dog’s eyes are more common than you may think, and, despite how they may appear, your dog is not sad or crying. And no, they aren’t usually harmful or anything to worry about. 

So why do these stains keep showing up around your dog’s eyes, and how can you help your pup keep them clean and clear? Read on to understand exactly why tear stains show up, and how you can help treat and manage them. 

What Are Tear Stains, Really?

Tear stains are the result of a dog’s eye producing too much of a pigment-containing molecule called porphyrin. Some of the iron released from the breakdown of red blood cells goes into porphyrin, which is in your dog’s tears and causes the actual staining. 

Additionally, if your dog has a blocked or malformed tear duct, the overproduction of tears can occur. And, if their tear’s contain porphyrin, the more likely they are to cause staining.

What Causes Tear Stains? 

There isn’t one sole reason as to why tear stains show up in some dogs and not others. Sometimes, tear stains are simply genetic, and are most popular amongst breeds like Maltese, Shih Tzus, and Poodles. 

Other times, your dog’s diet or an allergy to certain environmental surroundings can cause an overproduction of tears (similar to how humans get watery eyes when they have seasonal allergies). 

While most tear stains are harmless and a result of age or breed, stains that appear brownish or rust colored could be the result of a yeast infection that’s able to grow thanks to the constant moisture from tears building up on the skin. If you notice brownish or rust colored tear stains under your dog’s eyes, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian to rule out any infections. 

How to Prevent and Care for Tear Stains

Keep an Eye on Your Pup’s Protein

As we mentioned earlier, the color of your dog’s tear stains can be a result of extra iron released in their tears. As such, keep an eye on the protein sources in your dog’s food, like red meats, which are rich in iron and can contribute to tear staining in some pets. 

Keep the Eyes Clean and Clear

To prevent dry, crusty, uncomfortable eyes, clean your dog’s eye area daily. You can purchase eye wipes made specifically for this purpose, or put some distilled hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball and gently wipe the area surrounding your dog’s eyes. The peroxide will not only clean your dog’s eyes, but also help remove the stained coloring (just be careful not to get any directly in your dog’s eye!).

Try a Probiotic

American Kennel Club suggests adding a teaspoon of organic apple-cider vinegar to your dog’s meals, or trying a pet probiotic enzyme to help produce gut-healing, healthy bacteria to stimulate the immune system and fight off any potential eye infections and bacteria causing tear stains. 

Tear stains are not so much a medical condition, and more so a cosmetic concern amongst pet owners. And, while they are common in many dogs, if you’re concerned that your dog’s eye tear stains are irritating them, or the stains are changing in color, it’s best to consult your veterinarian to identify any potential causes – like an allergy or infection – to help find a solution that will ensure your pup’s eyes are in excellent shape.

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