How to Remove Tear Stains on Dogs

gray cat and black and white dog
By Pet Expert Team
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
White dog with dark stains underneath eyes

If you have a white or light-colored dog, you may have noticed dark brown, reddish marks below the inner corners of their eyes. These are known as tear stains, and while any dog breed can get them, they’re frequently found in white Poodles and Shih Tzus. While white dog tear stains are more noticeable, they can appear on any dog of any size, age or breed. Keep reading to learn more about this condition along with how to clean tear stains on dogs.

What Are Tear Stains on Dogs and What Causes Them?

Dog tear stains come from tear production in your dog’s eyes. When the tears are exposed to air, they change to a “rusty” color due to iron content in your dog’s tear proteins. It results in a stain or dark mark under the inner corner of their eyes.

An overflow of tears is referred to as epiphora. It’s not a disease or condition, but more so, a symptom of a possible underlying issue. Epiphora in dogs can be caused by either excessive production of tears or an improper drainage of tears through the tear ducts.

Are Tear Stains a Health Concern for My Dog?

Now that we’ve answered the question: What are tear stains on dogs?, the next item to address is whether they’re a cause for concern.

If your dog has an overflow of tears, there’s typically no cause for major concern. In these cases, the tear staining is simply a cosmetic issue and doesn’t pose any health risk to your dog. However, if the tear staining occurs suddenly and starts appearing over the face and nose, you should take your dog to the vet to investigate the cause. Also, if there is an odor, skin irritation or skin infection associated with the tear stains, these are also signs to call your vet.

You might be wondering what causes tear stains in dogs. There can be many possible causes, including these three detailed below.

1. Nasal Trichiasis

Sometimes the cause can stem from the presence of nasal trichiasis which commonly occurs in shorter-nosed or flat-faced dogs. These breeds are known as brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. The nasal trichiasis can occur when hairs in the nasal skin and nasal portion of the eyelids rub and irritate the surface of the eye. It can be corrected through surgery.

2. Distichiasis

Another potential cause is distichiasis which is the presence of extra eyelashes positioned at the edge of the eyelid. When your dog blinks, the extra lashes can irritate the surface of the eye. A vet can surgically remove the hair follicles to suppress the irritation and eliminate the issue. Your vet may also have other recommendations for removal.

3. Lack or Stricture of the Lacrimal Puncta

Inside the eyelid beneath the nasal angle, there are two orifices that drain tears into the nasal duct. If these orifices are small or lacking, this can create an overproduction of tears that flow onto your dog’s face. It can be treated with a surgical procedure.

How to Remove Tear Stains on Dogs

To remove the dog tear stains, you can use an over-the-counter eye wash solution. Focus on gently wiping and rubbing the area underneath and around the eye. Repeat this process at least once daily, if not twice a day, or when you notice build up in the corner of the eyes. Removing the buildup regularly will prevent stains from developing on the fur around the eyes.

If you’re looking for how to remove dog tear stains naturally, create a mix using starch, milk of magnesia and hydrogen peroxide. Use equal parts and thoroughly mix to form a creamy paste. Gently apply the paste over the stains, and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Be sure that the paste doesn’t get into your dog’s eyes, nose or mouth. Do not allow them to lick it off. When the time is up, carefully wash the paste from your dog’s fur making sure it doesn't get into their eyes. Repeat for a couple more days until the stains disappear.

Whether you’re applying eye wash solution or a DIY paste, always conduct this cleaning exercise with care.

How to Prevent Tear Stains on Dogs

If you want to know how to prevent tear stains on dogs, unfortunately, there are no proven prevention methods. In fact, there are many supplements on the market today that claim to be remedies, but in reality, none have proven to be 100% effective. 

The flow of tears is natural for any dog no matter the size, age or breed. However, there are ways to stay on top of maintenance and ensure that the stains don’t become darker and are easy to clean.

1. Trim the Hair Around Your Dog’s Eyes

Keep them short, so that they don’t become a spot for stains to develop.

2. Regularly Remove the Tears and Buildup

Whether you use an over-the-counter eye wash or the DIY paste described above, stay on top of removing the tears and buildup at least once a day. Use your finger, a cotton ball or a tissue to wipe away the crust that has been building. This helps to prevent staining.

3. Keep Your Dog’s Muzzle Clean

Because tear stains can also fall onto the muzzle, keep their muzzle clean as well by washing it every couple days to prevent buildup.

4. Work With a Dog Groomer

Consider reaching out to a local dog groomer to assist with grooming your dog’s face. They may have effective methods of removing the stains and keeping the area clean, and can be performed during regular visits. 

While the information in this article should answer the question: Why does my dog have tear stains? and provide guidance on how to remove tear stains, it’s always best to consult your vet for personalized guidance. They can recommend the best course of action or treatment if your dog’s tear stains are merely cosmetic or a greater issue that should be addressed.

For more expert tips on grooming your dog, explore our other dog routine care articles

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