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All You Need to Know About Dog Tear Stains

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Are you tired of seeing your furry friend with reddish-brown tear stains on their face? As a pet parent, it’s natural to want to keep your dog looking and feeling their best. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of dog tear stains, how to remove them, and preventative measures to keep your pup’s face clean and healthy.

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What Are Tear Stains on Dogs?

Tear stains on dogs are reddish-brown stains that can develop around the inside corners of their eyes and down the sides of their muzzle. These unsightly stains can be problematic for many reasons, including being an indication of an underlying health condition, leading to infection if not cleaned properly, and being an eyesore for pet parents.

It’s important to note that tear stains are more common in certain breeds, including those with a short nose and large eyes, flat-faced breeds, dogs with white fur, and those with congenital tear duct abnormalities. Some breeds that may be predisposed to tear stains include:

  • Shih Tzu
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Bichon Frise

What Causes Tear Stains on Dogs?

Tears in dogs are typically drained from the eyes to the inside of the nose through the nasolacrimal duct. However, variations in eyelid structure can cause tears to drain onto the face instead of down the duct. Most dogs with tear stains don’t have an underlying eye problem, although some may have blocked tear ducts or excessive tear production.

The reddish-brown color of tear stains is caused by an iron-containing dye molecule called porphyrin. When the body breaks down red blood cells, porphyrin is released and excreted in a dog’s tears, saliva, bile, and urine. When excessive amounts of tears are released from the eyes, the porphyrin in the tears stains the fur.

How to Remove Tear Stains From Dogs

Before attempting to remove tear stains, it’s important to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing them. If a medical condition is suspected, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for removing the tear stains and treating your pet’s condition.

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There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to removing tear stains from dogs, but options include over-the-counter eye wipes, eye washes, and other at-home remedies. Some popular methods include:

  • Using a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water to clean the affected area with a cotton ball or soft cloth.
  • Adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food to help reduce tear staining.
  • Using a commercial tear stain remover, which can be found at most pet stores.

Always wipe away from your dog’s eye and avoid getting any product in their eye. Speak with your veterinarian before putting any new solution in your pet’s eyes, especially if they receive any prescribed eye medications.

After cleaning the area, always dry your dog’s face with a clean towel. If the staining is severe, you may need to trim the hair to help remove the tear stain.

Preventing Dog Tear Stains

While tears in some dogs can’t be prevented, such as in brachycephalic breeds whose face shape causes tears to accumulate on their face, you can prevent staining through regular face cleaning.

To prevent tear stains from developing, keep the hair around your dog’s eyes trimmed short. Using a slightly damp washcloth or cotton ball, clean the area around their eyes at least twice a day. You can also use ordinary contact lens cleaning solution that contains boric acid to clean around (not in!) the eye.

Some supplements claim to reduce the amount of porphyrin in tears, which should lead to less dyeing of the fur. Supplements to try include:

  • Angel’s Eyes
  • NaturVet Tear Stain Plus Lutein Soft Chews
  • Petpost Tear Stain Remover

Remember that what works well for one pet may not work for another. With patience and a bit of experimentation, you can develop a routine that gets rid of tear stains and keeps your dog’s face clean.


Tear stains on dogs can be a nuisance for pet parents, but they’re typically harmless and can be removed with some effort and patience. Understanding the causes of tear stains, how to remove them, and preventative measures to keep them from coming back can help keep your furry friend looking and feeling their best. With regular face cleaning and a little bit of love, your pup’s tear stains can be a thing of the past.

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