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Q: My Poodle puppy has excessive tearing and dark brown tear stains on her lovely white fur. I have searched online for ways to remove these stains and have even used Eye Envy to clean her face daily. Diet-wise, I have changed her diet to Natural Balance Duck and Potato kibble. I have also resorted to giving her boiled drinking water, but all these methods do not seem to work for her. I am planning to try “Angels' Eyes” on her after she turns six months. Could you suggest any other ways that might help to eliminate this problem?

A: It is common to see excessive tearing (a condition also known as epiphora) and the subsequent red-brown staining of the fur near the eyes in breeds such as Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles and Malteses. The staining is likely to be caused by the oxidation of a pigment called porphyrins in the tears when it is left exposed to air for some time. Unfortunately, in many cases, tear staining is difficult to control. To treat this problem, we must find out the underlying cause of your Poodle’s excessive tearing.

Tears are produced by two main glands in the eyes—the lacrimal gland and the third eyelid gland. As with humans, animals produce tears to help lubricate and protect the eyes from dirt and irritants. After tears are produced, they need to be drained via a drainage system that leads from a tear duct on the lower eyelid to the nose and roof of the mouth. 

There are three possible causes of epiphora. The more common causes are either a problem with the tear drainage system or an external irritation of the eye, resulting in epiphora. Problems in the tear drainage system can be due to a congenital problem—the underdevelopment of all or part of the tear drainage system—or due to a blocked tear drainage system, often from infection and scarring. Irritation of the eye can be caused by tiny hairs on the inside of the eyelid, long hair on the skin of the eyelids or fur near the eye, or when the lower eyelid rolls inwards, a condition known as entropian. The less common cause is an abnormality with the third eyelid gland.

The vet will need to perform an eye examination and conduct certain tests to determine the cause of epiphora. Such tests may involve staining the eye with a fluorescent dye and detecting it near the entrance of the nose and flushing tear drainage system. Some of these tests will require general anaesthesia. The success of treatment depends on whether the underlying cause can be determined and treated.