Tear stains are rust-coloured streaks that form under a dog’s (or cat’s) eyes. They are typically caused by excessive tear production, a condition also known as epiphora. The red staining is caused by porphyrins, an iron-containing molecule that is usually excreted from dogs’ bodies through their poop, pee, saliva, and tears.

Usually, it is the fur on the skin folds around the eyes that cause the tear ducts to be irritated, which then leads to increased tearing and thus staining. Breeds like the Maltese, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese are more prone to tear stains because they have shallow eye sockets, which cause tears to easily ‘spill’ over onto the surrounding fur.  

Should I Be Worried?

Most times, tear stains just look unpleasant, but they could also be a symptom of a more serious eye condition like eye infections, ingrown lashes, or glaucoma. If the stains are more brown than they are red, and have a pungent smell, a yeast infection is likely. In such cases, a trip to the vet is warranted.   

Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to completely stop tear staining. Instead, paw-rents should help to minimise the cause of the irritation and as much as possible, keep the area clean and dry. If the cause of the irritation is a foreign body (dust or something similar), flushing your dog’s eyes with a dog-safe eye solution should do the trick.

You may also wipe the area surrounding his eyes with colloidal silver (available at most pet stores) and is safe for the eyes. The colloidal silver is antibacterial and will help to prevent possible infections.  

How Do I Prevent It?

Should he suffer from eye problems such as glaucoma or an infection, taking him to vet to get it treated is your best option.

Though it’s impossible to remove the stains completely, pet parents can try to reduce the staining by frequent washing of their pup’s face.

Whitening or tear stain removing products can also be purchased from pet stores to help with the removal of the stains.

* The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified pet health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always make a pet health care decision in partnership with a qualified veterinary or pet health care professional.

*This article was updated on 1 Sept 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 14 Sept 2016.