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Dogs and Tear Stains

Like humans, dogs also produce eye gunk. Dog eye discharge and tear staining (those reddish brown streaks you see running down their eyes) are common problems, especially with certain breeds like Poodles and Malteses. Find out what causes them and how to fix them.


What causes tear stains?


Excessive tearing of the eyes may occur as a result of irritation to your pup’s eyes, or because his or her tears are not draining properly. For example, if a speck of dust enters your eye, you will tear to flush away the dirt. Likewise, a dog’s eyes will do the same to flush away anything harmful or irritating to the eye. When the eyes are continually irritated, chronic tearing may occur and this produces tear stains.


Conditions that may cause eye irritation include infections, glaucoma, and eyelash and eyelid problems.


In a normal dog eye, there are small holes that drain tear away from the eye and down the throat. A number of problems can affect this drainage, causing watery eyes. These include:


  • Shallow eye sockets – because the sockets aren’t deep enough, tears spill out onto the fur around the eyes
  • Eyelids that are turned inward – if this happens, the drainage holes for tears may be blocked
  • Hair growth around the eye – may cause tears to spill over onto fur
  • Blocked tear drainage holes – may occur when there is eye infections or eye damage or when scar tissue forms over drainage passages


Which breeds are more susceptible to dogg eye discharge and tear stains?


Dogs with white fur are more likely to have visible tear staining because the pigments in their tears can easily dye light-coloured fur. Dogs with long hair may also be more prone.


Short-nosed dogs such as Shih Tzus, Malteses and Pugs are also more prone to excessive tearing because of shallow eye sockets or hair growth in skin folds around the eyes. Cocker Spaniels and Poodles are some of the breeds that are more likely to have blocked tear ducts.


Can dog eye problems that cause tear staining be treated?


This largely depends on the exact condition that results in excessive tearing. For the most part, there is no way to stop dog eye discharge due to shallow eye sockets, so the goal is to minimise skin irritation and coat discolouration. You can do so by making sure the hairs near the eyes are always trimmed short. If your dog is suffering from glaucoma or infection, make sure it is treated immediately. Your vet may also advise you to bring your dog for surgery to unblock drainage holes to restore normal drainage and eliminate overflow of tears.


What can I do to get rid of tear stains?


  • Antibiotics – can be used but there are concerns regarding this as it could lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
  • Whitening products – are plenty in the market. Whitening dog shampoos or lotions can be of help.
  • Regular cleaning of the eyes and/or face