Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains?

August 1st, 2021

Have you ever noticed how many dogs have red-brown staining below their eyes? Bu also around their mouth and on their paws?
What is causing this discoloration, and why does my dog have tear stains?
And what can I do about it?

What is causing the stains in dogs?

A chemical called porphyrin causes red-brown discoloration. Porphyrins are iron-containing molecules produced when the body breaks down iron. Porphyrins are excreted primarily through bile and the intestinal tract. 

In dogs, a significant amount of porphyrin is excreted through tears, saliva, and urine. Saliva and tears contain porphyrins, and they stain the coat pink, red or brown. Porphyrins are a group of organic compounds of which many occur in nature. One of the best-known porphyrins is heme, the pigment in red blood cells.

All dogs have some amount of porphyrin in their tears. But some dogs have more porphyrin, and the staining is always more noticeable in white or light-colored dogs.

So, the actual cause of stains is the porphyrin in the tears and saliva.

Tear stains can indicate other problems:

Tear stains in themselves are not harmful to dogs. But in some cases, they are indicative of other problems:

Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains?

Ingrown eyelashes
Teething problems in puppies
Corneal ulcerations
Ear infections
Imbalanced pH
Side effects of certain medications
Poor diet
Environmental allergies
Large or tiny tear gland openings

Especially if the tear stains have a strong yeasty smell, talk with your vet about possible causes of tear stains in your dog.

What can I do about the tear stains?

If you eliminated causes like ingrown eyelashes, teething problems, ear infection, etc., try the following approach:

1/ Check your dog’s diet
A few years back, one of my clients, Glen of Imaal Terrier Woody, had really bad tear staining. At the time, he was on dry food, but I can’t remember the brand. His mum came to one of my seminars with Moddie Lamber about raw feeding and switched his diet immediately after the seminars. Eventually, tear-stained hair under his eyes grow out, and the new hair was free of staining.
Also, many probiotic supplements claim to eliminate tear staining.

2/ Keep the hair around the eyes as short as possible
3/ Keep the face clean and dry
Skin Relief Shampoo is safe to use to clean around the eyes. This gentle, plant-based aromatherapy shampoo provides a rich, hydrating, and purifying cleansing experience for even the most sensitive areas like your dog’s face. After washing the face, always dry the area with a clean towel and dry with a hairdryer.

More tips for tear stain prevention:

1/ Replace plastic dog bowls with stainless steel, ceramic, bamboo, or rice husk ones
2/ Use filtered water
3/ Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water. This will acidify the water and may help remove yeast from your dog’s system.
4/ If your dog has a red-brow staying on his beard ( very common in Schnauzers) follow the steps mentioned above.

Does your dog have problems with tear stains? What do you do about it?

Jitka xx

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