The basic reason dogs have tear stains on their face is because they are shedding tears instead of the tears draining properly into their tear ducts. There can be other reasons for dogs to have tears. Short-nosed breeds often have shallow eye sockets which cause the normal tears to fall out onto the dog’s face. In some cases a dog will have excess tearing because he has hair around his eyes that irritate them or which “wick” the tears out of the eyes and onto the face. There are also some other reasons due to eye structure or eye problems such as an eye infection or glaucoma, or an irritation caused by an eyelash rubbing against the eye.

All dogs can have tears on their face but staining is most noticeable if you have a white dog.  This is because the tears will come in contact with bacteria or red yeast on your dog’s face and produce a reddish stain that is easy to see on a white dog.

Depending on the reason why your dog has tear stains, there are often ways to minimize their appearance. If your dog has tear stains because he has shallow eye sockets, such as with the short-nosed breeds, you can’t change the shape of his eye sockets, but you can do some things to keep the stains at bay. If your dog has tear stains because of a constant eye irritation, you can keep the hair around his eyes trimmed and see a vet about any eye infection or glaucoma.

If your dog has tear staining because of a problem with eyelashes that turn in or an eyelid problem, there are some surgical options. You can talk to your vet about what he or she might be able to do to fix the problem.

You can make the tear stains less noticeable in the following ways:

  • Antibiotics: Some owners use tetracycline or tylosin to reduce or eliminate tear stains. It’s probably not a good idea to use these antibiotics indefinitely since they can lead to drug-resistant bacteria in some cases.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Many owners swear by apple cider vinegar added to food and drinking water to reduce or eliminate tear stains. They use raw apple cider vinegar from a product that still has the “mother” in the jar. They add a tablespoon a day to the dog’s food or water. The acidity in the apple cider vinegar is supposed to keep the tears from staining when they come in contact with any bacteria on the dog’s face. It’s a theory anyway.  Some people like to add ½ to a whole Tums to their dog’s food each day. Like the apple cider vinegar, the Tums will change the pH in your dog’s tears slightly and stop the tear stains.
  • Distilled Water: According to many people, giving your dog distilled water to drink can help eliminate tear staining.
  • Grooming Products. There are many grooming products you can use to remove or whiten tear stains. You can use hydrogen peroxide to clean the tear stains off your dog’s face. There are also products made specifically for tear stains which work for some dogs. Angel Eyes is popular with many owners.
  • Wash your dog’s face: You should wash your dog’s face on a daily basis, making sure to gently remove any staining under the eyes. Be careful to clean around the eyes and examine them for any problems.

You may not be able to stop  your dog’s tears but you should be able to make any stains less noticeable by using one of these methods.

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