Have you ever seen your dog tear up as if your pooch is crying? Did the tracks of the tears slowly turn into a rusty brown color, making your dog look like she or he has the dog equivalent of runny mascara? If you answered yes, then your dog could have epiphora.
What is epiphora in dogs?
Now, don’t panic. Even though epiphora may sound Greek to you, it’s just the medical term for excessive watering of the eye. Dog tears, like human tears, help lubricate dogs’ eyes and flush out dirt. Excess liquids are usually drained into tear ducts. Sometimes, though, the ducts do not function properly and excess tears run down dogs’ faces.
Although excessive tears and tear stains can be considered a cosmetic issue, too many tears could lead to constant moisture, which, in turn, could lead to skin irritation or bacteria and yeast infection.
Dogs get a stain because their tears are not clear like human tears. Dog tears actually have molecules called porphyrins, the iron compound contained in red blood cells. Dogs excrete porphyrin through tears, saliva, and urine. It is this iron that changes the color of dog tears and leaves a stain. The stain darkens when exposed to sunlight.
What causes epiphora?
Many factors can cause excessive tears. Some reasons could be:
- allergies – dogs get seasonal allergies just like humans from things like pollen or air pollutants like smoke or pesticides; they could also have allergic reactions to certain foods
- irritation – this could include long hair stabbing the eyes or bent/malformed eyelashes
- abnormal tear ducts – some tear ducts could be blocked or are too small so they don’t work properly
- genetics – certain breeds, especially short-nosed and flat-faced dogs, are more susceptible to getting epiphora including Maltese, Shih Tzu, Pug, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and Poodles
- health issues – including teething, stress, infections, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, malnutrition, and other health conditions
How do I treat my dog’s tear stain?
Before starting a home remedy for your dog, bring your pet to the veterinarian first. With your vet’s help, you can rule out any serious issues and find the exact cause of your dog’s excessive tears. If you know the cause then you and your vet can find the best solution for your dog.
If the cause is a serious health issue, your vet can diagnose it immediately or give you the proper treatment procedure. If your dog has something irritating the eyes, the vet could flush it out with a saline solution. If your dog has an abnormal eyelash or tear duct, your vet could perform surgery. If your dog’s hair is too long, a professional haircut could solve the problem. If your dog is from one of the breeds that often get tear stains, then your vet could show you how to care for your dog while removing or preventing the stain.
After your vet visit, you can explore various tear stain removers.
Best Dog Tear Stain Removers
1. Prevention and grooming
- As the age-old saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Clean your dog’s face with a warm moistened washcloth at least twice a day so that the porphyrin-filled tears are always wiped away immediately. In this way, you may prevent serious tear stains from developing on your dog’s face right from the start. Or at least prevent the stain from becoming worse.
- Keep the fur near your dog’s eyes short. Groom the area as often as necessary. If your dog is extra frisky, you will probably need to get a professional to trim your dog’s fur regularly.
- You can also use a special comb for dog tear stains.
- Mindful Pets Tear Stain Remover Combs are specifically designed to gently remove tear stains, mucus, and crusts. Constant use of the combs can also help prevent future stains. Vets and groomers highly recommend these stainless tools. Mindful Pets has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you think the combs are not effective, you can return them for a full refund “no questions asked.”
- Make sure that your dog’s diet is well-balanced and healthy. Your dog should not be allergic to it either. Look at the label of your dog’s food or treats. If these have many artificial additives, then your dog’s excessive tears might worsen. Try to get food or treats that have as many natural ingredients as possible.
- Check the drinking water you give your dog, too. It might be better to switch to filtered or distilled water instead of water from the tap. In this way, your dog will not accidentally drink additional iron from unfiltered water. In addition, some veterinarians have recommended adding a very tiny amount of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water in order to balance the acidity level of your dog’s body and add nutrients to your dog’s diet. Of course, if your dog has some prior illness like bladder stones, injury in the esophagus, or oral ulcers, then giving plain filtered or distilled water would still be the best option.
- Do not use plastic food or water bowls. Plastic bowls can develop tiny cracks that can harbor bacteria, which can seep into your dog’s food or water or come into contact with your dog’s mouth.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), many commercial tear stain removers or supplement tablets contain antibiotics called Tylosin. These antibiotics can effectively remove tear stains and prevent yeast or bacteria from developing in your dog’s eyes. But do you really want to keep giving your dog antibiotics? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued warnings in 2014 to certain manufacturers to stop using Tylosin because it is not approved for the consumption of cats and dogs. Again, look at the label. If an item has many harsh chemicals or antibiotics, these may do more harm than good to your dog.
3. Stain remover solutions
You can saturate cotton balls with these stain remover liquid solutions. Some of the most recommended and best-selling in the market are:
Like Burt’s Bees products for humans, this product is made from 99.9% all natural ingredients. Since it has chamomile, it can even soothe irritated skin. It has no harsh smells, sulfates, parabens, colorants, or harsh chemicals and is pH balanced. Since it targets the stain-causing particles, it takes 15-30 days for existing stains to visibly lighten. But it can be used daily and you can use it even for puppies.
This product also has all natural ingredients, including lemongrass and lavender oil. You can use it to clean existing stains and residue like mucus or crusts. But it can also prevent future stains from happening. It is so gentle that you can use it on aging dogs.
This is another all natural highly recommended formula with lemongrass, lavender, and tea tree oil. It is suitable for all dog breeds, but cannot be used for pets younger than 12 weeks old. Like the other solutions, it should be applied on a daily basis and results will show only after a few weeks.
This is specially formulated to treat not only tear stains but other stains like saliva stains as well. It can also be used to clean between skin folds of breeds like Bulldog or Shar-Pei. Some Amazon reviewers have stated that this solution works quickly and produces good results after daily use.
4. Stain wipes and pads
You may not have enough patience or time to prepare the liquid solutions so wipes and pre-soaked cotton pads specifically made to remove and prevent pet tear stains may be a better choice for you.
This is the best-selling pet eye wipes on Amazon. The tissues are soft and the ingredients are all natural so the wipes will not irritate even the sensitive skin of puppies or aging dogs. You can use these to effectively wipe away leaky discharges, stains, or crusts. Each pack has 100 wipes, which makes it a very economical buy. But the product has a strong smell so some dogs might not like it.
This is also a top seller on Amazon. It has a juniper berry and coconut-based formula so it has a nice smell. It has no harsh chemicals, bleach, or antibiotics and can be used for all dog types and ages. Each pack has 100 pre-soaked cotton pads. It promises to lighten even the most stubborn stains after regular use. If you are not satisfied, Petpost guarantees a full refund, no questions asked.
Another bestseller on Amazon, these eye wash pads have been pre-soaked in Miracle Care’s eye drop formula. Each pack has 90 pads. It states on Amazon that it has been a favorite brand of groomers and breeders of dogs, cats, birds, and horses since 1961.
5. Eye wash
If using plain water to clean your dog’s eyes and the area around it is not enough, then you can use the following:
This is the number 1 product on Amazon’s Best Seller list for the Dog Eye Care category as of July. It does not contain antibiotics or steroids. It is also pH balanced so your dog will not have a burning sensation when you use this wash on her or him. Plus, it can also be used to clean your dog’s wounds.
This eyewash is completely sterile so you know it does not carry any bacteria or harmful microorganisms. It is isotonic-buffered so the pH level of the solution is similar to your dog’s natural tears. It has a veterinary-grade solution specially formulated for your pet. The squeeze bottle design makes it easy to flush away any foreign object from your dog’s eyes.
If you already have this at home, this eyewash can be used not only for human eyes but for dog eyes as well! Veterinarians recommend that you use sterile, buffered saline washes, so this product ticks many boxes. Some Amazon reviewers swear that this eye wash has done miracles for their dogs.
If you don’t know how to use an eye wash, ask your vet on the best procedure to use on your dog.
6. Anti-stain chews
Some dog treats have been formulated to treat, reduce, or prevent tear duct activity. The following products contain the following natural ingredients: Oregon grape root, which is antimicrobial; marshmallow root, which can reduce inflammation of the skin; and cranberry extract, which has antibacterial properties.
This is a new formula. The product used to have Tylosin, which has now been replaced by natural ingredients. It has 100% freeze-dried chicken liver. It’s currently a bestseller on Amazon, but the reviews are divided with some saying it does nothing for their dogs especially with the Tylosin removed from the formula and others gushing about its effectiveness.
This product does not have Tylosin or other harsh chemicals. In addition to the normal ingredients, it has Vitamin C and Linolenic Acid Omega 3. Since it is a foodstuff, Petpost has a recommended daily intake depending on your dog’s weight. There is also a money back guarantee for unsatisfied customers. However, reviews on Amazon are generally positive.
There are so many companies that advertise incredible before-and-after results of their anti-tear stain products or tear stain removers. However, as a dog parent, you have the responsibility to choose the best, most efficient, and most economical product for your dog.
So, take note of the recommendations, but remember to consult your vet since you will never know in advance how your dog will react to a new product. After all, at the end of the day, your goal is to make sure that your dog is happy—tear-stained or not.