Getting Rid of Dog Tear Stains

side profile labrador with dog tear stains

If your furry friend has dog tear stains, you might be wondering how to get rid of them. They can be unsightly, detracting from your dog’s beautiful face. In some instances, the presence of tear stains may indicate other problems.

And though we love a good hello from our dogs when we walk through the door, we don’t necessarily want wet tear stains all over us either.

So what causes dog tear stains, and how can you get your dog’s face stain-free?

What are dog tear stains?

Some dogs have lines on their face caused by “tear stains.” They look similar to the lines that you see on a cheetah’s face (thank you National Geographic!) and often get worse with age.

They’re normally reddish-brown in colour and are more obvious on dogs with lighter coats. That’s also why they’re often more obvious with age. As the dogs get older and their coats go grey, tear stains become more noticeable.

What causes dog tear stains?

Dog tear stains are usually caused by one of two things. Either the dog produces too many tears, or the tears aren’t able to drain away properly.

A dog might produce excess tears due to allergies, irritation, stress, or illness. Or they might just produce more tears than other dogs with no real underlying causes.

Problems with tear drainage could be caused by blocked tear ducts, shallow eye sockets, or even hair growing around the eyes stopping the tears from wicking away.

There are pigments called porphyrins in dogs’ tears, which are what cause the reddish-brown colour. They darken when exposed to sunlight, which is why your dogs’ “normal” tears aren’t red.

How can you treat dog tear stains?

The really important question here is “how do you get rid of them?”

There are a wide range of products, at-home remedies, and some potential vet treatments available.

The right choice will depend entirely upon you and your dog.

Visit your vet before you start trying to treat dog tear stains, to determine the underlying cause/s. Some of them, like obstructed tear ducts, can be treated successfully.

Holistic treatments

In some instances, a dog’s tear stains can be caused by a poor or unbalanced diet. Some people have good luck with changing their dogs’ diet or adding a probiotic to the food. Check out our advice on the pros and cons of raw food, and speak to your vet about their food recommendation too.

Some people have success with adding apple cider vinegar to their dog’s diet. Apparently, this may be because it changes the pH of your dog’s system. There’s no hard evidence, but it won’t do any harm and apple cider vinegar can be good for digestive health too.

If you’re a smoker, you might also consider only smoking outside. Some dogs can develop eye irritation and excessive tearing as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke.

You may also want to try using anti-histamines to see if your dog’s tears could be caused by allergies. And if your vet does suggest allergy medication or antibiotics, prepare with our advice on how to give medicine to your puppy or dog.

pug having eyes wiped to remove dog tear stains

At-home remedies for removing dog tear stains

Wiping your dog’s eyes and tear stains is a good habit to get into if you want to keep any marks at bay. Especially if you haven’t had any luck with finding an underlying cause for the excess tears.

You can try treating your dog’s tear stains at home with one of the following remedies:

  • Wipe your dog’s face and eyes twice daily with a clean cloth dipped in warm water
  • Or, use cotton wipes dipped in cold green or chamomile tea to wipe away the stains
  • You can also use a contact lens cleaning solution (or a dog-friendly eye wash or saline solution) to gently wipe around your dog’s eyes
  • Trim any long or loose hairs around the eyes carefully (or ask a groomer)

Don’t use hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or any other harsh chemicals unless specifically approved by your vet. If you’re not confident about home remedies, there’s specially developed products available too.

Commercial dog tear stain removers

There are a lot of treatment options on the market when it comes to dog tear stains, and we’re sorry to say it will be a case of trial and error. Give them a fair chance to work, and always choose a stain remover formulated specifically for pets. Here are a couple of options to get you started:

Once you find something that works for you, stick with it!

Work alongside your vet

If you’re not sure what to try for your dog’s tear stains, always consult with your vet. They’ll be able to guide you towards a treatment which might help and can diagnose any underlying issues.

If you have pet insurance, you can visit the vet to discuss your concerns without being put off by the potentially high cost. Check out our dog insurance plans here to find a policy which suits your needs.

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?