How to Treat Tear Stains in Dogs and Cats: Safe & Effective Solutions

Runny eyes in our dogs and cats is surprisingly common – My dog Tula and my last cat Murray both had this problem.

Most often it’s associated with partially blocked tear ducts, and one of the keys is to decrease duct inflammation.

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Tear staining refers to the reddish-brown discoloration found on the hair under the eyes of dogs and cats. It is most commonly seen in small breed dogs and can also occur in cats, particularly noticeable in animals with white fur.

Causes of Tear Staining

The primary cause of tear staining is excessive tear production, known as epiphora. This constant wetness under the eyes leads to staining. Several factors contribute to excessive tearing:

  • Medical issues such as ingrown eyelashes, eye infections, abnormal tear glands or ducts, glaucoma, entropion, ear infections, dental problems, systemic issues, and certain medications.
  • Environmental and lifestyle factors like stress, hormonal changes, humidity, smog, allergens, irritants, second-hand smoke, and the type of food or water bowls used.

Porphyrins and Yeast

Tear stains are predominantly caused by porphyrins, iron-containing molecules produced during the breakdown of red blood cells. These molecules, excreted through tears, can stain the fur when left sitting. Additionally, red yeast (Pityrosporum), which thrives in moist conditions, can exacerbate staining and produce a noticeable odor.

Veterinary Consultation

It is crucial to consult a veterinarian or an ophthalmologist to rule out any underlying medical causes of excessive tearing before attempting any treatments.

Home Remedies and Prevention

  • Keeping the Area Dry: Regularly clean and dry the facial hair, avoiding commercial liquid products that may keep the area moist.
  • Dietary Changes: Consider a hypoallergenic food trial for six weeks to rule out food allergies.
  • Good Bacteria: Adding probiotics can help, as there is a link between excess tear production, inflammation, and bacterial/yeast growth.
  • Water and Food Bowls: Opt for glass or stainless steel dishes to prevent bacteria buildup. Using water bottles can help keep the face dry.
  • Hair Management: Keep the hair around the eyes trimmed to prevent tears from wicking down.
  • Eye Flushing: Daily flushing with a boric acid eyewash can be beneficial.
  • Air Quality: Use an air purifier to reduce airborne allergens.
  • Tear Duct Maintenance: If tear ducts are blocked, a vet may flush them, though this may be a temporary solution.

Recipe for Reducing Tear Staining

A homemade remedy involves mixing a pinch of cornstarch with boric acid powder and applying it to the wet fur to help dry and lighten the stained area.

When to Consider Antibiotics

If other methods fail, a course of antibiotics, such as Tylan (tylosin), might be considered. However, this should be done under veterinary supervision and is not effective for all dogs.

Managing tear staining can be frustrating, but with diligence, many cases can be controlled without resorting to antibiotics. For additional support, consider supplements like Dr. Jones’ New Krill Oil Supplement to help decrease inflammation related to various conditions, including tear staining.

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