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How to Manage Tear Stains in Dogs

Are you fighting tear stains on your white or light-colored dog? As a professional groomer, I see many, many dogs that exhibit unsightly tear stains and beard stains. Additionally, some of these dogs even discolor their feet, legs, and body with saliva left on their fur from licking and chewing.

Possible Causes of Tear Stains

The staining is usually a reddish color and sometimes gives off an odor. It is important to try to determine the cause of the staining. Some possible causes are:

* genetic predisposition

* high mineral content in drinking water

* eye infections

* ear infections

* irritating eyelashes or hair rubbing against the eye

* candidiasis (of the area around the eye that remains moist)

* blocked tear ducts

* diet

* parasites such as fleas and moths

* allergies

You should consult with your vet or groomer to try to narrow down the possible cause of the tear stain. Once you’ve ruled out some of the obvious medical conditions, such as infections, extra eyelashes, and blocked tear ducts, you’ll be able to address conditions that you can have control over.

If your dog experiences ear irritation or infection, there is a high incidence of the infection going all the way through his body, creating multiple problems all the time. Many dogs that we see that have tear stains are also affected by inner ear infections. So be sure to confirm that your dog’s ears are clean and free of infection. Your vet will prescribe the appropriate ear drops and/or antibiotics. You will need to be diligent in treating the ears as prescribed to alleviate the condition.


Dog owners should evaluate the food they feed their pets and make sure they are using a high-quality dog ​​food that is not loaded with sugar, salt, preservatives, and chemicals. If you are feeding your dog canned food, consider introducing a high-quality dry food to provide optimal nutrition.

The next item to watch closely is the water your dog drinks. Tap water can be high in minerals, and well water can be high in various elements, including copper and iron, which could contribute to tear stains. A popular suggestion of late is to train your dog to drink from a water bottle (thereby preventing mineral-rich water from settling on the fur). Another idea is to use distilled water.

There are several products currently on the market that address the problem of tear stains. Many of these products contain a percentage of antibiotic. Unless you are specifically dealing with an infection in your dog’s eyes or ears, it would be wise to discuss the ramifications of long-term antibiotic use with your vet.


There are two possible solutions for tear stains that can be easily implemented. The first is to add a small amount of white vinegar (1 teaspoon) to your pet’s water. Start with a smaller amount in the water until your pet can adjust to the taste. Vinegar changes the pH of the water.

Second, include 1/2 teaspoon of cream cheese (yes, like the Philadelphia brand) in your dog’s food or as a treat daily. Clients who have tried this method have found that the tear stains disappear in three to four weeks.

In either case, check with your vet to rule out any medical conditions, allergies, or infections that may be causing your dog’s tear stains. Once you’ve ruled out those possibilities, you can tackle the other options. Always check with your vet when trying a new regimen.


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