Dog tear marks: what you should know


It is frustrating to see russet tear stains on your dog’s beautiful face. With so many tear stain removal products on sale in pet stores, you might be tempted to buy one. However, if your dog has watery eyes, get your dog checked by a veterinarian before reaching for products that can help remove tear stains. There are many conditions that can cause the eyes to water excessively, which, if left unturned, can lead to pain and loss of vision.

The list of possible underlying problems is long. Some of the most common are allergies, inflammatory diseases (such as conjunctivitis, corneal irritation, or ulcers), foreign bodies, glaucoma, distichiasis (eyelashes that grow in the wrong place), entropion (eyelids that curl up causing hairy skin to rub against the cornea ), Paralysis of the facial nerve (eyelids cannot blink), and blockage of the nasal tear (tear duct).

It goes without saying that you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any signs of pain or discomfort, such as: B. yellow or green discharge from the eyes, redness, itching, or paws on the eyes.

Once your veterinarian identifies an underlying medical problem that can be treated or corrected, tear coloration is no longer an issue. It is Likewise good news though No underlying problems are identified. Epiphora (excessive tears that run down the face) is neither painful nor dangerous for your dog. It’s just a cosmetic problem. Sometimes simple changes in grooming habits will help.


If your dog has long hair on his face and near his eyes, keep that hair cut back. Long hair that rubs against the eyes is very irritating. Long hair around the eyes also brings tears to the face.

Clean your dog’s periocular area (around the eyes) at least once a day with a clean damp cloth or cotton ball. Eye wash solutions containing boric acid are safe to use.

Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly to the hair near the inner corner of the eye after cleansing can help prevent tears from penetrating the hair between washes, thereby minimizing stains.

Home remedies might work

As a veterinarian, I’ve heard of all sorts of things some people do to reduce tear stains. Some people report success with things like adding buttermilk flour, parsley flakes, or apple cider vinegar to dog food. Probiotics are said to help with tear coloration. Using the Bausch + Lomb Renu contact lens solution to cleanse the eyes has led to an improvement.

Sometimes a simple change in diet leads to a resolution of the epiphora and tear staining. If this happens, it is likely that the dog had an underlying allergy to any part of their previous diet.

The bottom line for all of these home remedies: as long as they aren’t harmful to your dog, it won’t hurt to try them out. You must give everything you try for at least three months before expecting results. As always, your veterinarian is your best resource regarding the safety of anything you might want to try.


Eye drops or ointments containing antibiotics should be reserved for dogs whose excessive tear production leads to secondary problems such as foul smelling or skin irritation. Indiscriminate use can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”.

The most popular and well-known over-the-counter product for reducing tear stains is called Angels’ Eyes. Years ago, this product really worked thanks to its active ingredient, an antibiotic called tylosin tartrate.

In 2014, the FDA decided to use this product in dogs and cats for this purpose and the tylosin was removed from Angels ‘Eyes’ product formulations. In the opinion of many users without tylosin, the product appeared to be less effective.

Today Angels’ Eyes offers various dietary supplements (in the form of soft chews and powder) that contain cranberry extract. The bioflavonoids in cranberry extract change the ability of bacteria to adhere to body tissue. I don’t know if it will reduce tear stains, but it should help soothe the odor that sometimes comes with the stains.

Angels’ Eyes also sells an external wipe that is used to clean the area around the dog’s eyes. I prefer a clean damp cloth for this purpose.

Tetracycline is another antibiotic that has been shown to be an effective treatment for tear staining because it works through a number of mechanisms. Tetracycline biochemically dissolves the hydrostatic bonds in the dog’s tears, making the tears thinner and therefore easier to drain through the dog’s tiny tear ducts. It binds to iron, which is contained in porphyrin, the pigment that is responsible for the color of tears. Tetracycline has also been found to diffuse into cells and alter the genetic expression of tear type and production.

The problem is, it’s an antibiotic – and antibiotic resistance is a real danger. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics contributes to the development of “super bugs” that are resistant to common antibiotics. These resistant bacteria can cause life-threatening infections. When doctors don’t have effective treatment options, people and animals die. With this moral and ethical problem on the table, the question is whether it is appropriate to use an antibiotic for a purely cosmetic problem in dogs.

Ask your vet

Talk to your veterinarian. If your dog has severe epiphora and tear stains, especially if accompanied by odors and / or skin irritation, your veterinarian may prescribe tetracycline or tylosin to help manage the current problem. Also, improve your dog’s grooming: keep the hair on his face away from his eyes and clean his face daily. Once the condition is controlled, you should be able to take care of your clean face using the grooming techniques and anecdotal suggestions mentioned above.

And don’t think that all of the people who show dogs know something they don’t. They often cover the tear stains with chalk!

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