If you have a small dog like a Toy Poodle, a Shih Tzu, or a Maltese, then you know that their eyes are one of their most striking features. They’ve got this beautiful gaze that can melt your heart the moment you look into their eyes. It’s mesmerizing and captivating at the same time. Alas! Such a beautiful feature is often ruined by the formation of tear stains. And if your dog happens to have a white head, then these tear stains can give your pet an ice cream sundae look. The stains on its coat can detract from your dog’s elegant appearance. That’s why many pet parents who come face to face with this issue often ask how to get rid of tear stains.
Understanding Dog Tear Stains
There is a medical term for what we pet parents call dog tear stains. Vets call it epiphora. Tear stains take on the characteristic rusty-brown appearance because of the unique chemical composition of the tears or lacrimal fluid in the dog’s eyes. In humans, our tears have a clear, almost water-like appearance.
In dogs, their tears are darker and quite “rusty”. This is because canine lacrimal fluid contains waste products that come from the breakdown of erythrocytes or red blood cells. These cells contain porphyrins that, in turn, contain iron. It is this iron content in dog tears that make the hair strands near the corner of the dog’s eyes turn a reddish-brown hue.
In normal physiology, the eyes always produce lacrimal fluid as lubrication. This protects the eyes against damage secondary to friction. Because of the continuous production of lacrimal fluid, the tears will have to drain into the lacrimal ducts. Tears then drain down the dog’s throat via the back of its nose.
If there is a problem in these ducts, then tears will not drain properly. Some of it can “spill” outside the eyes. This stains the hairs near the corner of the inner eye.
How to Remove Tear Stains from Your Dog
Managing epiphora in your dog is not that difficult if you understand what causes it. For example, if it is due to poor-quality dog food, then replacing it with high quality or more natural dog food should do the trick. If the cause is due to a medical condition, then your veterinarian can help you find the correct treatment. Of course, this will not remove the stain that is already present on your dog’s face. Here are some proven ways on how to get rid of tear stains.
Head over to our review of the Best Organic Dog Food for more options.
Vinegar is a common household item that people use for many purposes other than cooking. One of its most versatile uses is in the removal of stains in clothes. And while epiphora is not a clothes stain, vinegar does work in its removal.
Get a piece of cotton ball and dip it in white vinegar. Make sure that it is not dripping wet as the vinegar can run down your dog’s fur. Soothe your dog so that it will remain calm as you clean its tear-stains. Be careful not to touch the dog’s eye. This can burn your pet’s eye and cause damage.
You may have to repeat this several times until you get the desired results.
If you want a tear stain remover that works, then you should try hydrogen peroxide. This compound can break down the chemicals that are causing epiphora in your dog. It works because of its effects on organic compounds.
We mentioned that the lacrimal fluid of dogs contains porphyrins, which are components of red blood cells. Hence, porphyrins are organic compounds. Hydrogen peroxide also reacts with catalase found in red blood cells and which can also be present in the tear stains. What happens is an efficient oxidation reaction that eliminates the stain.
To remove tear stains, mix a teaspoon each of water and hydrogen peroxide. Add a little amount of cornstarch until the mixture turns into a paste-like consistency. Apply this hydrogen peroxide paste onto the epiphora and leave it to dry. After 2 to 3 hours or when you see the paste has begun to “crack”, rinse it off. Break up the paste using your fingers. This will help remove the stain.
Repeat the process several times until you no longer see tear stains in your dog.
Cornstarch and Bleach
Cornstarch works like an absorbent that helps draw the tear stains from your dog. Bleach, on the other hand, can help break down the chemicals that are present in the stain. As such, when you combine these two, you’ve got a natural tear stain remover that works.
The process is similar to using hydrogen peroxide. You only need about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with about half a teaspoon of hot water. Now add a drop of common household bleach and let it cool first. Apply the paste onto the tear stains and leave it for about 2 to 3 hours before rinsing. Do this once every 2 days for at least 2 weeks.
It may seem odd, but it does work. Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory substances that allow it to fight microorganisms that may be present in tear stains. These microorganisms can make the epiphora look worse than it should.
You only need a weak chamomile tea for this. Get a hot cup of water and put a tea bag of chamomile tea. Dip it for about 30 seconds and remove the tea bag. Let the tea cool down before you moisten a cotton ball with it. Now use this to clean the epiphora from your dog. Don’t forget to rinse it with clean water.
Like chamomile, colloidal silver can be a good answer to the question of how to get rid of tear stains. This compound also possesses antimicrobial properties that can be helpful in the removal of microorganisms that are worsening the stains.
You can obtain colloidal silver from your favorite health food store. Dab a piece of cotton ball with it and use this to clean the tear stains. Perform this procedure at least once a day for a few weeks or until you see the stains already gone.
Contact Lens Cleaner
There are some contact lens cleaners that contain a mild concentration of boric acid. This solution can hasten the oxidation process of the porphyrins present in tear stains.
Moisten a piece of cotton ball with the boric acid-containing contact lens cleaner. Be careful when cleaning the tear stains as boric acid can sting. Clean your dog’s epiphora at least once a day until you no longer see the stain.
Commercial Tear Stain Removers
If you don’t like any of the abovementioned methods, you can always use one of the best dog tear stain removers available on the market. These can come in different presentations. Some come as moistened wipes. Using these are as easy as wiping the face of your dog with a small moist face towel. Find out more about dog wipes here.
There are also commercial tear stain removers that come in liquid formulations. You moisten a piece of clean cloth or cotton ball with any of these solutions and use it to remove the epiphora.
When picking a commercial tear stain remover, it’s best to look for natural and safe ingredients. You do not want to add insult to the stain by hurting your dog needlessly.
Controlling Tear Stains in Dogs
Removing the epiphora from your dog is not a guarantee that it will never return. Depending on the cause of the condition, there is still a chance that your dog will have tear stains again in the near future. Instead of removing these lacrimal stains every time they pop up, it’s better to control them or to prevent them from reoccurring.
Change Your Dog’s Diet
One of the potential causes of staining is poor-quality dog food. Some dog food products come with artificial food colorings that can get into the dog’s blood. As we all know, the dog’s tears are a means to eliminate waste products. As such, these food colorings can be present in their tears, too. Switching to a high-quality, all-natural dog food should help.
Give Your Dog Distilled and Purified Water
Ordinary tap water can contain minerals that have staining properties. These can get into the dog’s blood and end up in its tears. You may have to replace its ordinary water with something safer. Go for purified or distilled drinking water for your pet.
Maintain Good Canine Hygiene
Cleaning the dog’s face should always be a part of its routine grooming session. However, one should not coincide it with the dog’s bathing schedule. Since the eyes continuously produce tears, cleaning the dog’s eyes every day should help. If this is too much, then once a week is sufficient.
Consider Trimming the Hair
While this will not stop the tears from leaking out from the eyes, trimming the dog’s hair eliminates the very same object that stains.
Consider Adding Apple Cider Vinegar in the Dog’s Water
Acidifying the water that your dog drinks can help remove certain microorganisms that may contribute to tear stains.
Determining the dog tear stain remover that works is crucial to the management of epiphora in dogs. These solutions and preventive measures should help bring a brighter, cleaner, and happier face to your dog.