Does Your Pet Have Tear Stains?


This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc.

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What Causes Tear Stains?

Tear staining in pets is caused by an overflow of tears, also known as epiphora, onto the fur below the eyes. The overflow can either be due to an overproduction of tears or a failure of the tears to drain away properly.

Pigments in the tears, known as porphyrins, are responsible for the reddish-brown tinge that is left behind on the hair when the tears dry.

Overproduction of tears can be due to irritation, injury or allergies. If your pet shows signs of discomfort, like pawing at or squinting the affected eye, you should seek immediate veterinary attention. Any pet that suddenly develops epiphora should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out any painful medical causes.

Epiphora can be caused by a number of factors including:

1. Blocked tear ducts

Scarring from previous eye problems can cause blockage of the tear duct, which normally drains tears away into the nasal passages and throat. Cocker Spaniels and Poodles may also be born with these ducts closed. If this is the problem it can usually be corrected with flushing under anaesthesia or surgical re-opening.

2. Shallow eye sockets

Poodles and brachycephalic breeds (breeds with pushed in faces like pugs and persian cats), are particularly susceptible to epiphora, in their case the eye socket is simply too shallow to hold the tears and they spill out onto the face instead of draining down the tear duct.

3. Entropion

Entropion is a condition where the eyelids curl inwards. In some cases this is severe enough to physically block the drainage holes that lead to the tear duct. This problem may surgically corrected.

4. Hair growing around the eye

Some pets may have long hairs that can come into contact with the surface of the eye and wick the tears away into the fur. Keeping these hairs trimmed short may fix the problem.

How to Remove Tear Stains

Once your veterinarian has ruled out any medical issues that may be causing the epiphora, you will naturally want to know how to remove the unsightly stains.

There are a few remedies you can try which can help remove the porphyrin pigment and leave your dog's face fresh and clean. We've listed our top recommendations below. Remember never to apply any tear removal product directly onto the eye.

The Best Products for Removing Tear Stains in Dogs and Cats:

Further Reading

What is the Best Dog Shampoo?

How to Deal With Shedding Pet Hair

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