Dogs and Tear Stains
Your snow-white poodle is so cute -- but he'd be even cuter without those reddish-brown streaks under his eyes. Dogeye discharge and tear staining are common problems, especially with certain breeds. So, what causes these issues, and what can you do to remedy them? WebMD offers answers to four common questions about dog eye problems and discharge.
1. What causes tear stains under a dog's eyes?
Excessive tearing, technically called epiphora, can occur as a result of irritation to your dog's eyes or because your dog's tears are not draining properly.
Just as your eye waters if a speck of dust blows into it, dogs' eyes will make tears when irritated to flush away anything harmful. When the eyes are continually irritated, this can lead to chronic tearing that produces stains. Conditions that might irritate the eye include dog eye infections, glaucoma, and eyelash or eyelid problems.
In a normal dog eye, there are small holes that drain tears away from the eye and down the throat. A variety of dog eye problems can affect this drainage, causing excessively watery eyes. These conditions include:
- Shallow eye sockets. If the eye sockets aren't big or deep enough, tears can spill out onto the fur around the eyes.
- Eyelids that are turned inward. If the eyelids roll in toward the eyeball, the drainage holes for tears (called puncta) may become blocked.
- Hair growth around the eye. If hair grows too close to the eye, it can wick tears away from the eye and onto the face.
- Blocked tear drainage holes (puncta). Previous dog eye infections or eye damage can cause scar tissue to form that blocks some of the drainage passages for tears.
2. Which types or breeds of dogs are more susceptible to dog eye discharge and tear stains?
Regardless of breed, white dogs are more likely to have visible tear staining on their faces, because the pigments in their tears can easily dye light-colored fur. Also, dogs with long hair on their faces may be more prone to excessive tearing.
Short-nosed dog breeds, such as Shih-tzu, Pekingese, Maltese, and pug, are prone to excessive tearing because they often have shallow eye sockets or hair growth in skin folds around the eyes that cause problems. Also, cocker spaniels and poodles are more likely than other breeds to have blocked tear ducts.
3. Can the dog eye problems that cause tear stains be treated?
It depends on the condition leading to excessive tearing. There is no way to stop dog eye discharge because of shallow eye sockets, so the goal in this situation is to minimize skin irritation and coat discoloration.
If your dog's tear stains are developing because his eyes are always irritated, eliminating the source of irritation will help. This might include keeping hair near the eyes trimmed very short and treating infection or glaucoma, if present.
There are surgical options for certain eyelid or eyelash problems that can restore normal tear drainage and eliminate overflow onto the face.
4. What can I do to get rid of my dog's tear stains?
Although those reddish-brown stains can be stubborn, there are certain remedies that may minimize their appearance. These include:
- Antibiotics. The antibiotics tetracycline and tylosin are sometimes used to address tear staining, as they reduce or eliminate the likelihood that tear stains will form. There are concerns about the use of antibiotics for this purpose on an ongoing basis, however, because it could lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which would be far more dangerous to your pup than a few unsightly stains.
- Whitening products. Swabbing the stains with hydrogen peroxide or using special grooming products designed for pet fur may help with tear stains.
- Regular washing of your dog's face.
Veterinary Information Network Web site, Veterinarypartner.com: “Runny eyes (epiphora).”
American Animal Hospital Association, Healthypet.com: “How can I remove the white stains around my white dog’s eyes and mouth?”
American Animal Hospital Association, Healthypet.com: “Shih-tzu.”
Yi NY, et al, “Medial canthoplasty for epiphora in dogs: A retrospective study of 23 cases,” J Am Anim Hosp Assoc, 2006; 42:pp 435-439.
Merck Veterinary Manual: “Nasolacrimal and Lacrimal Apparatus.”
Veterinary Information Network Web site, Veterinarypartner.com: “Tylosin.”
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