Excessive tearing is a condition known as epiphora in dogs. Just like in humans, a dog’s eye reacts to irritants by producing tears. Some breeds have more sensitive eyes than others, which explains the tear stains on a snow-white Bichon with dark streaks on its nose.
Your dog does not necessarily have to be small, or even all white, to suffer from epiphora. Some other breeds that might suffer from these pesky tear stains are the Westy, English Bulldog, Chihuahua, Maltese, Boxer, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Cockapoo, Poodle, Lhasa Apso, Havanese, Cocker Spaniel, and the King Charles Cavalier. This is attributed to white dogs because it is most visible on lighter colored fur, but dogs of all colors can have this problem.
In most breeds however, the tear ducts allow excess tears to drain away naturally. But in the breeds mentioned above that frequently suffer from clogged ducts or hair around the eye, tear stains can stay on the fur. This results in the discoloration that we recognize. In fact, most of the common causes of epiphora are not preventable:
Shallow eye sockets – If a dog’s eyes protrude too far, the tears will move down its snout rather than away from the eye and down the throat as with most dogs
Eyelids turned inwards – For some dogs, their eyelids roll toward the eyeball. This can cause tear ducts to become clogged, preventing drainage.
Hair around the eye – The fur around the eye may create a surface for tears to collect on before they’re drained naturally.
Blocked tear ducts – In some cases, tear ducts become clogged, preventing drainage. This could be scarring or the result of an infection of some sort.
Aside from being just ugly, the stains themselves are not particularly harmful to your pet or you, but the microbes that can grow in them can be. The moist environment is perfect for yeast and bacteria.
If dogs begin to scratch at their faces, or you notice an unusual smell, it’s time to focus on keeping the eyes and the area around them clean. An infection near the eye can cause even more tear production, creating bigger tear stains, and allowing those microbes to thrive. Keeping the area clear of tears and cleaning away the tear stains will help your pet stay healthy.
Since tear production is a natural reaction to an irritant, you’re not going to cure the problem. You wouldn’t want to try to stop your dog’s tears completely. Rather, you should focus on the few things you can do to limit the irritants your dog experiences.
- Diet – For regular non-supplement feedings, a grain-free food is best for dogs. Food that contains a lot of grain can create a natural irritant to their system.
- Water – Tap water contains fluoride and chlorine as well as other chemicals a dog can find irritating. It could help if your pet had filtered water rather than water directly from the tap.
- Additives – You can find some organic additives that will help with your pet’s problems. Some owners have found adding organic apple-cider vinegar or powdered buttermilk helped limit tear production.
One of the best things you can do for your pet’s appearance and health is to remove the stains altogether. Start with a visit to your veterinarian. Cleaning the area regularly will help prevent the buildup in tear stains that can damage your dog’s overall health and save them (and you) from embarrassment.
Using a natural and safe tear stain solution that will remove the mucus and crust formed around the eyes is highly recommended for any dog with tear stains. We always suggest coconut oil-based solutions for their highly publicized health benefits for dogs. Of course, you always want to stay away from anything that contains bleach or harsh chemicals. Remember, your dog’s eyes are sensitive like humans. Would you put bleach near your eye?
Most fur discoloration isn’t permanent, although stains that have been neglected for a long time will need to grow out and be trimmed before disappearing completely. The key is cleaning the area regularly. This will prevent tear stains in the first place, and eventually your dog’s fur will grow out and become beautiful again.
Treating your pup regularly with weekly cleanings from a high quality tear stain solution will help prevent any new tear stains from forming.