Home Dog Grooming How to Clean Dog Tear Stains: A Step-By-Step Video Guide

How to Clean Dog Tear Stains: A Step-By-Step Video Guide


Epiphora is the veterinary term for excessive tear production. It is the most common cause of tear staining in dogs. Learning how to clean dog tear stains is an important grooming task that all pet owners should master.

A common misconception about epiphora in dogs is that tear stains only occur in light colored breeds. While breeds like the Shih Tzu, Maltese, and Lhasa Apso are more prone to tear staining, they can occur in any dog.

How To Clean Dog Tear Stains VideoAs you’ll see in my video review, our Boxer suffers from severe tear staining. She is a brachycephalic breed, which means she has a pushed in nose. These breeds are also more susceptible to tear staining in general, as are dogs exposed to secondhand smoke and those that use plastic dog food bowls.

Medical conditions that can cause tear staining include:

  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Larger than normal tear glands
  • Smaller than normal tear duct opening
  • Glaucoma and other eye diseases
  • Eye infections
  • Ear infections

If your dog has had tear stains for most of his life, it’s likely not anything to worry about. You should be sure to mention at his next annual vet exam though. If the tear staining begins suddenly or gets more severe, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to be sure there is no underlying medical condition causing the issue.

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How To Clean Dog Tear Stains

How To Clean Dog Tear Stains

Another common misconception that most dog owners make is assuming that tear stains only occur underneath the eyes. Did you know that they can also occur around the nose or on the muzzle and between your dog’s toes?

You can use the same solution and process to clean tear stains located on other parts of the body. Just be sure that the cleaner you are using is specifically made for dogs.

Daily cleaning to remove tear stains

When learning how to clean dog tear stains, you must remember that frequency is key. Tear stains build up over time, but with daily cleaning your can get rid of the unsightly marks for good.

The first step is to use a canine eye wash or saline solution to flush your dog’s eye. You may want to have a second person with you to help restrain your dog. As you’ll notice in my video guide, even the most mellow dogs don’t like to have someone working near their eyes.

FURTHER READING: The Truth About Tear Stains on Dogs

How To Clean Dog Tear Stains

After the flush, moisten a cotton ball with the same solution and wipe the tear stained area. If the stains are large you may need to use multiple cotton balls.

If your pet has tear stains on his muzzle, around his nose or in between his toes, you can wash them with dry or waterless shampoo and a wash cloth. Just apply a small amount of the shampoo to the cloth and rub it on the tear stains.

How To Clean Dog Tear StainsWhen learning how to clean dog tear stains, grooming wipes can come in very handy too. These wipes are safe for dogs and much easier and more convenient than shampoo. Dry or waterless shampoo and grooming wipes require no rinsing, which is a plus for dogs that don’t enjoy taking a bath.

Remember to keep the hair around your dog’s eyes trimmed to prevent it from irritating his eyes and causing excessive tearing. There are also products that you can use to reduce the prevalence of tear stains.

You can buy specifically formulated products at pet stores, or try a natural remedy. Adding 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or buttermilk powder to your dog’s water dish is said to reduce tear staining.

Can you simply use a dog tear stain remover?

Yes, you most certainly can, and many dog owners do. One of the most popular brands of dog’s tear stain removers is called Angel Eyes, and it’s currently the most effective solution.

However, there’s some controversy behind this product (I recommend you read FDA’s warning letter). Angel Eyes tear stain remover is also more expensive than some other products in this category, but is also more effective than other solutions. Nevertheless, please familiarize yourself with what this is, and its potential side effects.

For those wanting to avoid Angel Eyes product, as an alternative there are several brands of pet tear stain removers that are made of natural products, unlike Angel Eyes. They may be slightly less effective, but will also be healthier and safer for your dog. One good example is this plant-based natural stain remover from Buddy & Lola.

There are other ways and products to remove tear stains, and I recommend you browse through more opinions and also consider whether this is something that you really need.

So is it essential that you deal with your pet’s tear stains?

No, not really. Tear staining likely bothers you a lot more than it bothers your pet. It’s unsightly and can be very annoying, but it won’t harm your Fido. Unless of course there is an underlying health condition causing the excessive tearing. Therefore, cleaning your dog’s tear stains isn’t totally essential, but it may be a sign of a bigger issue.

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