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How to Remove Tear Stains on Dogs


Epiphora is the veterinary term for excessive tear production. It's the most common cause of tear stains in dogs. Most pet owners will have to deal with this, and I'll explain how to remove dog tear stains naturally or with the use of dog tear stain products.

Epiphora in Dogs (Tear Staining)

One misconception about epiphora is that tear stains only occur in light colored breeds. That is not true, because many other breeds can also get tear stains around their eyes.

Some breeds are more predisposed to this, however. A 2006 retrospective study found that tear stains are most prevalent in Shih Tzus, closely followed by Pekingese, Maltese, Toy Poodle, and Pug. Veterinarians also note based on personal cases that most all dogs are susceptible to runny eyes and tear stains.

Epiphora Tear Stains in Dogs

As you'll see in my video, our Boxer suffers from severe tear staining. She is a brachycephalic breed, which means she has a pushed in nose and shallow eye socket. This is the reason why all brachycephalic breeds are also more prone to tear staining.

Genetics aside, other factors can cause tear stains in dogs: environment, owner's actions or a health condition. For example, dogs exposed to secondhand smoke and eating from plastic dog food bowls are more likely to have tear stains.

Medical conditions that can cause tear staining in dogs include:

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

I've written more about dog tear stains here, but even if your dog has tear stains, it's likely not anything to worry about. Mention this at your next annual vet exam.

However, if your dog's tear staining begins suddenly or gets more severe, schedule an appointment with your vet right away to rule out any underlying medical condition.

Another common misconception about tear stains in dogs is that this can only occur underneath the dog's eyes. But epiphora can actually show itself around a dog's nose or on the muzzle, and even between your dog's toes. Tear stains around a dog's eyes are simply common and easier to notice.

Cleaning up your dog is important. And while the process of cleaning different body parts due to epiphora varies, you can still use the same solution and the same cleaning method to wipe other parts of your dog's body. Be sure that the cleaner you are using is specifically made for dogs. Here's how to remove dog tear stains naturally.

How to Remove Dog Tear Stains Naturally

How to Remove Dog Tear Stains Naturally with Flushing

Supplies You'll Need

Daily Cleaning to Remove Tear Stains in Dogs

When learning how to remove dog tear stains naturally, keep a schedule and frequency the same. Tear stains in dogs build up over time, but with daily cleaning your can get rid of the unsightly marks for good.

The process itself is fast. Here's how to remove dog tear stains naturally in two steps:

1. Flush the eyes. The first step is to use a natural dog eye wash or saline solution to flush your dog's eye (see above picture). You may want to have a second person with you to help restrain your dog. Even the most mellow dogs don't like to have someone working near their eyes.

How to Remove Dog Tear Stains Naturally with Wipes2. Remove the stains. After the flush, you'll need to wipe and clean around the eyes (right photo). 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.

Natural grooming wipes can come in very handy, too. These wipes are safe for dogs and much easier and more convenient than a dog shampoo. Dry or waterless shampoos, as well as dog grooming wipes require no rinsing, which is a plus for dogs that are very anxious about the process.

How to Prevent Tear Stains on Dogs

As with everything, prevention is always better than cure. So even if you now know how to remove dog tear stains naturally, preventing them will save you the trouble and your dog the stress. Here are a few things you can do:

1. Trim the hair. For dogs with longer coats in particular, remember to keep the hair around your dog's eyes trimmed to prevent it from irritating his eyes and causing excessive tearing.

2. Use different water. For severe or excessive tear stains on dogs, you can try switching to pure filtered water. Hard water may make this condition worse.

3. Improve drinking water. Some holistic veterinarians recommend adding a teaspoon of white vinegar or buttermilk powder into your dog's water bowl on a daily basis.

4. Food and diet. Like with other conditions in dogs, bad diet can worsen the case of tear stains, and good diet can improve or even get rid of tear stains on your dog. Dog foods with high meat content, little to no grains and low carbohydrates will work best.

If you want to know how to remove dog tear stains naturally, then the above two-step method and the focus on prevention of tear stains on dogs are the most healthy and safe way. That said, there are also dog tear stain remover products that you can use to reduce the prevalence of tear stains, but there's more to them than meets the eye.

Dog Tear Stain Removers

Using a dog tear stain remover isn't the most natural way for removing dog tear stains.

Angel EyesYes, dog tear stain removers definitely work. And yes, you can use them with your pet, and many dog owners do. The most popular 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.

We've done a full review on angel eyes here. I also highly recommend that you do more research of your own, as well as read about the FDA's warning letter. Angel Eyes tear stain remover is also more expensive than some other products in this category.

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. A few examples include Burt's Bees brand and a more popular Nutri-Vet remover.

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.

Is It Essential to Remove Tear Stains on Dogs?

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. And if your dog had tear stains most of his life, then there's really nothing to worry about.

The only time that you must look into this is when epiphora is due to an underlying health condition, and the tear staining is usually very excessive then. This can be noticed when your dog doesn't normally have tear stains but they start to appear often all of a sudden. You'll need to consult with your veterinarian at that point.

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How to Remove Tear Stains on Dogs (Epiphora)