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When Tears are More Than Stains

downloadAlthough your poodle is cute having no streaks under his eyes would make him even cuter! Dog eye discharge and tear staining are common problems so you’re not the only one with a crying friend! Plus they can be more than just a messy face. Sometimes staining can indicate another problem. Make sure you know if your stains are something to be concerned about.


  • Eye pain (excessive tearing, squinting, tenderness to the touch, and sensitivity to light, even a loss of appetite, lethargy, whining, and crying).
  • The appearance of discharge helps to define the cause of the problem: A clear discharge with no other signs suggests a problem with the tearing mechanism. A painless discharge accompanied by redness is typical of conjunctivitis. Any discharge accompanied by signs of pain should alert you to the possibility of corneal or inner eye problems. A thick green or yellow discharge, often mucoid, can indicate infection or a foreign body.
  • Film (opaque or whitish membrane) over the eye.
  • Cloudiness or opaque.
  • Hard or soft eye.
  • Irritation of the eyelids (swelling, crusting, itching or hair loss).
  • Bulging or sunken eye.


Steps to follow once you see symptoms:

Your first step should be to see your veterinarian so they can examine the eye to make sure there is no foreign body is present. Some things your vet will look for are distichiasis or ectopic cilium (when an eyelash grows abnormally in such a way it ends up facing the cornea instead of facing away). Treatment will vary depending on the cause.

So, what causes tear stains under a dog’s eyes?

Excessive tearing can happen as a result of:

  • Irritation to your dog’s eyes: infections, glaucoma, eyelash or eyelid problems.
  • Your dog’s tears are not draining properly: the eye sockets aren’t big or deep enough, the eyelids are turned inward, hair growing too close to the eye, or blocked tear drainage holes (usually scar tissue from a previous dog eye infections or eye damage can cause this).
  • Water: your dog may need filtered and distilled water to drink instead of tap.
  • Diet: home cooked food not only provides better nutrition but can be good (healthier) for them in other ways. Talk to your vet to see which foods you could cook for your friend.

In some cases the cause of those reddish-brown stains is bacteria, in which case your vet may recommend antibiotics. The antibiotics tetracycline and tylosin are sometimes used to address tear staining since they reduce or eliminate the likelihood that tear stains will form. However the use of antibiotics for this purpose on an ongoing basis does cause concern among 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.

Sometimes swabbing the stains with hydrogen peroxide or using special grooming products designed for pet fur can help with tear stains or even washing of your dog’s face regularly.

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