Superb Dog
small white dog without tear stains running

How To Get Rid of Tear Stains on Dogs (and Prevent Them!)

Preventing and getting rid of tear stains on dogs just takes some diligence; we show you several ways to do both.

It can be alarming the first time you notice that your light-colored dog has developed a pair of mysterious brown-reddish stains under their eyes. Called “tear stains” because they are caused by excessive tearing, they are usually just an aesthetic issue, but they might also indicate health problems — ask your vet to be sure. Fortunately, you can remove dog tear stains with a variety of easy solutions.

To get rid of tear stains on dogs, you should first determine what’s causing the stains. Your veterinarian can diagnose and may prescribe specific treatments for your dog. You can prevent tear stains from occurring again by maintaining proper eye hygiene and providing a good diet.

This article will explore the following:

  • What are tear stains and how they are developed
  • How you can remove tear stains from your dog’s under eyes
  • How to prevent tear stains on dogs

Tear Stains on Dogs

If you own a light-coated dog such as the Maltese or Bichon Frise, you know how difficult it can be to keep their coat clean and pristine. Even with regular grooming, your dog can develop reddish-brown stains under their eyes and sometimes in between their toes. These stains are known as tear stains.

closeup of white dog with tear stain under eye

A dog’s eye shape and short noses often create crooked tear ducts that can cause tear stains. Tear stains are normal on dogs, and there is not much we can do about excessive dog tears, but that does not mean we should ignore tear stains. Dogs deserve to look beautiful, too.

Apart from aesthetic reasons, you also want to address your dog’s tear stains problems quickly as it could be the result of a health problem such as a corneal ulcer or glaucoma. Your dog could be allergic to something or suffering from an infection. Teething puppies can also get tear stains because they produce more tears when teething.

Other possible causes of tear stains:

  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Abnormally small tear duct openings
  • Abnormally big tear-producing glands
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Inward eyelids
  • Poor diet

The best way to figure out the cause of your dog’s tear stains is to bring your pet to the vet for an exam. If health problems do not cause the tear stains, you can follow some easy solutions to get rid of the stains and give your dog its beautiful face back.

Porphyrins in Dogs

Usually, dog tear stains are caused by iron-containing molecules known as porphyrins. Porphyrins in dogs typically get excreted through saliva, urine, or tears. When present on a dog’s fur for an extended time, saliva or tears containing porphyrins can cause staining that will eventually darken with more sunlight present.

All dogs produce porphyrins, but staining is more common among dogs with light coats. Dogs don’t just develop tear stains under their eyes; their legs or the areas between their toes can also darken. That’s because when a dog licks its legs, the porphyrins in its saliva can also darken the places where it licks.

Tear stains on dogs can occur on both eye sides or one side only, and they are sometimes accompanied by eye discharge, although not always.

Tear Stains on Certain Dog Breeds and Colors

Regardless of breed or color, tear stains can occur with any dog. Tear stains are more evident on white and other light-colored dogs. Some dogs are more prone to getting tear stains, like the Maltese and Shih Tzus.

Some dog breeds are more prone to getting tear stains because of their muzzle shape and eye placement, preventing their tears from flowing properly from the eye socket into the tear duct. If you own a dog breed prone to getting tear stains, you must always check their eye areas and clean them frequently. Proper eye hygiene is crucial for dogs, especially dogs with short muzzles. 

Abrasion to the Eye

If your dog suffers from corneal ulcers, the protective outer layer of your dog’s eyes can be traumatized, causing excessive tearing and unusually active discharge. Your dog’s eyes can also be traumatized from the pain of an injury on the eyes. Brachycephalic breeds such as the Boston Terrier or Lhasa Apso are prone to eye injuries as their eyes tend to bulge.

Eye Infection

Your dog will excrete a lot of tears when it has an eye infection. Eye infections can cause excess moisture around the eye area, leading to yeast or bacterial infections. It is essential to know the difference between the brownish and reddish stains on your dog.

If you see brownish or rust-colored stains on your dog, that could mean your dog has yeast or fungal infections. Yeast and fungal infections will persist as long as there is constant moisture building upon the skin. The red stains on dogs are from Porphyrins.


Glaucoma is an eye disease that can increase tear production due to increased intraocular pressure. The condition will make your dog’s pupils change in size, and perhaps one is bigger than the other. Your dog will feel uncomfortable in the eyes under this condition, and it will excrete more tears than usual and active discharge.


Sometimes dogs can have ingrown or abnormal eyelashes that cause them to feel uncomfortable due to the eyelashes’ rubbing on the eye surface. The irritation caused by the abnormality can cause tearing. Some dogs also have a condition whereby their eyelids fold inward, causing eye irritation and excessive tear production.

If your dog’s tear duct is not formed correctly, it can also cause tear staining. When your dog’s eye tears cannot drain properly, they get clogged. The clogging will then cause the tears to spill over and cause staining.

white dog with tear stains under eyes

How To Remove Tear Stains

Since tear stains can be caused by porphyrins or health issues, it would be best to bring your pup to the vet first for a medical exam. If an allergic reaction causes tear stains, your veterinarian may prescribe your dog a steroid ointment and an oral treatment.

Your veterinarian might use antibiotics to reduce or remove tear staining, but if you’re not comfortable with this method — because it could promote bacterial resistance — let your veterinarian know.

If medical conditions do not cause the stains, you can remove the tear stains on your own. Do consult your veterinarian before attempting to remove tear stains with different home remedies.

There are many products for cleaning tear stains on the market today. With these products, you can minimize staining on your dog by keeping their eyes clean and dry always. You must trim your dog’s hair so that the hair does not easily come in contact with the tears.

You can use clean damp cotton balls or washcloths with warm water or saline solution to clean your dog’s eye area to prevent tears from accumulating and moisture building.

Check the labels of the over-the-counter products you’re getting for your dog first because every dog is different, and not all products will be suitable for all dogs. You don’t want the product to get into your dog’s eyes, so it would help to have a friend to help you hold your dog while carefully cleaning the tear stains.

Products for cleaning tear stains include:

  • Commercial eye wash for dogs
  • Baby shampoo (diluted)
  • Contact lens solution (on the skin only)
  • OptixCare Eye Cleaner

Never use soap, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to remove tear stains from your dog. Avoid any product that contains tylosin. As discussed earlier, you might not want your veterinarian to use antibiotics to treat your dog’s tear stains because it could promote bacterial resistance — you don’t want to use tylosin as it is an antibiotic.

How To Prevent Tear Stains

It is normal for dogs to produce tears; however, excessive tears need special attention because a medical condition could cause it. While some dogs are more prone to tear stains, dog owners can prevent the problem by taking care of their dogs’ diet, health, and hygiene.

Give Your Dog a Healthy Diet

Food plays an essential role in your dog’s health, so you want to keep your dog healthy by providing it with a high-quality, grain-free diet. Low-quality dog food cannot ensure long-term good health for your dog and can cause allergic reactions, leading to tearing and other issues. You also want to check your dog’s food portion because overfeeding your dog can also lead to tear stains.

You may want to consider providing your dog with filtered water. While it is not harmful to dogs to drink tap water, tap water with high mineral content, or iron, can cause staining on your dog. By giving your pup filtered water, you may reduce the staining.

Maintain Regular Grooming

It is essential to keep your dog’s hair around the eye area short and clean. Some dog breeds need their eye region trimmed every two weeks. You don’t want your dog’s eye area to be too moist, as this can lead to bacterial and fungal infections.

Use proper canine eyewash such as saline eyewash solutions or Terra Septic eye drops to clean your dog’s eyes. You can use a cotton ball using the same eyewash or contact lens solution around your dog’s eye area. Wash your dog’s muzzle hair using the proper shampoo or with waterless shampoo with a wet washcloth. 

After cleaning your dog’s eye area, use a flea comb to comb out loosened debris. Do it gently. Then, gently pat the area clean using a soft, lint-free cloth.

Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Clean and Dry

It’s time intensive, but it helps to use dog water bottles instead of water bowls to prevent your dog’s mouth from becoming too wet. Dog water bowls are easier, of course, especially when you can’t always be with your dogs and keep an eye on them. If you use a water bowl, try as often as you can to use paper towels to get rid of excess water from your dog’s mouth after they drink from a bowl. 

You might want to throw your dog’s plastic bowls and replace them with better bowls made of stainless steel or porcelain. Plastic bowls can crack and make way for bacteria to grow. Bowls that harbor bacteria can irritate your dog.

You can apply cornstarch to your dog’s eye area, around the muzzle, or between their toes to prevent moisture from building up. Cornstarch is ideal if you only want to give your dog a dry bath. The cornstarch acts as a deodorizer, and it can absorb oil on dogs or soothe itchiness.

Protect Your Dog From Allergies and Debris

Sometimes your dog has excessive tears because of allergies. If allergies are causing your dogs to produce excessive tears, you should put lubricating drops into your dog’s eyes. It would help to lubricate your dog’s eyes before you let it out to play as this step can prevent discharge from forming caused by conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the eye’s conjunctiva. 

You can lubricate your dog’s eyes before cleaning or grooming it. Make sure you use eye drops that are meant for dogs, not for humans. You want to get lubricating drops that are long-lasting and do not contain anti-redness medication.

Avoid taking your dog to dusty places or anywhere with many cleaning products are used as this can cause allergies or other irritation. When exposed to certain conditions, your dog’s eyes will try to clean themselves, leading to epiphora. Epiphora is a condition whereby the eye has excessive water.

white dog with tear stain under eye

Watch Your Puppies During Their Teething Period

Puppies around 3 weeks old will start teething, and by the time they turn 6 weeks old, their teeth will start coming in. Your puppies’ teeth will grow between 8 and 10 weeks old, with their adult teeth coming in between 4 and 7 months. During the teething period, puppies will experience a lot of pressure on their tear ducts, causing excessive water, possibly leading to tear stains.

The tear stains usually disappear as the puppies grow. However, there is no harm in removing the tear stains. Puppies tend to be hyperactive and move a lot, so you want to be extra careful when handling tear stain removers on puppies.

Products for Clearing Tear Stains

You can find many dog products on the market now for cleaning tear stains on dogs. Avoid products that contain tylosin, alcohol, or soap. Below are some of the products that many find to be effective.

OptixCare Eye Cleaner

OptixCare Eye Cleaner is an excellent product for removing tear stains on dogs. You can also use the product on cats. Suitable for dogs of all ages, the OptixCare Cleaner gently cleans tear stains and debris.

It is free from harsh chemicals like peroxides or alcohol, so you can rest assured that it is perfectly safe for your dog. Use the product on your dog consistently for the best results. In time, the product will reduce your dog’s tear stains and make its face pretty again.

Vedco Tear Stain Soft Chews

If you find it challenging to clean your dog’s eye area manually on your own, you can always try Vedco Tear Stain Soft Chews, which are formulated with herbal ingredients to alleviate tear stains and their causes. The Tear Stain Soft Chews do not contain harmful antibiotics, and they are tasty. Try treating your dog’s tear stains with this yummy treat to see if they are effective. Your dog won’t argue.

Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover

Made in the USA, Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover is a complete kit for removing tear stains. The value pack includes a stain remover solution, white powder, application pads, and a brush for brushing your dog’s fur.

The Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover value pack does not have antibiotics, preservatives, peroxides, steroids, bleach, or other harsh chemicals. Puppies over 7 weeks old can use the product, so can pregnant or lactating females. There are ingredients like Colloidal Silver, Witch Hazel, and Boric Acid to tackle the root cause and prevent future stains from reoccurring. 

Use the Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover value pack regularly to get the best results. Usually, the product will show results within 7 days of application. You want to use the brush included when using the pack’s powder to avoid messiness during application.

Burt’s Bees Tear Stain Remover With Chamomile

Recommended by veterinarians, the made-in USA Burt’s Bees Tear Stain Remover is one of the most popular tear stain removers. It uses chamomile and dandelion extract to tear stains. No harsh chemicals or fragrances are used in this product — only natural ingredients. 

Use a cotton ball to apply the solution to your dog’s tear stains. There is no need for rinsing, making the product convenient to use even on the go. The tear stain remover has a balanced pH and can be used on adult dogs or puppies or your dog’s paws, nose, and ears.

Use the Burt’s Bees TearStain Remover consistently to achieve the best results. You want to apply it to your dog’s tear stains daily. Never let it get to your dog’s eyes.

Final Thoughts

Tear secretion is normal for dogs, but it’s not normal when tears come out excessively and should be addressed immediately. Bring your dog to the vet to check what’s causing the tear stains on your dog. If it’s nothing to worry about, you can always use products specially made for clearing tear stains.

It’s essential to help your dog maintain a healthy diet and hygiene to prevent tear stains from recurring in the future. Avoid products that contain tylosin or alcohol. It would also help to keep your dog away from places that can trigger allergies and other irritants.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor