Are you battling tear stains on your white or light-colored dog? As a professional groomer, I see many, many dogs that exhibit unsightly tear stains and beard stains. In addition, some of these dogs are even discoloring their feet, legs and body with the saliva they leave on their fur from licking and chewing.

Possible Causes of Tear Stains

Staining is usually of a reddish color and sometimes emits an odor. It is important to attempt to determine the cause of the staining. Some possible causes are:

* genetic predisposition

* high mineral content in drinking water

* eye infection

* ear infection

* irritating eyelashes or hair that rub against the eye

* yeast infection (from the area around the eye remaining wet)

* blocked tear ducts

* diet

* parasites such as fleas and mites

* allergies

You should consult with your veterinarian or groomer to try to narrow down the potential cause of the tear staining. Once you have ruled out some of the obvious medical conditions such as infections, extra eyelashes, and blocked tear ducts, you will be able to address the conditions that you may well have control over.

If your dog is experiencing ear irritation or infection, there is a high incidence of the infection completely running through their body and resulting in multiple issues throughout. Many dogs we see that have tear staining are also affected with inner ear infections. So be sure to confirm that your dog’s ears are clean and free from infection. Your vet will prescribe the appropriate ear drops and/or antibiotics. You will have to be diligent in treating the ears as prescribed in order to alleviate the condition.


Dog owners need to evaluate the food they are feeding to their pets and be sure that they are using a high-quality dog food that is not rampant with sugar, salt, preservatives and chemicals. If you are feeding canned food to your dog, consider introducing a high-quality dry food to provide optimal nutrition.

The next item to look closely at is the water that your dog drinks. Tap water can be high in minerals and well water can be high in various items such as copper and iron which could contribute to the tear staining. A popular suggestion as of late is to train your dog to drink from a water bottle (thus preventing high-mineral water from sitting on the coat). Another idea it to use distilled water.

There are several products currently on the market that address the tear staining problem. Many of these products contain a percentage of antibiotic. Unless you are specifically dealing with an infection in your dog’s eyes or ears, it would be wise to discuss the ramifications of extended antibiotic usage with your veterinarian.


There are two possible solutions to tear staining that can easily be implemented. The first is to add a small amount of white vinegar (1 teaspoon) to your pet’s water. Start with a smaller amount in the water until your pet can adjust to the taste. The vinegar changes the pH of the water.

Secondly, include a 1/2 teaspoon of cream cheese (yes, like Philadelphia brand) in your dog’s food or as a treat on a daily basis. Customers who have tried this method have found that the tear staining cleared up in three to four weeks.

In any event, please check with your vet to rule out any medical conditions, allergies or infections that may be causing the tear staining in your dog. Once you’ve ruled out those possibilities, you can address the other options. Always consult with your veterinarian when trying a new regimen.

By Lela

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