Why Do White Dogs Get Tear Stains: A Vet Speaks Out

Taking care of dogs always involves baths and fur grooming, but why do white dogs get tear stains? It may seem like only white dogs have this issue, but that’s just a trick of color. Since your dog is a pale color, the tear stains show up much more on their fur. However, all dogs have the same type of tear ducts, which can occur in any breed or color canine. As frustrating as it seems because it looks bad, you can fix tear stains. Regular bathing alone won’t remove all the color. However, you can wash your pooch’s face more often with a good shampoo. Alternately, you can use a solution of hydrogen peroxide if you are careful. Fortunately, these stains aren’t hurting your dog. I will walk you through everything you need to know about what causes the stains and how to manage them. Your white pet can have beautiful, clean-looking fur despite its natural tears. 

First, Vanessa Kuonen Cavens, DVM states that are molecules that cause the reddish, brown discoloration. I will indicate why this is happening.

Why do white dogs get tear stains? Porphyrin is why white dogs get tear stains. Although most porphyrins come out through the intestinal tract and bile, dogs also excrete a fair amount from their tear ducts. These chemicals are the active center of hemoglobin. Though it may be unsightly, this is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. 

 How Do You Stop Tear Stains from Appearing on White Dogs

You cannot completely stop tear stains from appearing, but you can clean them off. White dogs get these tear stains from the porphyrin in their tear ducts, naturally occurring. It is not a problem or a sign something has gone wrong.

Keep in mind that these tear stains are going to keep happening. The process of eye-watering is part of how eyes work. It is vital to keep your eyes damp to use them for sight, which applies to your pet. So long as your dog has eyes, it will have tear stains.

Minimizing Tear Stains

One of the easiest ways to help minimize tear stains is by trimming the fur around the eyes and muzzle. When you keep this fur shorter, it is much easier to clean. Not only will this leave less space for stains to adhere, but it will also make it much faster. 

Some people are comfortable handling this at home with DIY grooming gear and scissors. If you have a dog who won’t hold still, or you’re not sure about taking risks with scissors near your pup’s face, you can see a professional groomer. You’ll find that they are well versed in this type of trim. Moreover, your groomer may have even more good tips for helping to keep those tear stains away.

Products for Removing Tear Stains

There are three main options for removing these stains. You can wash their muzzle with a standard shampoo, a waterless shampoo, or a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Alternately, you can opt to take your pet to the groomer regularly. However, if you don’t DIY at home, your dog will still develop tear stains between grooming visits. 

Standard shampoos are self-explanatory—these work by removing dirt and oils from the fur. Get your dog wet and wash them in the same way you always have. Rinse thoroughly and dry your dog as normal.

A waterless shampoo, also known as dry shampoo, is a little bit different. This type of shampoo is meant for use between washes. Waterless shampoos absorb oils in the fur but do not remove them.

This second type of cleaner will not be as effective in removing tear stains, but it can help minimize them. However, it is excellent for keeping the dog smell to a minimum, and it helps prevent fur stains. Always be careful not to get the powder or spray in your pets’ eyes.

Finally, you can use three percent hydrogen peroxide. Most people have a bottle of this at home in the bathroom or with a medical kit. Use cotton swabs or a paper towel to clean off those stains while avoiding the eyes. 

I recommend Espree Bright White Dog Shampoo from Amazon. This shampoo is formulated specifically for light-colored dogs. You’ll appreciate the light floral scent. More importantly, you will love how Espree removes stains, yellowing, and greying from your beloved pet’s fur. Not only is this product made with organic aloe vera, but it is also made in the USA. You can feel great about getting your white dog back to its brightest and support the local economy. Read the excellent reviews for yourself by clicking right here

Do all Dogs Get Tear Stains

All dogs get some tear stains. The reason your white dog has more obvious tear stains has to do with its fur color. Moreover, all dogs have porphyrins in their tears. 

Porphyrins are molecules that contain iron. You will find these in hemoglobin (blood) and other parts of the body, such as the gastrointestinal intestinal tract and even the saliva. In fact, this is the same substance that causes the coloration in feces and helps leave drool stains. 

Additionally, it is important to note that the pigment darkens in sunlight. Please don’t stop taking your dog outside to avoid dark tear stains. Instead, wash them away before you head outside to minimize the appearance. 

Not all canines produce the same quantity of porphyrins. One white dog can have minimal tear stains, while the next seems to always have long brown streaks on its face. If you don’t clean them regularly, the stains will be more pronounced.

I created the below chart to show which breeds that dog downers are mentioning the most often that have this tear stain problem. The data was found within numerous dog forums online.

Dog Breeds that are mentioned within forums that have tear stains Percentage of the total results
Shih Tzu18%
White Faced Bull Dog6%

Why Are Tear Stains Brown on White Dogs

The iron in porphyrins is a naturally brown pigment. When exposed to oxygen outside the body, iron undergoes oxidation and turns a reddish-brown, rust color. Moreover, when exposed to sunlight, these stains darken. 

This is the same substance that causes bloodstains to turn brown and darken. Furthermore, porphyrins are found in hemoglobin which is part of the blood. Don’t let this alarm you though, it is natural for dogs to excrete iron-filled porphyrins in their tears. 

Is There a Treatment That Will Prevent Tear Stains on White Dogs

Washing is the only guaranteed way to remove tear stains from your white dog. Although you will see a thousand suggestions for treating and stopping tear stains, that should tell you none of them are a hundred percent effective. All bodies are different, and there are no vet-approved cure-alls for tear stains. 

Some dogs may benefit from a higher ph in their body. Adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to their water can help with this. However, this trick will not slow tear stains in all dogs.

Primarily, the only way to ‘prevent’ all tear stains is to choose a pet that doesn’t express porphyrins through its tear ducts. In short, don’t get a dog. These stains are natural and washable. It is a sign that your dog’s body is doing what it should.

How Do You Remove the Tear Stains From White Fur

Removing the tear stains from white fur is a constant battle, like doing laundry. Now that you know why white dogs get tear stains, it is easy to see that it is both normal and continuous. Their eyes are constantly producing moisture with those porphyrins inside. Luckily, washing tear stains away is simple. You can easily remove those troublesome stains with shampoo or hydrogen peroxide. Keep in mind that you will need to do this often on white dogs.

To prevent stains from showing completely, you will need to wash them off daily or as often as you notice the stains forming. The active ingredients in hydrogen peroxide and whitening shampoos are all you need to take the iron stains off your pets’ white coats.Check out Lillian Ruff Berry Blue Brightening Face and Body Wash for Dogs. This pleasant blueberry scented shampoo will help prevent stains on your pets’ beautiful white fur. Not only will this shampoo remove tear stains, but it is also tear-free and safe around the eyes. This vegan formula hydrates skin and is made in the USA. Best of all, Lillian Ruff offers a thirty-day money-back guarantee. Learn more on Amazon by clicking here.

Should You Take Your Dog to See a Vet if Their Tear Staining Gets Worse

It would be best to take your dog to the vet any time you think something is off. Although tear stains are normal on white dogs, there are plenty of reasons why you should still get it checked. Especially if you notice the stains are excessive, or they change suddenly, make that appointment. 

Sometimes it’s nothing more than a little eye irritation. However, large tear stains can also be the first clue that something bigger is going wrong in your pet’s body. The only way to be certain is to have a professional check it out

Causes Of Tear Stains That Are Not ‘Normal’

You should always see a vet if your dogs’ tear staining gets noticeably worse. There are numerous problems where excess tear staining is a symptom. The list below covers most of these, but it would be best always to have it checked out regardless.

  1. Allergies – Whether seasonal 
  2. Blocked Tear Ducts – Tear ducts that are not functioning properly can cause excessive tear stains. Brees, such as cocker spaniels, are especially prone o this issue. If your dog breed is more likely to have eye problems take them in as soon as you see excess tear stains.
  3. Conjunctivitis – This is inflammation in the eye’s lining. Not only will conjunctivitis block tear ducts, but it can also cause pus or mucus discharge.
  4. Ear Infection – An ear infection can cause ocular pain and distress. When the eye on the same side of the head as an ear infection responds, it can water excessively, causing tear stains.
  5. Entropion – Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward. Sadly, this causes the eyelashes to rub inside your pets’ eye, resulting in irritation and extra watering.
  6. Eye Infection – Bacteria, parasites, and viruses can cause infections, and your dog’s eyes will water as a way to self-cleanse.
  7. Glaucoma – Glaucoma causes a build-up of pressure in the eye. Sadly this may damage the optic nerve, and it will almost certainly cause more watering than usual.
  8. Hair– Hair in your eyes can be painful and irritating. Plus, it can wick the tears away, creating long tear stains as the moisture is absorbed down the face.
  9. Ingrown Eyelashes – Any ingrown hair can be painful, but in the eyes, it can also cause watering and tear stains. Worse still, these ingrown lashes can also do damage. Have your pet’s eyes checked regularly to prevent loss of vision. 
  10. Irritant Exposure – We’ve all had something get in our eyes. Dust and debris, smoke, or just pollen and eyelashes can all cause extra eye-watering. This is a natural defense used by bodies to try and remove the offending substance.
  11. Large Tear Glands – The bigger your tear glands, the more they produce. Some dogs are physically larger, while other breeds are genetically prone to grow oversized ducts.
  12. Poor Diet– Everyone, even your pet, needs to eat healthy to stay healthy. Without a regular supply of nourishing, digestible food, your pet will have numerous health issues. Excess eye-watering is just one of many symptoms of a larger problem for an animal who doesn’t eat well. 
  13. Scarring – Has your canine companion ever had eye damage? Scars from old injuries can cause extra tear duct production. 
  14. Shallow Eye Sockets – Brachycephalic dogs, those with shorter muzzles from breeding for desirable traits, tend to have shallow eye sockets. If your pet has bulging eyes like Pekingese or Pugs, this may result in trouble closing the eyes. When a dog’s eyes don’t close completely, they will water more to compensate for the dryness.
  15. Small Tear Duct Openings – The openings for tear ducts are small, to begin with. Inefficient ducts become blocked easily, and they work harder to produce the necessary moisture. This can lead to bigger tear stains or even infections.
  16. Stress – The effects of stress and anxiety can never be overstated. Feeling afraid or under pressure all the time can damage virtually any part of the body’s normal function, including tear ducts. 
  17. Teething – Teething puppies naturally produce more tears. Luckily, once they’re done teething, the problem may go away. It is best always to get your pup checked so you can eliminate other, more damaging physical problems. 

Hopefully, your dog doesn’t have any other issues. Still, once you’ve eliminated all these potential problems, you’ll feel better about your pups’ tear-stained face. Keep them cleaned off with a good quality shampoo and remember to see a vet again if anything changes.

Final Thoughts

Tear stains can make your white dog look sad and unkempt. Fortunately, now that you know why they occur, you don’t have to worry about them. Washing off those porphyrins is easy and only takes a few minutes.

If you opt to remove tear stains with hydrogen peroxide, please be extra careful. It would be best if you never got the peroxide in your pet’s eyes because it can do damage. However, if you have a calm canine, this method is highly effective at restoring their naturally white fur. 

Keeping your white dog looking its best can be a big challenge. Luckily, with the right products and a little extra effort, your pup will stay their beautiful selves. 

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