Helen Roberts, DVM
Tear Stains – Dogs
First, make sure that your dog does not have runny eyes from an infection, irritation, conjunctivitis,allergies, glaucoma, tear duct abnormalities or blockage, or eye lashes or hair growing into the eye. Consult your veterinarian if you have a breed that is pre-disposed to tear stains such as Bichon Frise’, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Lhasa Apso, Pugs, Bulldogs, Toy Poodles, Pekingese, Pomeranians, and mixes of these breeds.
Dog tear stains are caused by an overflow of the tears (epiphora) onto the cheeks. Reddish-brown tear stains are due to porphyrin (iron/magnesium combo) pigments in the stains and not an infection. Clear tears that spill over from the eyes may eventually lead to a bacterial infection causing redness and an odor. Chronic accumulation of tears below the eyes can lead to secondary infections without routine cleaning. Some breeds, due to a genetic eye conformation that reduces drainage of tears, appear to be more prone to getting tear stains. As there can be many causes of epiphora, consult your veterinarian before trying any home remedies as these may make the condition worse.
You might want to explore food without artificial coloring, distilled or filtered water (some minerals are thought to increase staining), and changing from plastic to stainless steel bowls. You can also explore products with tylosin—the active ingredient in ANGELS' EYES™ and Tylan™ powder-- that is gradually added to food. Tylosin is an antibiotic that is made from a bacterium and through an unknown mechanism appears to help eliminate tear staining. You should pay particular attention to the dosage if you choose to use this type of product although the minute dosage recommended is generally safe. It can elevate certain blood liver tests and digoxin blood levels in pets with heart conditions, so consult with your veterinarian. Beet pulp does not cause tear stains.
Tear Stains – Cats
First, make sure that your cat does not have runny eyes from a medical condition such as an upper respiratory infection—generally caused by feline herpes virus-1 (FHV-1) or feline calicivirus (FCV), bacteria, chlamydia or congential defect of the tear ducts. Consult your veterinarian.
Persian cats, due to a genetic eye conformation that can impede tear drainage, appear to be more prone to developing tear stains. Cat tear stains are caused by an overflow of the tears (epiphora) onto the cheeks. Reddish-brown tear stains, which are thought to be due to porphyrin (iron/magnesium combo) pigments in the stains and not an infection, are clear tears that may eventually lead to a bacterial infection causing redness and an odor. Chronic accumulation of tears without routine cleaning can lead to secondary infections. As there can be many causes of epiphora, consult your veterinarian before trying any home remedies as these may make the condition worse.
As for home remedies—consult your veterinarian to determine the source of the tears stains:
Daily washing with warm water – Wash hands, use damp cloth, avoid getting the cloth in the pet’s eyes (increases chances of injury to the cornea and re-infection), use a cotton pad to pat the area dry.
TUMS – antacid to change pH, ½ fruit flavor tablet twice a day – may or may not work and is not recommended due to the potential harm. Some dogs may be prone to bladder stone formation with increased oral calcium intake.
White Vinegar in the water bowl – 1 teaspoon—this can be added to your pet’s water that can change the pH but even with gradual introduction your pet might not like the taste, reduce its water intake thereby risking dehydration
Diluted Hydrogen peroxide—can get in your pet’s eye and harm your pet, and, if ingested, will cause them to vomit. It is not recommended.
Home remedies have risks as they may get in your pet’s eye and cause harm or prove to be ineffective.