One of the most frequent questions that I am asked as a groomer is how to prevent tear stains under their dogs eyes. There is nothing that spoils a dog's cute expression more than dark red tear stains under their eyes and around their mouth. These stains can be prevented and cured.
There are several reasons why tears cause staining. The most common is that when the hair and skin is wet it causes a low grade bacterial infection or a red yeast infection. Other causes could be a blocked tear duct, ear infections, genetics, allergies, food and possibly the water they drink.
There are several methods of curing tear staining and you may have to experiment a bit with what works for your dog. Remember when trying any of these that the results may not be immediately visible. It takes time for the tearing to slow and for the stained hair to grow out.
Probably the best way to prevent and cure tear stains is with a trip to your vet. A low dosage of tetracycline for about 2 weeks has been found to be very effective at curing tear staining that is due to bacterial or yeast infection but your vet will be able to make the proper diagnosis and recommend treatment. They will also be able to determine if the staining is caused by a blocked or closed tear duct that might require surgery.
In addition to whatever method your veterinarian suggests, you can help the process along by following these steps daily. Make sure that your dog's hair is not sticking up or falling into the eye and irritating it. Trim the hair or pull it up in a top knot. Then take a cotton ball and putting a drop or two of regular Visine on it. Gently rub under the eye on the stain. This will help to dry the area as well as neutralize stains themselves. Once you have the area clean and dry, you can take a tiny amount of petroleum jelly and smooth the hair down and out of the eye.
If your dog has staining around the mouth, you may want to make sure that your dog food does not have artificial coloring in it. Many dog foods have coloring that will cause staining. Also make sure that you are using stainless steel food and water bowls. Plastic bowls or cracked or chipped ceramic bowls can harbor the bacteria that cause staining around the mouth. Adding a little vinegar (1 tsp per quart) can help to change the ph balance and eliminate some staining. It takes a little effort to get your dog to actually drink this so start small with tsp per quart and work up slowly to 1 tsp.
There are many commercial products on the market that claim to reduce or eliminate tear stains such as Angel Eyes. I have heard various reports of whether they work fabulously well or not at all. I think that results with them are probably determined by what the cause of the eye stains is. Others simply bleach out the stains and do nothing to actually help prevent them. Just like bleaching your own hair, repeated use of bleach is going to dry the hair out and cause breakage.
Your groomer will trim the stained hair away from the eye as well as trimming any hair that might be falling into the eye. With regular grooming, this will keep tear staining to a minimum but removing the hair is only a temporary cure at best. Eliminating the cause along with good grooming is the way to keep your dog looking its best and healthiest.