Tear Staining: What Is It? What Causes It?

In normal animals, tears are constantly produced and drain out through small ducts in the eyelids. The ducts empty into the nose. In animals with blocked ducts, the tears overflow the lids and run down the face.
Tear staining is usually caused excessive tear production. The tearstains themselves are reddish-brown streaks under a dog’s or cat’s eyes. The condition is much more prevalent in certain breeds (for example, the Maltese, the Lhasa Apso, and the Shih Tzu), and is much more obvious in animals with light-colored coats.
While tear staining is typically no more than a minor annoyance, it can also be a symptom of a serious eye health problem.
Medical causes of tear staining can include:
Ingrown eyelashes
Infection of the eye
Unusually large tear glands
Glaucoma
Entropion (inverted eyelid)
Brachycephalic syndrome (pushed in face breeds)
Ear Infection
Medications
Exposure to secondhand smoke
Poor quality diet
Plastic food bowls
Stress
Teething in puppies

If your pet has tear staining, it’s best that you talk with your veterinarian at your next visit to rule out any medical causes before assuming it is just a matter of too much tear production.

Why Some Pets Have or Show More Tear Staining

Tearstains are typically the result of porphyrins. Porphyrins are naturally occurring molecules containing iron – waste products from the breakdown of red blood cells — and are mostly removed from the body in the usual way (in poop). However, in dogs and cats, porphyrin can also be excreted through tears, saliva, and urine.

When tears and saliva containing porphyrins sit on light-colored fur for any period of time, staining will occur and darken when exposed to sunlight.

Now, if the stains are more of a brown color than rust colored, it’s likely your pet has developed a yeast infection on her face because the fur under her eyes is constantly wet with tears. Brown stains from a yeast infection are different from red staining caused by porphyrins. This can be important to know if you’re trying to resolve brown stains with a product intended for red stains, or vice versa. Yeast infections also have an odor, so if your pet’s face smells, think yeast. Pets can also have both a porphyrin stained face and a secondary yeast infection from the constantly moist skin.

How to Treat Tearstains Safely

You can be proactive in controlling your pet’s tear staining by keeping his face meticulously clean and free of porphyrin-containing moisture. This means gently wiping his face at least twice a day with a soft, warm, damp cloth, keeping his face hair trimmed, and if necessary, making regular appointments with a groomer.

Other suggestions:

Feed a high-quality, balanced, species-appropriate diet. The less unnecessary, indigestible stuff your pet’s body has to deal with, the less stress on her organs of detoxification.

Provide your pet with fresh, filtered drinking water instead of tap water, which is often high in mineral content or iron and other impurities, including chlorine and fluoride, which are toxic to pets.

Replace plastic food and water bowls with stainless steel, porcelain, or glass. Worn plastic containers can harbor bacteria that may irritate your pet’s face.

Milk thistle, dandelion, olive leaf, chlorophyll, colostrum, and probiotics can successfully decrease the amount of staining in pets – I would suggest seeing a holistic vet before using.

Clean your pet’s face with colloidal silver. Apply a little of the colloidal silver to a cotton ball and wipe your pet’s face. Colloidal silver has antimicrobial properties and will help reduce opportunistic yeast infections and moist dermatitis that can occur in the corners of your pet’s eyes.

Consider probiotics. It is being discovered that good intestinal health can be the answer to many problems, including tear staining. All-natural probiotic products put good bacteria and enzymes into the stomach and colon to improve not only digestive issues, but also support a healthy immune system and overall health.

HALO makes an excellent herbal eye wash for pets.

If your dog or cat is prone to excessive crusting or matting in the corners of her eyes, ask your groomer to shave the hair away so you can effectively clean the skin under the eyes. Using a dab of coconut oil on the moist “tracks” of skin where tearstains accumulate can also prevent the skin from becoming irritated and inflamed. When there is a skin infection present, my local veterinary ophthalmologist recommends using a diluted organic, tear-free baby shampoo on the skin twice a day until the infection resolves.
Things not recommend to treat tearstains include: Tums, topical apple cider vinegar (oral is fine), milk of magnesia, hydrogen peroxide, makeup remover, gold bond in any form (or any powder intended for humans), or corn syrup. Additionally, never use human eye drops on pets, except for basic eye saline solution with no additives.
I just recently read that the FDA sent a letter of warning to three manufacturers of tearstain removal products. The reason? They contain the antibiotic tylosin tartrate, which is not approved for use in dogs or cats, or for the treatment of tearstain-related conditions. The companies receiving the letters included the makers of Angels’ Eyes, Angels’ Glow, Pets’
Spark, and two exported products, Glow Groom and Health Glow. One or more of these products may be familiar to you if you’ve ever had a pet with tear staining – though you may not have been aware they contain an antibiotic.

Beastie Boutique carries The Halo Eye Wash, with colloidal silver, coconut oil and high quality pet foods.

 

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