How to Clean a Maltese's Eyes

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Maltese dogs are popular, playful, charming, small dogs known for their flowing, long fur that is frequently tied up on the top of their head. Thanks to the characteristic single or double bow holding long hair out of the dog's face, the big, dark Maltese eyes are a focal point of the cute face.

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Maltese usually have bows in their hair.
Image Credit: Raquel Artero/Moment/GettyImages

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However, these aristocratic dogs originally from Malta are prone to tear staining — an undesirable discoloration particularly obvious on white dogs. Cleaning Maltese eyes involves keeping the area around the eyes dry rather than wetting the face, which might be your first impulse. Preventing tear staining is easier than removing it.

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Maltese eye problems

Tear staining is common, especially in small dogs, like Maltese. Tear staining is a reddish discoloration of the fur under the eyes caused by excess tear production, called epiphora. Because the eyes are constantly tearing, the fur under the eyes is constantly wet.

The actual stain under the dog's eyes is a result of iron-containing porphyrins. Porphyrins are produced when the body breaks down red blood cells that are then excreted through tear ducts. Exposure to light causes them to darken.

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Some tear staining is common in Maltese, but excessive tearing can be a sign of a medical issue, which should be ruled out by a vet. Medical causes of excessive Maltese tearing include ingrown eyelashes, eye infections, blocked tear ducts, damage to the cornea, or glaucoma. Other causes include allergens, stress, hormonal changes, and hair in the eyes. So, securing Maltese hair with bows is more than just cute; it serves a practical purpose.

Keeping a Maltese face clean

Gently wipe the Maltese face daily or, even better, several times a day with a dry cloth or tissue. You want to keep the area beneath the eyes dry, not wet, so don't wipe with liquid products or water. You can also use a flea comb to remove dried debris. Additionally, using air purifiers in the house can help if allergens are causing excessive tearing.

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Because the eyes are constantly tearing, the fur under the eyes is constantly wet.
Image Credit: Utenzilije/iStock/GettyImages

After a vet consultation, other options include changing diet (because food allergies can contribute to tear staining), adding a probiotic to meals, or giving the dog distilled water rather than tap water that is high in minerals. Also, trim the hair around the edge of the eyes to prevent tears from running down the face. If the issue is blocked tear ducts, the vet might have to unplug them regularly.

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Tear stain remover for Maltese

First, identifying the cause of the excessive tearing is important. Second, regular maintenance, such as wiping the face daily, is essential because preventing tear staining is easier than removing it.

Finding a good tear stain remover for Maltese might take some trial and error. Many companies sell tear stain wipes. Some might work better than others depending on the dog, but removing existing stains is challenging, especially on white dogs, like the Maltese. You might need to try different brands of wipes.

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Food allergies can contribute to tear staining.
Image Credit: Sebastian Condrea/Moment/GettyImages

Other Maltese enthusiasts recommend a homemade remedy. Mix a pinch of cornstarch with a pinch of boric acid powder and then gently rub it into the wet hair stain, carefully avoiding the eyes. Leave it in the fur until the cornstarch dries the area. Eventually, the boric acid will lighten the stain, but to see any results, you'll have to do this every day for several weeks. Maltese tear stains are stubborn, so prevention is the best course of action.

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