Why Dogs' Eyes Get Teary and Stained

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What to do if your dog's eyes constantly tear and leave rust-colored stains beneath her eyes? Although tear-staining is common, and especially noticeable in dogs with light-colored faces, it can mean that your dog suffers from an eye disease or congenital deformity. If you're concerned, it's always best to take your pet to the vet for a thorough examination, diagnosis and treatment.

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Epiphora in Dogs

Ephiphora is the veterinary term for excessive tearing. Common causes include small tear ducts, tear duct inflammation or a plugged tear duct, foreign objects in the tear duct and ingrown eyelashes. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, causes inflammation of the eye's conjunctiva, the mucous membranes lining the eye. Not only is ephiphora a sign of conjunctivitis, but a severe bout of the condition can cause tear duct scarring resulting in constant discharge. Other eye diseases, including glaucoma or corneal ulcers, can cause ephiphora. Depending on the problem, your vet might refer your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist for treatment.


Canine Facial Structure

The facial structure of some dog breeds predisposes them to excessive tearing. That's especially true of dogs with shallow eye sockets, including the bichon frise, poodle, Maltese, cocker spaniel and Shih Tzu. In general, brachycephalic, or short-nosed, breeds have facial structures and skinfolds predisposing them to ephiphora. These include the pug, bulldog, Pekingese, Lhasa apso and boxer.

Dietary Changes

If your vet can't find any physical reason for your dog's excessive tearing, she might recommend some dietary changes to solve or reduce the problem. Feed your dog a high-quality food free of dyes. You might provide distilled water for him to drink, rather than tap water. Tap water, especially if it originates from wells, might have a high iron content. The iron could cause normal tearing to appear rust-colored.


Tear Stain Removal

Although you can buy over-the-counter tear stain removal products, always check with your vet before making such a purchase. She can recommend a product or advise against using specific substances on your dog. Washing your dog's face regularly with tear-free soap can keep stains at bay. In severe cases, your vet might prescribe antibiotics to reduce tear staining, as these medications can eliminate tear stain formation in some circumstances. However, it's not good for your dog's overall health to take antibiotics for primarily cosmetic reasons over the long term.


By Jane Meggitt


WebMD: Dogs and Tear Stains
VCA Animal Hospitals: Eye Discharge or Epiphora in Dogs
Pet Place: Epiphora (Excessive Tearing) in Dogs
Bichon Frise Club of America: Tearing and Tear Staining
Veterinary Partner: Runny Eyes (Epiphora)

About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.