You might’ve seen marks under your dog’s eyes and thought of it as no cause for concern. However, a deeper look into the issues underlying what are called tear stains will tell you why it matters and how to get rid of it.
What are Tear Stains?
Tear stains are reddish-brown marks under a dog’s eyes, which are observed in some dogs more than others. As such discolouration is more visible on dogs with light coloured fur, this does not indicate the presence of the condition. In fact, the prevalence of the condition is largely dependent on the dog’s breed.
A dog with tear stains
Epiphora, also known as excessive tearing, is the cause for tear stains. Usually, tear ducts drain fluids in the eyes, but a malfunction – or, the inability to drain tears properly – can cause overflow of tears onto the face.
Since epiphora is a symptom of medical conditions such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma and allergies, do keep a lookout for excessive tearing in your dog. Breed-wise, as a result of genetics and heredity, short-nosed breeds including Pekingeses, Malteses and Pugs have protuberant eyes. In this case, tearing can occur due to eye irritation. Genetically, breeds such as Poodles and Cocker Spaniels are more likely to have imperforate puncta – where tear ducts are improperly developed such that tears are blocked from being drained.
Tear stains can be different in colour due to different causes. Reddish stains occur from a buildup of iron-containing porphyrin, a pigment found in tears. Such stains can darken when exposed to sunlight. Meanwhile, brownish stains occur in the presence of a yeast infection on the skin.
Before self-treatment, always take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical cause of epiphora. In the meantime, you can carry out simple grooming at home to improve its condition. At least twice-weekly, use a warm towel to clean the area around your dog’s eyes. This prevents the buildup of porphyrin and can even slow the spread of yeast infection. Additionally, do keep your its fur trimmed around its eyes to reduce irritation and overproduction of tears. Should your dog be pawing at its eyes, consider using an Elizabethan collar to avoid further damage.
As with all medical conditions, the treatment for epiphora depends on the cause. Should the condition persist despite regular grooming, then a trip to the vet is recommended. For medical-related causes, your vet will be able to advise on the next course of action to take. For tear stains associated with allergies, the vet may prescribe antihistamines. Otherwise, your vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist to find out the exact cause for excessive tearing in your dog.
While tear stains do affect your dog’s appearance, keep in mind the more pressing health problems related. Once you’ve ruled out any medical causes, you can start help your pet maintain good hygiene and, in turn, a good appearance.