So many darling dog faces are tainted with unsightly stains by their eyes. The dirty-colored fur beneath the puppy eyes make it look as if the pet has the same dark circles that plague humans who lack sleep. Most evident on dogs with lighter coats and white fur, tear staining can make even the cleanest of faces look grubby or sickly. Below are the details what tear staining is, and what causes this condition.

What is tear staining?

Tear stains are the pink, red, or brownish streaks below a dog or cat’s eyes. These streaks stain the fur if the pet’s eyes are agitated, creating an over production of tears, or if they eyes are unable to adequately drain the tears. The liquid then runs down out of the corner of the eye, creating a damp path where dust, grime and “eye goop” can cling, and bacteria can grow, staining the coat over time. Tear staining is usually considered a cosmetic issue that consists of nothing more than an unattractively stained fur, however this concept is incorrect. Tear staining can indicate a pre-existing health problems and eye irritations, and leaving the condition unchecked can create skin irritation or possible infection if not cleaned properly.

What causes tear staining?

Tear staining is usually caused by an overproduction of tears (called epiphora) or the inability to drain tears properly. This can occur in breeds with prominent eyes that are more exposed to dust, dirt, hair, bacteria and other particles that cause infection, or by ill-placed, twisted or ingrown eyelashes. Larger eyes also stretch the eyelid, which can constrict the natural drainage of tears. Tear staining can also be an indication of more serious health concerns or physical complications. Dogs that have tear stains on their face may be suffering from poor nutrition, allergies, eyes infections or eye ulcers and inflammation of the cornea.

Breeds that Often Have Tear Staining

Though the evidence of tear staining is most common on animals with light fur, this condition exists in many dogs regardless of their coat color. Staining is more likely to afflict the following breeds:

  • Malteses
  • Bichon Friseés
  • Poodles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Greyhounds
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Shih Tzus
  • Chihuahuas
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Papillons
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranians

NOTE: Cats can also stuffer from tear staining, particularly the Persian breeds, Ragdolls, and other white cats.