Dog Tear Stains – Causes & Treatment

If you witness red or brown markings under your dog’s eyes, your dog most probably has developed tear stains.

What exactly are tear stains? In dogs, they appear as red or brown markings beneath their eyes. These stains result from an excess of porphyrin, a pigment found in a dog’s tears, saliva, or urine.

Stains under a dog’s eyes can happen to any dog, big or small. They’re easier to see on dogs with light-colored furs, like a Maltese, Poodle, or Cavapoo.

If you have such a light-colored dog that has got tear stains under its eyes and you are trying to find and treat or eliminate the root cause of this problem, keep reading this article.

In this article, you’ll find everything about tear stains, pink eye, and related phenomena.

Are Tear Stains Harmful?

Typically, the red or brown stains around a dog’s eyes are caused by the porphyrin pigment in their tears. These stains don’t hurt your dog, and they are not harmful to their health. However, in certain situations, tear stains might be a sign of various medical conditions that require proper treatment.

Common Medical Conditions:

An infection:

Dogs might get a skin infection around or inside their eyes, and there are a few possible reasons, like persistent moisture or yeast. If there’s an eye infection, the stain color would be more brown than red. Dogs might also display signs of eye irritation and itchiness.

Therefore, if you notice your dog has brownish tear stains or is frequently scratching or pawing at their eyes, it’s important to have them examined by a vet. Only a vet can accurately diagnose the underlying cause.

Genetical issue:

These tear stains are more common in certain breeds, especially those with a brachycephalic (short-muzzled) face shape. Breeds like Maltese, Pug, French Bulldog, and others with this facial structure are more prone to developing tear stains under their eyes.

Ingrown eyelashes:

Distichiasis, also referred to as abnormal eyelash growth, can be an irritating condition for dogs. While any breed can experience this, it is more common in certain breeds like Golden Retriever, Poodle, and Dachshund. Fortunately, there are different treatment options available, both surgical and non-surgical, to address this medical condition.


Between the ages of 3 weeks and 7 months, puppies go through the teething process, and you might notice tear stains around their eyes. This happens because a lot of water is released from the puppy’s eyes due to the pressure on the tear ducts during these months, causing the stains. However, there’s no need to be overly concerned, as this usually goes away after the teething period.

Non-medical Reasons:

Elevated levels of iron and minerals in water:

Higher levels of iron and other minerals in the drinking water can contribute to your dog’s tear stains. If you think the water might have high amounts of iron or minerals, it’s advisable to have it tested by a trustworthy water testing lab. If the test confirms the presence of high levels, you may want to consider giving your dog distilled or bottled water instead.


Excessive tearing in a dog’s eyes, leading to tear stains, can often be attributed to smoke exposure. This may include smoke from indoor fireplaces, cigarettes, or industrial sources. It’s important to note that exposure to smoke can not only contribute to tear stains but may also pose significant health risks to the dog’s lungs and respiratory system.

To address this issue, ensure that there is no indoor smoke production. Additionally, prevent outdoor smoke from entering your house by closing off any open pathways. The same precaution applies in the case of dust.

How to Treat Tear Stains in Dogs?

Now that you’re aware of various reasons that cause tear stains in dogs and effective methods to address the root causes, the next step is to eliminate these stains. However, if your dog’s eyes exhibit serious issues like redness, excessive discharge, or signs of infection, it’s crucial to seek veterinary treatment first. Once you’ve ruled out medical concerns, and if these stains are due to excess porphyrin or non-health-related conditions, you can try the following methods to remove them. Before attempting any stain removal, make sure you’ve completed the checklist provided below.

  • Have the drinking water tested in a laboratory, and if it shows elevated levels of iron and/or other minerals, consider switching to distilled or bottled water.
  • If your dog has any medical conditions like an infection or allergy, ensure you’ve consulted with the vet.
  • Your dog isn’t genetically predisposed to this condition, and if they are, follow the advice of your vet accordingly.

If you have taken care of these issues, the next step is to work on the removal of these stains.

Clip the Stained Fur Around Your Dog’s Eyes

While this is a temporary fix, it can be effective if you’re short on time. Ensure your dog is calm and settled before trimming the hair to avoid accidentally causing any harm.

Apply Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide can be used as a homemade solution for removing eye stains. Mix 1.5 teaspoons of Hydrogen Peroxide in 4 ounces of water, stirring to create the solution. Apply this mixture to the infected area using a cotton ball. After it is dried, wash and rinse it off with lukewarm water.

Be cautious during the application, ensuring it does not come in contact with the eyes, as it could be highly irritating for your dog.

Opt for Stain Remover Wipes

These non-toxic and chemical-free wipes bear no adverse effects on the dog’s health and are totally safe. These wipes are easily usable, making them a safe choice. They effectively eliminate stains under your dog’s eyes, and you can use them regularly to prevent tear stains from recurring.

Use Supplements to Treat Stains

Explore the range of supplements for dogs available online and offline. These are crafted from natural ingredients, aiming to assist your dogs in combatting bacteria that lead to stains. However, it’s important to consult with your vet to select the most suitable option for your dog.

FAQs About Dog Tear Stains

Many issues, both directly and indirectly connected to this condition, are often associated by dog parents with other problems.

How can I manage my dog’s frequent eye allergies?

To manage allergy in your dog’s eyes, it’s crucial to identify the root cause first. Common triggers for eye allergies in dogs include dust, smoke, grass pollen, mold, fleas, dander, hair, and certain medications. There may be other potential causes as well.

It is essential to eliminate these allergens from your home (indoor & outdoor) and then seek veterinary treatment for your dog.

Why is excessive water discharged from my dog’s eye(s)?

Possible reasons for your dog’s excessive eye water discharge may include infection, allergies, exposure to smoke, the presence of a foreign object in the eye, or an underlying medical condition. If you’re unsure of the cause, it’s advisable to promptly consult with your vet.

How to identify infections in dog’s eyes?

The most common symptoms of infection are:

  • Swollen eyes
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Yellowish thick and smelly eye discharge
  • Excessive blinking
  • Excessive water discharge
  • Excessive rubbing or pawing at the eyes

You can witness these symptoms in one or both eyes.

What are the major types of discharge from a dog’s eyes?

White discharge: Causes of white eye discharge may include allergies, dry eyes, or conjunctivitis.

Yellow or greenish discharge: This type of discharge may indicate a bacterial infection or corneal ulcers.

Watery eye discharge: This can result from allergies, the presence of a foreign object, a wound, or blocked tear ducts. Some breeds may be predisposed to watery eye discharge due to anatomical abnormalities.

Can Humans get eye infections from dogs?

Indeed, various eye-related infections can be transmitted between dogs and humans. Therefore, if your dog has developed an eye infection or the eyes have an excessive water discharge, it’s advisable to avoid direct contact. Also, if you have an eye infection, take precautions when you are playing with your dog.

Does a certain diet cause tear stains in dogs?

Certainly, specific foods or ingredients in your dog’s diet could be causing tear stains. If you suspect this, consider changing your dog’s food or consult with your vet to determine the most suitable food for your dog.

Which dog breeds are prone to getting tear stains under their eyes?

Tear stains are common in most dogs, but certain breeds like Shih Tzu, Pug, Poodles, Cocker Spaniel, Boston Terrier, and others are more prone to developing tear stains.


Do not ignore dog tear stains, as they could indicate a potential health issue. While rare, in severe cases, they might even lead to blindness (partial or complete) in dogs.

If you notice tear stains around your dog’s eyes, identify the root cause before addressing it. In the majority of cases, this condition is not life-threatening, and your dog typically doesn’t experience any pain.

Recommended read – Maltipoo Dog Guide