Tear Stain Myths and Misconceptions     

In recent times we’ve heard all sorts of reasons for tear stains from food ingredients to eye crust causing these stains.  We’ve known for years it’s the over production of tears and the fluid itself that causes the staining.  Certain breeds are more prone to over production and there is no cure for the over production. However there are steps you can take to reduce and eliminate tear stains if you start with the understanding of what it is and the cause.     

Tear Staining: What Is It? What Causes It?     

By Dr. Karen Becker     

Tear staining is usually caused by epiphora, which is the technical word for excessive tear production. The tearstains themselves are reddish-brown streaks under a dog's (or cat's) eyes. The condition is much more prevalent in certain breeds (for example, the Maltese, the Lhasa Apso, and the Shih Tzu), and is much more obvious in animals with light-colored coats. While tear staining is typically no more than a minor annoyance, it can also be a symptom of a serious eye health problem.     

Medical causes of tear staining can include:     

Ingrown eyelashes     

Infection of the eye     

Unusually large tear glands     

Unusually small tear duct openings     

Glaucoma or another eye disease     

Entropion (inverted eyelid)     

Brachycephalic syndrome     

Ear infection     


Exposure to secondhand smoke     

Poor-quality diet     

Plastic food bowls     


Teething in puppies     

If you have a dog or cat with tear staining, I recommend talking about it with your veterinarian at your next appointment. It's important to rule out medical causes before you assume it's a     

Why Some Pets Have or Show More Tear Staining     

Tear stains are typically the result of porphyrins. Porphyrins are naturally occurring molecules containing iron — waste products from the breakdown of red blood cells -- and are mostly removed from the body in the usual way (in poop). However, in dogs and cats, porphyrin can also be excreted through tears, saliva, and urine.     

When tears and saliva containing porphyrins sit on light-colored fur for any period of time, staining will occur. And if it seems your pet's tear stains are worse after he's been outside, you're not imagining things. The iron-containing stains do indeed darken when exposed to sunlight.     

Now, if the stains are more of a brown color than rust colored, it's likely your pet has developed a yeast infection on her face because the fur under her eyes is constantly wet with tears. Brown stains from a yeast infection are different from red staining caused by porphyrins.     

This can be important to know if you're trying to resolve brown stains with a product intended for red stains, or vice versa. Yeast infections are also odiferous, so if your pet's face smells, think yeast. Pets can also have both a porphyrin stained face and a secondary yeast infection from the constantly moist skin.      

To confuse matters further, currently, we can only guess at why some dogs make more porphyrin than others (and therefore have more tear staining). We can assume genetics and innate bacterial levels are involved, because certain breeds and lineages can be more prone to staining.     

How to Treat Tear stains Safely     

You can do a lot to control your pet's tear staining by keeping his face meticulously clean and free of porphyrin-containing moisture. This means gently wiping his face at least twice a day with a soft, warm, damp cloth, keeping his face hair trimmed, and if necessary, making regular appointments with a groomer.     

Other suggestions:      

“*The Urban dog has carried Eye Envy for years; we chose this product because of the natural and organic ingredients and the fact they do not use antibiotics like other brands.”     

*Feed a high-quality, balanced, species-appropriate diet. The less unnecessary, indigestible stuff your pet's body has to deal with, the less stress on her organs of detoxification.     

*Provide your pet with fresh, filtered drinking water instead of tap water, which is often high in mineral content or iron and other impurities, including chlorine and fluoride, which are toxic to pets.     

*Replace plastic food and water bowls with stainless steel, porcelain, or glass. Worn plastic containers can harbor bacteria that may irritate your pet's face. 

If your dog or cat is prone to excessive crusting or matting in the corners of her eyes, ask your groomer to shave the hair away so you can effectively clean the skin under the eyes. Using a dab of coconut oil on the moist "tracks" of skin where tear stains accumulate can also prevent the skin from becoming irritated and inflamed.     

Need more information on tear stains come see us at the store!