Awww, we’ve all seen those puppies that look like they’re always crying, totally adorable aren’t they? But is tear staining normal or something to worry about? It’s most common in white dogs such as Maltese Terriers, Bichon Frise, Westies and Lhasa Apsos. 

Tear staining is not unusual in puppies and can occur for a few different reasons, some related to health, others such as the shape of your puppy’s eyes or blocked tear ducts.

If you’re worried about tear staining then read on we’ve got it all covered here including:

  • Why does your puppy have tear stains?
  • What to do if your puppy has tear stains.
  • Deciding if you need to see your vet about your puppy’s tear stains.
  • How you can prevent tear stains in puppies. 

If your puppy has tear stains, one of the things you’ll want to do is get them used to handling and grooming, we have help for that in the Zigzag puppy training app, as well as lessons on Life Skills, socialisation, habituation, and we take you through each stage of your puppies development. Also on hand is our team of fully qualified dog trainers and behaviourists to talk you through any of your pressing puppy concerns. 

White cockapoo puppy
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Why does my puppy have tear stains?

So here’s the science…tear stain discolouration is due to a chemical that is naturally occurring in the body called porphyrin. Porphyrin is a molecule that contains iron. When porphyrin builds up in the eye it is excreted as tears and rusty or red stains appear on the fur. Porphyrin can also build up in saliva and urine. 

Your puppy might have tear stains due to:

  • Overproduction of tears – if your puppy has watery eyes this can cause staining on the fur.
  • Your puppy’s eye shape – some puppies are more likely to get tear stains as their eye sockets are shallow and so tears run out the front rather than down through the nose. You may see this in white-coloured French Bulldogs or fawn-coloured Pugs due to their light fur and brachycephalic skull shape.
  • Blocked tear ducts – blocked tear ducts will mean your puppy’s eyes can’t drain effectively
  • Entropion – another eye disorder can cause overproduction of tears and tear staining
  • Cherry eye – Cherry eye is a problem with the third eyelid (yes dogs have three eyelids) becoming stuck out and can make the eyes produce more tears and stain your puppy’s fur.
  • Teething – teething puppies produce more tears so you will see tear staining increase at these times.

What to do when your puppy has tear stains

If you have a puppy with tear stains, you’re probably wondering what you can do about them. Here are some suggestions

Use a cleaner on your puppy’s tear stains

The first thing you’ll probably want to do is clean the stains away. Products like Pro Pooch Tear Stain Remover say they help to treat and prevent puppy eye stains. Diamond Eyes has been around a long time, and although the product smells quite strong, it does get rave reviews. 

Check what food you feed your puppy eats

Some foods that contain a high amount of red meat and so more iron may contribute to your puppy’s tears staining, although the evidence is a bit scarce. Your puppy should be fed a high quality, complete food without too many preservatives or chemical additives.

Give your puppy filtered or distilled water 

Minerals in bottled or tap water can lead to puppy tear staining. Some people use a water filter or distilled water to remove the minerals.

See if allergies are causing puppy tear stains

Your puppy may have a food or environmental allergy-causing excessive tear production and tear staining. Try an elimination or home made diet, and keep a diary of your puppy’s tear-straining when they eat certain foods. If you’re home cooking for your puppy or feeding a raw diet make sure they have the correct balanced nutrition for a puppy. 

Consider herbs for tear stains

Herbs, such as chamomile, can be used to clean puppy tear stains, whereas products like apple cider vinegar can be added to their water. 

dog running on grass
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

When should I take my puppy to the vet?

When your puppy has tear stains, knowing when to take your puppy to the vet can be tricky. There is a lot of advice online about treating tear stains in puppies, but if your puppy has any of the following, do talk to your vet rather than just trying to DIY it at home.

Puppy has watery eyes 

If your puppy has watery eyes, and is tearing excessively, contact your vet for advice, it could be an ulcer or other eye problem that you cannot and shouldn’t try to fix yourself.

Puppy has crusty eyes

If your puppy wakes up with tear stains and their eyes are crusty, with a yellow discharge, this can be conjunctivitis and will need veterinary treatment.

Puppy has cherry eye or entropion

If you see your puppy’s tear duct or third eyelid bulging, or their eyelids don’t look right, definitely call your vet for advice. It could be cherry eye or entropion, and your Vet will want to help you. 

If tear staining has developed suddenly in your puppy

Yep you got it, call the vet! Any sudden physical or behavioural changes in a puppy should be followed up with a vet. Eyes are precious, so best to be on the safe side

Tips for tear stain prevention in puppies 

To prevent tear stains in puppies, you can try the following:

  • Keep the area dry – when you see your puppy’s eyes run, blot the tears with a kitchen towel so that they don’t have a chance to sit on the fur and cause it to go that rusty colour
  • Make sure your puppy has a regular grooming and eye cleaning routine. If there is dirt and debris around your puppy’s eyes, that will not be good for them. Make sure you clean their eyes, trim the hair around them, and use a dry shampoo on your puppy’s under-eye area and muzzle to help keep it clean and free of tear stains. 
  • Feed your puppy filtered non-mineral water. No need to reach for the pricey mineral water as this can worsen tear stains, but using a filter might help.
  • Try food supplements or herbs to help reduce puppy tear stains – apple cider vinegar can be added to water.
white Chihuahua with tear stains
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Did that answer your questions on how to deal with tear staining in puppies? We hope so, While you’re here, you might want to have a read of our article on why is my puppy biting their tail

Do you want to learn more about how easily you can raise a happy, confident, well-behaved puppy? Download the Zigzag puppy training app today and start your puppy training journey. We’ve got the puppy coach team on hand 24/7, yes literally day and night! to help answer all your questions, you are not on your own.