Health & Nutrition

How to Treat Tear Staining in Dogs

How to Treat Tear Staining in Dogs

We have all seen dogs with dark, gross, smelly lines on their faces. These dark-reddish lines typically run from the corner of their eye down along their muzzle. These lines are unsightly and they definitely smell awful!

You will typically see tear stains on small breeds of dogs. Bichons, Cavaliers, Miniature Poodles, Shih Tuz, and others ofter have these unsightly tear stains. But tear stains are not the only for toy breeds. It is more rare but larger breeds of dog can also have tear stains. Tear stains have even been observed on Golden Retrievers!

What Causes Tear Staining?

The moisture of the tears on a dog’s face quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, that’s why they smell so awful! The excess tearing itself can be caused by any number of health issues. From conjunctivitis to eye injuries, to puppy teething and growth, allergies, ear infections, ingrown eyelashes, and poor diet. Further, if your dog is already prone to tear stains, stress can exacerbate the problem.

Options For Getting Ride Of Tear Stains

tear staining in dogs

If the onset of tear stains came quickly then it’s a good idea to check with your holistic vet. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. If your vet finds nothing wrong then you can move to other options.

There are a variety of liquids, powders, and even dietary supplements that all claim to reduce tear stains. Some seem to work quite well. However, many of them have questionable ingredients and you may not want to use on your dog.

Some people will even go to the extreme of putting their dog on antibiotics to get rid of tear stains! This is typically for show dogs and is a rather ridiculous step to jump too. Antibiotics should be saved for life-threatening infections and not used for cosmetic purposes. Learn more about the potential damage of antibiotics in our post about probiotics.

You may also want to look closely at your dog’s whiskers, the ones above his eye especially. Sometimes these will be bent in such a way that they bend down into your dog’s eye. If this happens, you may want to trim that whisker. Typically trimming your dog’s whiskers is not a good thing because the whiskers help your dog navigate the world. But if he has a whisker poking his eye, it is best to trim that whisker.

The Best Way To Get Ride Of Tear Stains

Interestingly, tear stains are one of the few conversations that will bring up the topic of diet. As always a species-appropriate, raw diet is the best option for optimal health, longevity, and getting rid of tear staining! Adding blueberries to the diet has also proven helpful for some dogs with tear staining. Grain seems to be a huge culprit of tear staining so be sure to avoid those for your dog. Be sure to check your dog’s treats for grain too!


A discussion of the proper treatment of tear stains must include a discussion of stress. Stress will often make a dog’s eye water more which in turn will create more stains. It is important that you keep an eye on your dog’s stress level. If possible notice what stresses him, children, other dogs, having company, going to the vet, cats, etc.

Once you are aware of what stresses your dog then you can start to counter-condition your dog. So, that he will no longer be stressed under those conditions. Counter-conditioning is the best way to help your dog get over his stress. Seek the help of a trainer that uses positive training techniques, for the fastest results. If you are in a pinch and can’t train at the moment that one of your dog’s stressors appears, then do your best to avoid the stress or take your dog out of the stressful environment.


Any dog may at some point experience tear staining. Tear staining can be the result of a health concern, stress, poor diet, or other issues. They are quite unsightly. However, in most cases tear staining can be cured with simple dietary changes and stress reduction. A raw, species-appropriate diet is the best way to save your dog’s face for tear stains!