Dog tear stains are very common in certain breeds of dogs with white or light-colored fur. It is a normal bodily function in pups, but it can cause for concern if a non-staining pup suddenly develops the marks.

Why don’t we take a closer look at everything you need to know, including how to clean them properly?


  1. What Are Dog Tear Stains?
  2. Causes and Breeds
  3. Medical Causes Behind Tear Staining in Dogs
  4. Can Dog Food Cause Tear Stains?
  5. Can Dog Tear Stains Be Removed? (And How Do You Do It?)
  6. Dog Tear Stain Prevention
  7. FAQ

What Are Dog Tear Stains?

Dog tear stains, as the name suggests, are pink, pinky-brown, red, or dark brown stains around the eyes, which look like darkened tears. In some breeds, particularly long-haired ones, it is a very common trait. And, for the most part, it is completely benign, will not cause any problems, and is only an aesthetic problem.

Dog tear stains are not the same as weeping or runny dog eyes, which can be a sign of something potentially more serious. You can read more about that RIGHT HERE.

Dog tear stains, as previously mentioned, are totally normal – but only if your pup has always had them. When they are normal, they happen throughout the dog’s whole life.

If tear stains are abnormal, they will appear later, usually as a symptom of another medical condition.

Causes and Breeds

According to research, tear stains are often caused by slightly different things in different dogs. Not all dogs do get tear stains. Some breeds will experience or show dark patches more than others, such as white/light-colored dogs.

Dogs with short noses often experience irritation in the eye area. Because of this, they can have tear staining due to runny or watery eyes more than long-nosed dogs.

Other short-nosed (also known as brachycephalic) dogs that can experience tear staining more frequently include:

  • Bichon Frise;
  • Boston Terrier;
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel;
  • Boxer;
  • French Bulldog;
  • English Bulldog;
  • Pug;
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier;
  • Shar Pei;
  • Chow Chow;
  • Dogue de Bordeaux;
  • Bullmastiff.

Long-haired dogs and dogs with lots of hair around the nose and eyes can experience irritation as a result of the long fur. Again, this can cause tear staining.

Some breeds of dogs are just genetically programmed to have tear stains more than others. These include:

  • Maltese;
  • Poodle;
  • Shih Tzu.

Medical Causes Behind Tear Staining in Dogs

Running and weeping eyes are usually a sign of a more serious medical concern, such as an infection around the eye, clogged tear ducts, abnormal or ingrown lashes, or allergies.

If your dog hasn’t ever had dark tear stains around the eyes but has suddenly developed them, it is recommended that you have them checked out by a vet. It could be the case that your pup has experienced trauma, such as bumping into a table, but it could also be the case that they are experiencing a medical condition that requires treatment, such as an infection.

If you have a pet camera or home recording device, you can monitor your pet and see what they’re up to, and you can rewind the footage of the day and find out what has caused their symptoms. If you don’t, however, you can’t be sure. Therefore, it is better to have them checked, to be on the safe side.

Can Dog Food Cause Tear Stains?

Yes, some dog food, water, and even bowls can cause tear stains, according to researchers. These are known as environmental causes. Plastic food bowls, for example, can cause a reaction in some dogs, which increases dark staining around the eyes. Water that is high in iron can also cause the same, along with other high-mineral waters.

Can Dog Tear Stains Be Removed? (And How Do You Do It?)

Dog tear stains can be removed, although some dogs will always have them.
Keeping the eye area cleaned, regularly wiping away gunk, and making sure your pet is overall fit and healthy will go a long way. Trimming the fur around the eyes, nose, and mouth can also help, but again, some dogs can still experience tear staining even with those preventative methods.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Dog Grooming

Do Dog Tear Stain Removers Work?

There are a lot of dog tear stain removers on the market, but it is highly recommended to check with your vet before using them on your cherished companion. You are using these products around your dog’s eyes, so you’ll want to ensure that they are 100% safe first.

Your vet will likely be able to recommend products for tear stain removal that are safe, suitable for dogs, and endorsed by professionals.

Dog Tear Stain Prevention

There are things you can do to prevent your pup from getting those dark stains around the eyes, but it is a natural process, so it can still happen despite all your efforts.

If you have a long-haired breed or your dog has a lot of hair around the facial area, it is recommended to get the hair trimmed. This will look neater, keep things cleaner for the dog (and your carpets/furniture), and will reduce irritation. In turn, this can help to reduce tear staining around the eyes.

Making sure your dog is kept clean and well-kept is a good idea, regardless of how long their fur is. If it’s been a long time since your pooch last had a bath, maybe it’s time they had one? Dirty fur around the eyes and nose will, obviously, cause irritation. In turn, the irritation can cause weeping and dark tear stains around the eyes.

If your dog gets dark tear stains and/or gunky eyes a lot, it is worth giving them a quick clean at the end of the day. Using warm, clean water and a soft cotton wool ball, carefully wipe around the eye area. This will prevent buildup and reduce the darkness.


Are dog tear stains permanent?

No, dog tear stains are not usually permanent. When your pup gets a haircut, you wipe away the gunk around the eye, or you get the cause of the weeping eye resolved, the dark staining will eventually (usually) go away. Some dogs will always have remnants of those dark areas, however.

Are dog tear stains painful?

No, tear stains are not thought to be painful for dogs. If the stains are caused by unusually gunky or weeping eyes, however, the pup might be suffering from an underlying medical condition that is painful.

Can I use baby wipes to get rid of dog tear stains?

No, it is not advised to use baby wipes or any other type of human wipe (such as makeup removal) on dogs. Human formulas aren’t designed for the skin of your precious pups. You could cause a skin reaction, a serious allergic reaction, or more.

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