Tear Stains: Learn the Truth
For a short time, our tear stain questionnaire is still available. 2,626 people have taken it so far. Join us.
If people had tear stains, we’d surely know why. I’m hoping we’ll have the answers about dogs soon. 2,856 people have taken our in-depth questionnaire. Stay tuned for more news on our analysis by following us on Twitter or Facebook or e-mail us at
For almost a decade, I’ve been researching and writing about the causes of tear stains – and safe cures. (I’m the author of an award-winning book on holistic dog care — Scared Poopless — and proud mom of five Maltese who used to have stains.) Though staining is generally perceived as a little-white-dog problem, it afflicts large dogs as well. Even black dogs have stains though you can’t always see them.
Why does all this matter? Isn’t tear and beard staining just a cosmetic issue? I wish it were! Staining is an indication that something is wrong, sometimes seriously wrong, with the dog’s diet, environment or health. Sadly, underlying causes of the staining often go untreated while only the symptoms are addressed.
Antibiotic use: Compounding problems, people who’ve tried everything else to banish stains may resort to using products containing unspecified amounts of antibiotics; they may use them for months or years not even realizing that the product does contain antibiotics. This can lead to intestinal dysbiosis; antibiotics kill good intestinal bacteria along with the bad. Second, it can also lead to antibiotic resistance, a serious problem for the dog, the dog’s family and the world. Third, the FDA deems these products unsafe and untested. Learn more about all this at Dog Tear Stains: Everything You’ve Been Told is Wrong.
We’re hoping to disprove all those crazy tear stain myths, see why only some dogs stain, learn what works to safely clear up staining — and what doesn’t.
Please tell us your tear stain stories below or on our Tear Stains Truth Facebook page. No spamming with tear stain products ads, please. We’ll zap them!
Hi, my 1 yr old maltese still has stains despite drinking alkaline water in a stainless bowl, eating quality food, I am also applying tear stain remover on her face. Can you advise what I am missing?
Juds, I feel your pain! Water should be pure; I don’t think alkaline really is important. What is the “quality food”?
Hi- we have a white Schnoodle. He is almost 10 months old and traces of the tear stains began around 5 months and were fully apparent around 6. At first only the left eye was bad with just a hint on the right, but now both are full orange circles with the stain down the facial hair. We switched him from the basic Purina puppy chow to grain free Blue Buffalo around 4-5 months and he’s been on it ever since but the stains have only gotten worse. He’s also been on distilled water and cleaning his eyes / stains with an all natural topical. Supposedly the food is a good one but given the timing I wonder if we should switch, but looking for advice on where to go food wise if we’re already doing grain free.
Stephanie, I much prefer filtered to distilled water. Just make sure it’s not bottled tap water, which a lot of it is.
Re food, did you stick with the same protein in the two foods? That is, both chicken or both beef, etc.?
I hope you take the tear stain questionnaire.
Can you please help me, my bichon is 13 months old, wen we got him he was fine with no tears as has time has gone on he has become worse, I’ve tryed everything, tear drops, shampooing him including his stains every wk, got a filter water machine with funnel too, bathed his eyes every night & still seams to get worse x please please can you give me some advice??? Many thanks sue
Sue, your first thing to consider is food. What are you feeding? Something new is causing the stains. It could also be local allergies. You might also want to take my tear stain questionnaire. It may give you some ideas.
He has always had Gusto dried puppy food??? This is were we have him cut xx
Sue, the food is likely the problem. First, he’s no longer a puppy. Why is he on puppy food?
Second, look at the ingredients: Cereals, Meat & animal derivatives (min 14% poultry and 4% beef meal), Oils & fats, Derivatives of vegetable origin, Vegetables (min 4%), Minerals Additives That’s about as bad as you can get. Cereal should never be an ingredient, let alone the main ingredient. What are animal derivatives? Probably what Americans call by-products. And “animal” means the worst of the worst of road kill. Buy a better food or expect lots of vet bills. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s my opinion.
Thank you for your advice, this is brilliant, but can I ask which dried food that you may recommend please to help jasper with his eye tears plus his food balance, sorry about the questions but this is my 1st dog.
I have a 9 year old grey poodle mix and he used to have horrible tear stains. He was on the Orijen kibble and drank tap water. About 6 months ago he was diagnosed with IBD and we had to switch his diet to the Honest Kitchen grain free base mix and home cooked pork as the protein. He also gets keifer poured on top once a day. Since switching him his tear stains are completely gone as well as the stains around his mouth! He also gets raw bones to aid with dental health and he has excellent teeth.
Ashley, thanks for your response. HK is a great food. And you’re a great parent. If you have time to fill out our questionnaire, it would be really helpful to others. I’ve taken down the public link, but you can still take it here. We’re had 2552 people take it.
We have a 4-year old white, neutered male bichon frisé. The only times he has had tear stains have been when he was living with the breeders from whom we got him. Their other bichons have tear stains, too. We left our boy with them for a few weeks last summer while we were in England and came back to find he had tear stains. They disappeared after being home for a month or so. I suspect that the condition is diet-related. We alternate Instinct Raw frozen beef or frozen chicken with Castor & Pollux grain-free canned food. We supplement these with Wellness grain-free small breed formula kibble. Finally, we give him filtered water with a little Healthy Mouth added. I also brush his teeth nightly.
Okay, Ray. You’re a world class dog parent. In my tear stain questionnaire, I ask about the situation you described. It may be the better food or water you provide. Or it may be better dental health. Dogs can pass inflammation-causing bacteria from mouth to mouth. I hope you talk to your breeder about this. And I really hope you’ll take the questionnaire. And ask your breeder to take it as well. Unfortunately, today is the last day, so act fast.
I have three Havanese. Two never have any tear staining and one has it badly. All eat the same food from Fromm and drink the same water. Any suggestions?
Anne, there is no easy answer. Maybe two of your dogs are genetically stronger when it comes to reacting to inflammation. Or one is weaker. Their health can’t all be the same. Do they all process food the same? Unlikely. Something is going on: Something you shouldn’t ignore. Staining is your friend. Let it help you make your dog healthier. I hope you’ll take the questionnaire. It may give you some ideas.
Hi! My dog is 3 years old and had the tearstains when we first brought him home, then we switchen him to high quality foods like Orijen and other (2-3) higher rated brands, all grain free and we rotate without problems! Also since day one here he mostly drinks filtered water from our fridge filter! Every once in a while he drinks regular water but not very often! He has no tear stains he is a light apricot poodle mix and his brother and momma have some tear staining! I also always keep his eyes clean ( no buggers allowed lol) anyways I believe it is water quality good food and hygiene combo, that keeps him nice and bright looking! I also wonder what could be in the tap water? Flouride? Chlorine? All the chemicals in Tap water???
Diana, you’re doing a lot of the right things. Sadly, the food/water routine works for some dogs and not for others. It depends on what their problem is. I switched my rescue dog Mulligan from cheap kibble to organic raw and he got worse. Food wasn’t his problem.
I have 3 Maltese-all 3 have bad staining. We have terrible tap water here, which is what they drink. We are putting in a brand new,not yet on the market, residential water filtration unit which my husband has been a huge part in the making of this system. I can hardly wait to see if this will improve the staining. I have tasted the water cleaned through this system, and it’s the purest tasting water I have ever tasted. Beats bottled water hands down. I am not trying to promote or sell this system, as I’ve no investment in this company. I’m just commenting that I think the staining is coming from our tap water, which I also think may be a huge cause of tooth decay,too. Just my opinion.
Lynn, thanks for your comment. Yes, that can be the problem. But it may also be something else. I’d love it if you’d write after the system has been in a while.
My Coton de Tulear was very white faced at 4 years old..we happened to get a surprise Christmas puppy last year a shitzu-poodle mix a male also..since he’s gotten tear and muzzle stains…could it be from the other dog?
Brenda, it’s possible. They could be sharing bacteria, particularly dental bacteria.
My bichon frise is 1 year old. Her staining started when she was about seven months old. We have not changed her food,she is in good health and she drinks tap water. I thought the staining was cosmetic and have just found this website. She has been taking Angel Eyes supplement for about 4 months and it has only improved the staining a small amount What should I change or try first?
Have you taken our tear stain questionnaire? Over 1500 people have and we’re closing it soon. It will help point you to some answers.
I’m not a fan of Angel Eyes. I’d rather see you spend the money on having a vet check to see if your dog has any retained baby teeth. That sometimes causing staining. You might also try filtered water.
Hi,my Maltese/bishon Luna is 2 and only started tear staining after yearly booster and worming meds?
Nothing else has changed,although I may try changing her food xx
Sue, I’m concerned about your dog getting a “yearly booster.” Adult dogs rarely need yearly boosters. If you vet advises them, get another vet. Please read https://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/ and https://truth4pets.org/titer-testing/
Why is your two-year old getting wormed? Was there a proven need? None of my adult dogs have ever been wormed.
Worming meds and vaccines are both strong, toxic meds. They are especially dangerous for small dogs. https://truth4pets.org/vaccinating-small-pets/
Food could also be causing stains, or not. It depends on what you’re feeding and your dog’s sensitivities.
I haven’t seen any responses here about dyes in the food your dog is consuming. Check for dyes in their food!
This could be what causes both eye and beard stains. I also have a Maltese, he is 8 years old, he only drinks bottled water. So far he has done well in both eyes and beard. He does get what I call eye bloggers on the corner of his eyes. I clean then with warm water to silted then and they are much easier to remove.
I have a white and very lite cream female dog. When we brought her home from the breeder at 9 weeks old they sent puppy food and made a suggestion on what to feed her. For the first year and a half she had allot of face staining. She started to have digestive problem at about 1 year of age and it appear to be food allergies. We switch her food to all natural in it raw state and eliminated chicken, turkey and grains. Her food allergy problems and the face staining totally disappeared in a very short time. We then tried a commercially made treat without grain or chicken and turkey but her digestive issues and face staining returned very quickly. We stopped the treat and started to use just fruits and vegetables in their raw state that we safe for her to eat and the digestive and staining issues disappeared. She has been on this all natural in it raw state diet now for 4 years (my dog is now 6 years old) and no digestive or stain issues. Also her teeth are beautiful, healthy and very white. My dog is a very active dog is dog sport, therapy work and is on a show dog team.
Hi. I have a 4 years old Shih Tzu male dog and sometime I noticed that he have tear stain but I thought its only because of his hair growing on his face. Should i go see the vet if I notice it again? Is it something serious?
Liz, I don’t quite understand your problem. Please send a photo and more information to my Contact account stopstains.
My dog is 16 years and 10 months old. He is a bichon frise and in pretty good health for his age. He had tear stains on and off throughout his life, however now it’s worse than ever and in addition his beard is stained also. His diet is the same, water is the same-filtered from the fridge. We got a new puppy in June that he is not crazy about-but the beard stains didn’t start to a few months after the puppy came.
Hi Donna. One thought I have is your dog’s dental health. Dental infections often cause staining and many of us are reluctant to put older dogs under anesthesia. Unfortunately, dental disease can attack vital organs as well. Has a vet checked your dog’s teeth and gums?
Another thought is food. If your dog has been getting the same food for a long time, food sensitivities may have developed.
My maltese recently started tear staining. There has been a couple of things that may be the cause. First he had a rabies booster . Secondly I moved house and he was left for short periods in the new house whilst I was doing removals . still 8 weeks on the tear stains has not disappeared . It’s is not his diet and it is not his water or an eye infection, or teething . Something has just upset his system and fingers crossed it will disappear quickly .
Victoria, how suddenlly did the staining start? Could it be new airborne allergens in the new area?
Thanks so much for writing. I really hope you’ll take the survey. You seem to have really given staining a lot of thought. And maybe it will give you a few things to consider.
I have a Biewer with white hair around eyes and mouth. He has always had tear staining since I brought him home.
Vet had checked him, no issues on health. His teeth is brushed daily with doggie toothpaste from vet, eyes cleaned daily with warm water. Food is high quality kibbles from Acana ( pear and duck), and I mix that with Castor Pollux grain free ultramix ( duck, sweet potato, vegies, blueberries and banana etc).
His treats are Sojo freeze dried lamb, beef, or turkey.
He gets carrots, blueberries, broccoli, cauliflower daily.
He doesn’t share food or water with any dogs. Beddings are cleaned weekly, so I don’t know what is staining his face. Vet said normal amount of tearing, and when tears on white hair, it stains. Now I am worried if he miss anything. He suggests no angel eyes or meds….just clean daily with warm cloth/ water.
I am wondering if I should try filtered water….but I want the flouride in water for his teeth.
Mary, yes, use filtered water. Fluoride is toxic! You’re doing such a good job on everything else. It’s easy to change the water! It may or may not stop the staining but it’s a good idea in any event. If that doesn’t stop the staining, then keep searching. Stains are not a sign of good health.