Caitlin UltimoGrooming / Health

Treating Dog Tears and Stains on Your Dog’s Coat

Prevent and Treat Tear and Coat Stains on Dogs

As a dog owner, you want to keep your pet’s fur sparkling clean and shiny at all times. But anyone whose pup loves a good mud puddle knows that sometimes your dog has other plans. It’s not just dirt and grime that can cause stains on your pet’s coat. Dog tears, saliva and urine can leave your canine’s coat looking dingy as well. Owners of white dog breeds in particular often notice these recurring stains on their dogs’ coats, but that’s not because a white dog is more susceptible to tear, saliva and other stains. “Stains appear most often in lighter-colored dogs because we can see it more,” says Maria Arsenian-Mazza, owner and groomer at The Doodle Room All Breed Pet Grooming in Eugene, Oregon.

However, some breeds of dogs—both lighter colored or white dog breeds and those with darker colored coats—are more susceptible to stains on their coats. For instance, Arsenian-Mazza notes that the Chinese Shar-Pei are prone to entropion, where the eyelid folds into the eye, causing more tears than usual, and potentially leading to more tear stains. She also says that brachycephalic dogs (or dogs with shortened snouts or flatter faces) such as Pugs can be more prone to tear stains.

What Causes Stains on Your Dog’s Coat?

Many elements out in the world–from grass to dirt to some spilled spaghetti that your pup managed to get into–can leave a noticeable stain on your dog’s coat, especially if you have a fluffy white dog. These external causes are easy to diagnose, but not always easy to remove.

If you notice stains that haven’t been caused by an external element, the first step is to talk to your veterinarian. “A veterinarian should always be your first stop to rule out medical problems,” says Arsenian-Mazza. Your vet can rule out any serious issues such as a bacterial infection in the eye and/or on the skin that could cause your dog to lick or produce more tears than normal.

If your vet has ruled out any serious medical concerns, the most likely cause of stains from dog tears and saliva is porphyrins, says Arsenian-Mazza. “Porphyrins are molecules that contain iron that the body produces when it breaks down red blood cells,” says Arsenian-Mazza. Your dog’s body naturally releases porphyrins through saliva, tears and even urine. Human bodies release porphyrins too, says Arsenian-Mazza, but in different, non-staining ways.

Treating and Preventing Fur Stains

Fortunately, even owners with white dog breeds can take steps to treat and prevent stains on their dogs’ coats. Arsenian-Mazza suggests these methods to treat existing stains and reduce the chance that new stains will show up in the future.

  1. Regular Grooming

    “Diligence in grooming is the only way to try to reduce tear and saliva staining,” says Arsenian-Mazza. Have your groomer clip short any hairs around the stained area, whether that’s your dog’s eyes, feet or around her mouth. Wipe the area regularly throughout the day. The best method for battling coat stains on your dog is actively working to prevent them, especially if you have a white dog or one with a flat face.

  2. Consider the Food Source

    Changing to a better quality dog food may help reduce issues, suggests Arsenian-Mazza. “There are theories that good-quality food can help dogs get more out of their food, leaving less for their body to break down and excrete.”

  3. Use Stainless Steel Dishes

    Some plastic and ceramic dog bowls may be porous, which could allow water to get trapped in the dish and allow bacteria to grow, says Arsenian-Mazza. This bacteria may lead to facial infections, which could cause more tear stains. If you notice recurring stains, consider switching to stainless steel dog bowls.

  4. Switch to Filtered Water

    One theory suggests that, if your tap water has too many minerals in it, switching to filtered water could help with tear or saliva stains, says Arsenian-Mazza.

  5. Do Not Use Petroleum-Based Products

    Some owners are tempted to use a petroleum ointment to treat stains, but Arsenian-Mazza warns against this. Particularly in the eye area, petroleum products could clog up tear ducts and result in more serious problems, such as an infection.

Pet Products to Treat Fur Stains

Try these dog supplies to deal with stains on your dog’s fur coat:

  • Some supplements can help eliminate tear and saliva stains in your dog. Angels’ Eyes Natural Soft Chews can be given like a treat and work for both dogs and cats.
  • The NaturVet Tear Stain Remover is a topical, water-based saliva and tear stain remover that you can use on a regular basis. Ingredients such as cucumber and aloe soothe your pet’s skin.
  • Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes make stain cleanup easy. These convenient wipes have juniper berry oil to help remove discharge and tear stains, and they’re gentle enough to use daily for dogs over 12 weeks old.
  • To remove stains from dog tears, consider a tear stain remover like the Eye Envy NR Tear Stain Remover Kit. This kit comes with the Eye Envy solution to clean stained areas, dry application pads, and a jar of application powder to repel new stains and help prevent bacterial growth.
  • To keep your fluffy white dog shining bright, consider a shampoo like Veterinary Formula Solutions Whitening Shampoo. The whitening shampoo works for both white dog breeds and cats to clean dingy or yellowing coats without bleach or peroxide.