maltese dog with tear stains under eyes

How to Remove and Naturally Prevent Tear Stains on Dogs

Are you hoping to learn how to get rid of tear stains on dogs? Then this blog post is for you! While tear staining is not life-threatening, it is a common problem for pet owners. This post will provide helpful information on removing tear stains. Keep reading to learn more about managing your dog's tear stains naturally.

Can Dogs Cry Tears? Do Tears Cause Staining?

First, let's consider an important question: can dogs even cry tears? Yes, they can! But unlike humans, dog tears are not a product of sadness. Similarly to humans, your dog's eyes create a saline-like fluid that lubricates the eye and helps remove debris. When there is excessive tear production or when your dog's tear ducts aren't working properly, the tears have no choice but to go down. Eventually, the moisture from the excessive tears saturates your dog's furs and leads to tear staining.

What Are Tear Stains?

Tear stains are reddish brown or brown markings that appear under your dog's eyes. They are easy to wipe away with a cloth in the early stages, but increased tear production can eventually dye the fur and be challenging to get rid of. They are called tear stains because they are caused by excess tear production leaking onto your dog's fur and discoloring it. The stains can be particularly obvious in light-colored dogs or white dogs.

Dog tear stains have their distinct reddish-brown hue due to the presence of a dye molecule called porphyrin, which contains iron. When red blood cells are broken down by the body, porphyrin is released as a byproduct. This molecule is then excreted in various bodily fluids of dogs, including bile, tears, saliva, and urine. In cases where an excessive amount of tears is produced, the porphyrin within the tears tends to stain the fur, resulting in the characteristic discoloration.

Why Do Dogs Get Tear Stains?

While most dog tear stains are due to allergies or an underlying health condition, that's not the case for all dogs. Here are some reasons you may see tear stains under your dog's eye.


Allergies or food sensitivities can lead to tear stains. Changing your dog's diet by eliminating the problem food is a great way to help prevent tear stains. Your veterinarian can help you with an elimination diet to pinpoint which food your dog is allergic to. Once you've identified the problem food, you can make homemade food for your dog, ensuring it is nutritionally balanced with the ingredients of your choice, avoiding proteins that your pup is sensitive to.

Our co-founder Jennifer's dog Oakley was experiencing tear stains as a puppy. She quickly did an elimination diet and determined he was sensitive to chicken, which he'd been eating before she got him. When she moved him to turkey and pork, his stains cleared up and never came back.

Of all the following causes, we think allergies is often a culprit for eye drainage and it's an easy one to fix. Just speak with your veterinarian for guidance.


Water that has a high mineral content (hard water) is more likely to cause stains. Training your dog to drink from a water bottle or trying reverse osmosis or demineralized water can help decrease stains around your dog's mouth. Though a word of caution, demineralizing water takes all the good stuff out too. You may want to consider remineralizing the water with the minerals of your choice.

Blocked tear ducts

If constantly flowing tears cause the top of your dog's face to remain wet, your pup can develop an infection, making the staining even worse and triggering other health concerns.

Dust, wind, or smoke

A dusty, windy, or smoky environment can also cause tear stains, as your dog's eyes are more likely to experience excessive tearing in these conditions. 

Genetic Issues

Certain dog breeds are more likely to experience tear staining, such as Maltese, Pugs, and French Bulldogs. To prevent issues, more frequent grooming may help.

How to Remove Dog Tear Stains Naturally

It's possible to naturally remove dog tear stains using simple ingredients from around the home. Here is a list of the best dog tear stain removers that are natural, DIY and zero waste!

Hydrogen Peroxide & Water Mixture

One of our favorite homemade dog tear stain removers consists of one part hydrogen peroxide with ten parts water. Stir the solution and apply it under your dog's eyes using a cotton ball. Once dry, wash and rinse it with warm water. Be sure not to let any hydrogen peroxide get in your dog's eye.

Baking Soda & Water Mixture

Make a baking soda paste with warm water to clean dog tear stains. Brush the paste into the stain. Once dry, wipe it off with a damp cloth. Repeat the process for a few days until all remaining stains are gone.

White Vinegar

Another way to remove tear stains is with white or apple cider vinegar. Again, ensure the vinegar doesn't get in your dog's eyes.

Coconut Oil

You can use unrefined and cold-pressed coconut oil as a tear stain removal by rubbing it on your dog's fur until the stain disappears. This usually takes a couple of days.

How to Prevent Tear Stains

It's important to first identify what's causing your dog's eye drainage. In most cases, that will prevent stains from returning and it will allow your pup to feel much better too. Here are some additional tips for you.

Cleanse Daily

Regularly cleaning your dog's face and keeping it as dry as possible with a soft cloth can help prevent staining and irritation.

Keep the Fur Trimmed

Keeping your dog's facial hair trimmed prevents staining and is a quick fix for removing already stained fur.

We hope we've demystified eye drainage in dogs and helped you better understand natural tear stain remover options and how to prevent dog stains for your pup. You and your dog do not need to live with this condition. It can be quite easy to fix!