Controlling Tear Stains

Shannon Moore, NCMG Director of Grooming and Education Espree Animal Products

One of the biggest pet peeves of pet owners and professional groomers is controlling tear staining on white and light colored dogs.  They can make a clean dog appear dirty even when it is fresh out of the bath tub.  Generally speaking, tear stains are not a major health concern, but rather a cosmetic issue.  However, it is important to get to the underlying cause of what is causing the pet to produce tear stains.  Allergies, dental infections, poor nutrition, hard water, teething, blocked tear ducts, eye ulcers, and Entropian (a condition where the eyelids roll in) are several issues that could be causing the pet to have unsightly tear stains. Whatever the reason, it is important to find out what is causing the issue rather than attempt to cover it up. Once the problem is identified, a solution to the problem can be found, and the issue can be resolved.

When I am asked about controlling tear staining, I evaluate the specific dog and offer advise specific to the situation.  I also encourage the owner to speak to their veterinarian to discuss their insight to solve the problem.  The owner must be willing to make an effort to solve the problem and attempt to take the necessary steps to stop the tearing, while the professional stylist develops a game plan to tackle the staining.  In my breed (Bichon Frise), I personally find that dogs that eat a chicken base diet tend to have more tear staining issues than dogs that eat a fish base diet as the main source of protein.  Sometimes, water that has a high mineral content causes excessive tear staining.  Distilled water could be a suggestion if this is the case.  The veterinarian might recommend to flush the tear ducts as there could be a blockage.  Every dog is different, so I always try to make recommendations to owners depending on each one’s specific circumstances.

For the removal of stubborn stains, the professional groomer must come up with a game plan.  Some facials are formulated with optical brighteners to help lift the stains. Typically, I will use a facial to help lift the stains.  I then use a whitening shampoo and allow it to sit for several minutes being very careful to make sure I do not get any product in the eyes.  After I use whitening shampoo, I ALWAYS condition the facial furnishings to seal the coat. If you do not seal the coat with a good conditioner, the hair follicle will open and cause further staining.  After several appointments, the staining dramatically lightens in color.  Hopefully, the new hair will grow in and the underlying cause of the problem will have been resolved.  Educating the client and developing a good working relationship with them is imperative to being able to tackle issues like this and find a solution to the problem.

Leave a Reply