Tear stains are generally caused by epiphora, which is a technical way of saying excessive tear production. You may recognize these as reddish-brown streaks that form under a dog’s eyes. This is more prevalent in Shih Tzu’s Lhasa Apso’s, and the Maltese breed. It is more obvious when an animal has a light colored coat, and aside from the annoyance, it could be indicative of a more serious health problem.
That includes: an eye infection, large tear glands, ingrown eyelashes, an inverted eyelid, glaucoma, medication, second hand smoke, small tear duct openings, a poor diet, stress, or teething.
It isn’t just dogs that are affected by tear stains, though, cats are susceptible, too. Especially Persians, Himalayans, and flat faced breeds. In cats it could be due to a birth defect, an allergy, or even excessive fighting.
The general cause is porphyrins, which are naturally occurring molecules that contain iron. This is generally how waste products are broken down by red blood cells are removed from the body, through the process of pooping. However, with our furry friends it can be excreted through urine, saliva, and tears.
When tears that contain porphyrins sit on a light colored fur staining will occur. Those stains darken after being exposed to the sunlight.
If the stains are browner in color your pet may have a year infection; the porphyrins create a most rusty red colored stain. Additionally, a year infection will emit a smell. It’s possible for a pet to be affected by both issues.
You can take steps at home to control tear stains. If you have a long haired cat, use a soft cloth that is dampened with warm water to gently wipe the cats face, do this twice a day. Follow up with a dry, soft cloth and follow the same motion to dry the coat. This will not prevent tear stains, it simply maintains the coat and prevents yeast infections from taking advantage of a moist area.
If you have a long haired cat it may be want to make regular appointments with the groomer.
Additionally, feeding your cat a high quality appropriate diet can help prevent tear stains. Rather than offering your cat tap water, instead keep their bowls fresh with fresh, filtered water. Tap waters tend to be high in iron, mineral contents, and have fluoride and chlorine in them, which are toxic to pets.
Do not use plastic food/water bowls as these can harbor bacteria that could irritate your pet’s face. Instead use porcelain, glass, or stainless steel.
Do not use apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, makeup remover, milk of magnesia, corn syrup, or gold bond. Nor should you use eye drops intended for humans. While the most common causes are not ominous, it is wise to take your feline friend to the veterinarian if they appear to be suffering from tear stains. It is better to be sure there is no medical cause before attempting any home remedies that could potentially make matters worse.