Plenty of adorable dogs have brown streaks and dark “tear lines” that confuse pet owners all the time.
Some pet owners think these tear streaks are nothing to worry about whereas others are concerned something is really wrong and needs to be addressed ASAP. Some pet owners are sure that this is just a “cosmetic issue” and others are nervous that it’s a sign of major underlying issues, some life-threatening in nature.
What’s the truth about brown tear stains?
Why does my dog have brown tear stains in the first place?
Is there anything I can do to prevent these issues from happening in the future?
That’s what this detailed guide aims to answer.
Let’s jump right in!
Why Does My Dog Have Brown Tear Stains?
Truth be told, there are a bunch of different reasons your dog might have staining coming from their eyes and “tear tracks” that look red or brown in nature.
Most of the time, these tear stains are caused by nothing more than a little bit of your rotation in your dog’s eyeball. Dogs respond the same way that our eyes get irritated and water when there is dust, dirt, or debris in our eye.
The only difference they have a lot of fur on their face, and all of that excessive irritation, inflammation, and watery eye conditions can cause a bit of staining to appear on their skin.
Of course, there are a couple of other reasons that your dog may be dealing with tear streaks like this.
For starters, dogs that have shallow eye sockets (a genetic condition) may end up having tears that naturally spill out onto the fur around their eyes pretty much all the time. This is going to cause some discoloration (red or brown as we highlighted above) but generally isn’t anything to worry about.
Some dogs also have eyelids that are naturally turned inwards toward their eyeballs. This can cause a little bit of irritation all on its own, but it can also block out the “drainage” areas specifically designed for tears – causing a buildup in a flood of tears to come welling out, causing the staining as well.
Hair growth around the eyeballs can cause irritation, too. These are all issues that you really can’t do much about, simply because they are genetically predisposed to happen to some dogs more than others.
What Causes These Stains, to Begin With?
At the same time, there are a bunch of other reasons that your dog might be dealing with tear staining.
Some of these issues are medical in nature, others are environmental, and others still may be somewhat “random” issues that will naturally resolve themselves over time.
Below we dig a little bit deeper into some of the other conditions that may lead to these problems.
A handful of underlying medical conditions can be causing tear streaks and tear staining for your animal, and are definitely conditions that you’ll want to get out in front up just as soon as possible.
Glaucoma is one of these issues. This is a disease that affects older dogs (most of the time). It causes a bigger buildup of pressure behind the eye and can not only damage the optic nerve itself but can also plug up tear ducts and cause tear staining as highlighted earlier.
Eye infections are caused by different bacteria, viral infections, and parasites that might force your body to fight back with antibodies and your immune system. Your immune system is going to flood the infection with biochemicals to fight the issue, but it’s also going to cause a discharge to occur as well.
This discharge can stain the tear tracks of your dog for sure.
Conjunctivitis, ear infections, ingrown eyelashes, and a number of other issues (medical issues) can all contribute to this problem, too. If you are nervous about potential medical problems causing this staining it’s important to contact your vet just as soon as you can.
You definitely don’t want to play around with the health of your dog when it comes to issues regarding their eyes and their eyesight.
Some of the other issues that your dog may be dealing with can include oversized tear glands that naturally produce a lot more tears, small tear duct openings that cause access to spill out over the firm on your dogs face, blocked up tear ducts (like highlighted earlier), and even a lot of scarring.
Exposure to irritants (pollen, allergens, dust, dirt, debris, a lot of wind) can also cause excessive tear streaks on your dog’s face.
A bad diet, a lot of stress and anxiety, and even the natural growing process of puppies can trigger excessive tear production, too. These issues are usually pretty contextual and you’ll want to pay attention to your dog and its day-to-day activities to find out if the tear streaks are caused by something other than a medical issue.
Signs and Symptoms of Tear Staining You Should Be on the Lookout For
The most obvious sign to be on the lookout for is obvious staining.
Lighter color dogs usually have reddish or brownish staining that is immediately noticeable, found directly beneath each of their eyeballs. Darker colored dogs are a little bit harder to diagnose with this condition just because of how the staining blends in. But you want to look out for obvious signs of wetness around their eyes and changes to the color of their firm immediately beneath the eyeballs, too.
If your dog has stains that are brown and not red (or significantly more brown than red) they may be dealing with a yeast infection or another type of bacterial infection. It’s time to get your animal down to the vet if that’s what’s happening.
The Best Way to Clear Up Staining on Your Dogs Face
Treating this condition is a pretty simple and straightforward process.
For starters, you have to diagnose the underlying issue properly.
Most people are going to be able to tell whether or not their dog is sick, unwell, or just not acting the way they usually do. These are signs that something is going on medically inside of your dog, manifesting (at least in part) with the tear stains themselves.
If that’s the case, it’s time to get your dog to the vet just as quickly as you can.
You might not necessarily have to schedule an emergency visit (unless other symptoms show that something seriously wrong is going on) but you will want to be seen within a week or so. It’s important that your vet get their hands on your animal and can have a close in-person inspection of the issues and run any other tasks that may be necessary.
If it is a medical condition, the vet is always going to recommend a handful of medications, creams, topical lotions, or other solutions that you want to take advantage of moving forward. This will just treat the tear staining problem itself but should also treat the underlying condition causing the staining, too.
Follow those instructions to the letter (obviously) and you won’t have much to worry about moving forward. These kinds of issues usually clean up and clear out pretty quickly. It may take a week or two for your dog to have no tear streaks whatsoever with the help of medication or other treatments, but it’s not going to take much longer than that.
At the same time, if your vet determines that you want to deal with a medical condition you’ll just want to clean these tear streaks on a regular basis.
It’s not a bad idea to wash your dog’s face every now and again (maybe once a week) with a bit of warm water only. Gently scrub those streaks away and you won’t have much to worry about.
It might also be a good idea to trim the hair on your dog’s face in these particular areas whenever possible. Not all breeds are going to be super comfortable with that (bulldogs, in particular, don’t really love sitting while they get trimmed), but it may be something you can do to avoid irritating their eyes and to eliminate staining at the same time.
Some people are going to fool around with their dog’s diet to see if that has an impact.
If the diet is balanced and nutritious you’ll probably eliminate a lot of these issues straightaway. If their diet is not that great, though, you may be causing all kinds of biochemical and hormonal reactions that are creating tear-streaked issues (and other problems, too).
At the end of the day, troubleshooting this problem really isn’t as much of a challenge as some people make it out to be.
You have to be smart, you have to be a responsible pet owner, and you have to keep an eye out on issues that may be signs of more serious underlying conditions. For the most part, though, when you’re dealing with tear staining – especially brown tear staining – you’re usually dealing with an infection or an irritation that can be dealt with pretty easily.