Tear stains - the brown, streaky stains in the corners of the eyes - are more common in small breeds due to eye anatomy and the smaller head size in these dogs. It is caused by pigment, yeast and bacteria build up which are commonly caused by hair in the eyes, poor food quality, allergies, ear infections, stress, and/or blocked ducts.
First and foremost, make sure to regularly trim long hairs near your dog's eyes. Doing so will help prevent tears and watering, as longer hair is more likely to trap bacteria and yeast which cause eye irritation. Keep in mind curlier dogs can have the hair curling towards the eyes no matter how short you trim it.
Changing the pH of your dog's tears to a more alkaline nature can reduce staining. The change in alkalinity makes it difficult for yeast and bacteria to thrive, causing less eye irritation and fewer stains. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog's water bowl daily to keep tear stains down.
Provide your dog with a high quality dog food and water. We recommend Fromm or Nutri-Source. The high quality dog food can help prevent tear stains in the first place, plus it encourages a strong immune system, to help prevent other problems from developing which may make tear stains worse. For the water, consider using bottled or filtered water. Tap water and well water contain minerals that can cause the tear stains to develop. Another option is to use stainless steel or ceramic bowls for your dog's food and water. Plastic bowls can hold bacteria that cause fur discoloration.
We also recommend adding a teaspoon of Greek yogurt to their food daily as an additional aid, and a probiotic boost.
You can make your own tear stain remover with safe ingredients:
You will need: distilled water, salt, and liquid Vitamin C
Instructions: Mix a teaspoon of salt and 1-3 drops of vitamin C with two cups of distilled water. Be sure to use distilled water so that you can control the pH level of your eye solution.
Place the solution on a cotton ball to clean your dog's face and lighten the tear stains that have already formed.
The citric acid will oxidize the iron based pigments that cause the rust colored stains.