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What causes Tear stains or Saliva stains in Pets?

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What Are Tear Stain?

Tears have an important role in maintaining the health of the ocular surface, as they supply the metabolic requirements of the cornea. Tears also contribute to ocular defenses, as they contain globulins and other antimicrobial factors, and wash away foreign bodies and dirt. Diseases of the lacrimal system may be divided into problems of production (which may be insufficient or excessive) and problems of reduced drainage. Excessive tear production is known as epiphora and, in many cases, it leads to tear stains. Several diseases can cause tear stains, for this reason, you should take your pet to the veterinarian if you observe excessive tear production.

What Causes Tear Stains?

  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Foreign bodies in the eyes
  • Eye infections
  • Abnormal tear glands​
  • Abnormal tear duct
  • Glaucoma​
  • Entropion (inverted eyelid)
  • Brachycephalic syndrome​
  • Ear infection
  • Medications​
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Poor-quality diet​
  • Stress​
  • Teething in puppies

Tearstains are more common in Maltese, Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu dogs, and are more noticeable in animals with light-colored coats.

Treatment Of Tear Stains

The treatment of pet stains will depend on the underlying cause of epiphora. In cases of foreign bodies, the problem may be solved with an eye flush. If an abnormal eyelash is causing the problem then it can be removed by surgery. Other cases may need treatment with antibiotics or more aggressive treatments such as eye surgery.

How To Remove Tear Stains

In cases where tear staining is not caused by a disease you can clean your pet’s eyes at home. There are some tear stain removing products which contain antibiotics like tylosin, you should not use these products unless you are instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Antibiotics should be used in moderation and only as prescribed. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics may lead to the growth of resistant bacteria.

I recommend using natural products like Chamomile to remove tear stains. Chamomile is an excellent anti-inflammatory and it is effective against bacteria and fungi. You can brew a couple chamomile tea bags in a small amount of water to create a concentrated solution that you can use as an astringent to remove tear stains.

You can also use PurEyes by Innovet, which is a natural-based eye cleanser made with Chamomile, essential oils, sodium bicarbonate and sodium borate. This gentle cleanser kills bacteria while it whitens tear stains.

Follow these steps to clean your pets tear stains:

  • Apply a small amount of Chamomile or Innovet’s PurEyes to the stained area with a cotton swab or a gauze
  • Rub gently then immediately rinse with warm water to remove debris, oil, and excess solution.

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About the author:

Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz
Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.


Ofri, R. (2011). Diseases of the Lacrimal System and Third Eyelid. What Every Clinician Must Know About Diagnosis & Therapy. World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings. Retrieved from: http://www.vin.com/members/cms/project/defaultadv1.aspx?id=5124334&pid=11343&

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