Trophy Guide to tear staining

Mar 1, 2024 2:59:28 PM

Tear stains in dogs are usually the reddish or brown coloured marks around the inner corner of the eyes, down the face and sometimes in the corners of the mouth. They are obviously more noticeable in solid white breeds, lighter coloured breeds, or those with white facial markings.

These are caused by a chemical called porphyrin in the dog’s tears.

Porphyrins are chemicals that help make haemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells. Porphyrins carry iron from the body and are excreted through urine, saliva, and tears. All dogs have porphyrin in their tears. However, some dogs produce more porphyrins and some also excrete more tears.

This also applies with porphyrins in a dog’s saliva. In dogs with skin allergies or irritations, the result of excessive licking can be staining to paws and forelegs.

Although tear staining itself is not harmful or painful to dogs, it certainly can be extremely unsightly, especially in show dogs. However, there are many possible causes to tear staining, including allergies and potentially more serious health conditions. If your dog has continual tear stains, we recommend seeking professional veterinary advice.

What causes tear staining?

Tear staining in dogs occurs when a combination of factors leads to an excess production of tears from the lacrimal glands or tear ducts, which then drain from the inner corners of the eyes onto the fur.

Excess tear staining is called epiphora. This condition occurs due to a variety of factors in combination, usually including one or more of the following:

Conformation & anatomy:

  • Narrow eyes.
  • Narrow or abnormal tear ducts.
  • Eyes slanted towards the inner corner.
  • Deep set corners of the eyes, which cause fluid to collect.
  • Shallow eye sockets.
  • The structure of the muzzle leading to tears collecting in the fur.


  • Conjunctivitis/eye infection.
  • Overactive tear ducts.
  • Glaucoma
  • A blockage of the eye’s drainage channels.
  • Ear Infection
  • Entropion

Other causes;

  • Allergies;
  • Environment

How do you prevent tear staining?

If your dog has a condition that is causing epiphora, then veterinary guidance and treatment is highly recommended.

Regular facial hygiene is important. Regularly clean areas of build up and dry mouths after drinking.

There are cleaning products available specifically designed for tear staining in mind.

Can diet cause tear staining?

Your dog’s diet can sometimes have a direct effect on having or preventing tear stains, except in some more serious cases or those caused by conditions or confirmation.

Food sensitivities and/or allergies can sometimes cause excessive tear production that creates tear stains.

This can also lead to the dog’s digestive system or liver working harder in filtering the body from toxins, increasing the porphyrins, the chemical that causes the discolouration, secreted by the body through the tears.

What type of diet would be suitable?

Look for other signs of diet sensitivities such as skin reddening, itching and hair loss. If your dog exhibits sensitivity to food, then look for a recipe that is hypoallergenic. This means that ingredients associated to sensitivities are not present and artificial colourings are not included.

Speak to your local Trophy Nutrition Advisor for advice on which of our recipes may help.


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