What Causes Dog Tear Stains?

Tear stains in dogs are stains that occur in the hair of the face or the area surrounding the face. They are named "tear stains" because dogs with excessive discharge from their eyes tend to get these stains and they resemble tears. However, there are many different potential causes of tear stains in dogs. Tear stains themselves are typically bacterial growths that develop in the fur surrounding the face. The exact cause will depend upon a number of factors surrounding your pet. Likewise, the proper way to cure the condition is dependent upon your knowing exactly what the cause is.

Excess Tearing

The most common cause of tear stains is tearing itself. When your dog's face is moist as a result of his eyes tearing up repeatedly and consistently, it is more likely to be a welcoming home to potentially damaging bacteria. These bacteria may lead to tear stains. In particular, certain types of yeast are more likely than others to cause tear stains. Fortunately, a number of antibacterial medicines and shampoos can help to clear up this type of tear stain.

Ear Infections

Tear stains may also occur around the ears. This can happen when an ear infection causes your pet to develop a discharge from one or both of his ears. The area around the ear becomes moist and harbors bacteria, making it a prime location for tear stains.

Cutting Teeth

Many breeds of dogs cut their teeth as they develop and get older. The process of cutting teeth helps to make adjustments for the changes in head shape and size that occurs in dogs as they grow larger. This is most likely to occur within the first few years of development. If your dog cuts his teeth, he may place excessive pressure on his tear ducts. The result is that infection can occur. This often leads to tearing and, in turn, to tear stains on his face.

Blocked Tear Ducts

Tear ducts that are blocked for one reason or another can also cause tear stains. These ducts become blocked as a result of debris or some other underlying condition, and the result is that they begin to put out discharge. Once again, this can result in tear staining of the fur.


Dogs with allergic reactions to atopic elements in the air may find that they suffer from tear stains. Atopic allergies, those that are responsive to particulate matter floating through the air, will cause your pet's tear ducts to become infected and inflamed, and may lead to eye discharge and running. If your pet tears up because of this, and you don't remedy the situation, you'll find that he may develop tear stains.

For more information about how to prevent and treat tear stains, or for a diagnosis for your pet, ask a vet.