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Tear Stains

Poodle Tear Stains

Overview

poodle-no-tear-stains
Sophie, photo courtesy of June Nelligan
This is a common and troubling issue in which the hairs under or around the dog's eyes becomes discolored. In some cases, this can extend down the face over the cheeks.

Many, but not all, Poodles that have tear stains also have discoloration around the mouth and some may have issues with staining on other parts of the body such as the paws. 

The reason for this correlation is because Poodle hair is very prone to picking up and holding in external colorants.

While tear staining is very common with Poodles and there are lots of products that claim to remove them, lots of owners find tear stains to be quite stubborn. They may only fade a bit, or if they are removed they may return soon afterward. This is usually due to only treating them but not addressing the root cause. 

This section will cover everything you need to know about Poodle tear stains, including extremely effective OTC remedies to get rid of them for good. 

Signs of Tear Stains

  • Hairs under or around the eyes will have a red, rust, or brownish tint. 
  • Will often spread out with time; what starts as a small area may double or even triple in size.
  • Hairs may feel brittle or crusty and may be hard to comb.

What Causes Tear Staining

Even if it is not apparent, every instance of tear stains begins with a Poodle having excessive eye tearing. And the reason for tearing has quite a few possible causes. 

This may or may not be noticeable to owners.  In many cases it is not, as the tears are absorbed into the hairs rather quickly. In addition, a Poodle's coloring will also play a role in how much of this is noticed. 

When hairs around the eyes remain damp, the continual presence of saline and other elements in the tears causes the discoloration. 

In addition to this, if hairs remain wet, a red yeast infection can settle in. 

There are quite a few elements that can trigger the eyes to run, some are common and others are not. 

Common reasons include:
  • Reactions to additives found in inferior dog foods
  • Unfiltered tap water 
  • Allergies
  • Teething
Possible, but less common reasons include:
  • Tear duct blockage
  • Eye lash or eye lid abnormality
  • Ear infection

How to Get Rid of Tear Stains on a Poodle, Once and For All

The key to successfully getting rid of tear stains on your Poodle, and having them gone for good, is to look at this as a 2-step process. 

This will involve both eliminating all possible triggers and then treating the stains themselves.

If you skip this first part, you will find only limited or temporary results. 

Step #1 - Remove the Triggers

1. Have all possible health issues ruled out. This includes eyelash and eye lid abnormalities, blocked tear ducts, and ear infections.

2. If allergies are at play, it is best if your veterinarian performs testing to help identify the triggers. Allergy medication can help. In addition, other steps include:
  • Changing to a grain-free, all-natural dog food (more ahead)
  • Running your central air with a HEPA filter or using free-standing air purifiers
  • Vacuuming the house (even hardwood floors) with a HEPA vacuum as it will pick up allergen particles during the air exchange,
  • Having everyone remove shoes when entering
  • Washing off your Poodle's paws each time the puppy or dog is brought back inside. 
poodle-no-discoloration-around-eyes
Ruby, photo courtesy of Barry Litwin
3. Switch your Poodle to a grain-free, all-natural dog food.  High grain content and chemical additives are to blame for a myriad of issues including tear stains. Other reactions include nose discoloration and gastrointestinal upset. 
A great choices for toy Poodles is Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free for Small Breeds, which is a superior food formulated for small dogs. This has no grains, corn, or soy. It has no by-products and no artificial additives. There are no chemical preservatives, as vitamin blends are used instead.

This has omega fatty acids via salmon oil for excellent skin and coat health. And there are great bonuses including antioxidants (for a strong immune system), probiotics (eases digestion), and glucosamine (important for joint health). And this is made in the USA.
For miniature and standard Poodles, we recommend Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Original. This has all of the above elements that make it a fantastic food. There are great formulas to choose from including Turkey & Chicken, Ocean Whitefish, Herring & Salmon, and Wild Game Duck, Turkey, Boar & Rabbit.
4. If you have a Poodle puppy that is teething, while this phase is temporary it can cause long-lasting tear stains. Follow the remedy steps ahead, as you can minimize the stains if you keep on top of them. 
5. Do not give your Poodle unfiltered tap water. It can come as a shock to many owners that a slew of harmful ingredients can be found in tap water across the country. 

There are known carcinogens such as chromium 6 in the water of over 200 million Americans and perfluorooctanoic acid. Tap water also often contains mercury, fluoride (toxic to canines), and chlorine. There can also be lead and arsenic.  

Another top concern is volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) which refers to an array of toxins that can cause liver issues, immune system failure, and possibly cancer. The EPA estimates that 20% of water nationwide contains VOCs. 
tear-stains-fixed-on-poodle
Zoé, photo courtesy of Paula Cristina and Gerardo
Many agents are unknown. At any one given time tap water contains 100 unknown and possibly dangerous toxins.

While it pales in comparison to the other terribly dangerous elements, it is high mineral content that can cause tear stains.

if you want to ensure that your Poodle's drinking water is safe, there are a few choices. 

You can have a filtering device connected to your kitchen tap or installed under the sink, offer only bottle spring water, or use a filtering water pitcher. 
If you are thinking about a filtering pitcher, choose wisely as some do not do that much.  An extremely effective one is the Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher

This filters out the above mentioned chromium 6, fluoride, lead, mercury and chlorine. 
It also removes cryptosporidium, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and even asbestos.
In fact, this removes 2000% more toxins than Brita. 
6. Prevent tear droplets from staying on the hairs.  It's normal for some amount of natural tearing to occur.  The problem is when tiny droplets remain long enough to be absorbed into the hairs around the eyes.

This is because tears contain a lot more than just water. There is also glucose, immunoglobulins, lacritin, lactoferrin, lipids, lipocalin, lysozyme, mucin, potassium, sodium, and urea.

For this reason, you will want to routinely wipe the area around your Poodle's eyes. It is recommended to do this at least twice per day, with 3 times being ideal.  To help you remember, you may want to try to get into the habit of doing this after each meal. 

 This is best done with a quality canine eye wipe, and we'll go over recommended wipes next. 

Step #2 - Use a Quality Tear Stain Remover

Please note that if you used one of these before and did not get great results, this may be because any number of the previous items in 'Step 1' were not followed. So, you'll want to be sure to adhere to all that are applicable.

Then, for the best tear stain removers, there are 2 basic options:

1. Tear stain remover wipes. These are the best choice for Poodles with minor to moderate tear stains. These are super easy to use, are economical, and can also double as the 'daily wipe' as mentioned in point #6. 

2. Tear stain remover powders and liquids. If red yeast is to blame and the stains have been present for years, it will be time to up the game and move to this type of remover.
Below are recommended daily eye wipes, tear stain remover wipes, and effective tear stain removal applications. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

About Home Remedies 

There are some home remedies that can do more harm than good. It is recommended to steer clear of the following:
  • Corn starch alone or mixed with boric acid. This is very dangerous and can cause quite a bit of irritation to the eyes.  
  • Vinegar, added to drinking water. There is no proof that this works and the flavor can cause a dog to resist drinking an adequate amount of water. 
  • Tums. This antacid meant for human consumption is sometimes touted as a home remedy for canine tear stains. However, this is packed with calcium and offering too much of this is not healthy. 
  • Milk of Magnesia (20%), corn starch (20%) and hydrogen peroxide (60%). This may work to dye the hair to be lighter but will not resolve the underlying issue.

Prescribed Medications

If both eliminating triggers and using quality removers does not work, this indicates that prescribed medication may be needed. 

Many vets prescribe tetracycline (usually a 10 day course); do note that this should not be given to puppies that are teething since it can cause permanent staining to teeth that have yet to erupt). 

Other medications may include flagyl (this anti-diarrhea medication is sometimes used off label to combat tear staining in a 2 week course), Lincocin (a strong antibiotic for dogs that do not show improvement with other medications) or Ak-Trol (an eye drop solution that contains neomycin, polymyxin B and dexamethasone which can be used on dogs of all ages). 
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