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Tear Stains

Poodle Tear Stains

Overview

This is a common and troubling issue in which the hairs around the dog's eyes becomes discolored. Despite the term of 'tear' this can happen not only under the dog's eyes but also all around them and even spreading down to the cheeks and up a bit toward the forehead.

Sometimes an owner is not aware that this is a grooming issue and mistakenly believes that the hair of the Poodle has naturally changed color. The following can be said of tear stain issues:
  • The discolored hair may be around 1 or both eyes
  • The tear stains will cause the hair to be a discolored red, rust or brown.
  • The hairs will often feel brittle, hard or "crusted"

What Causes Tear Staining

Tear stains develop over time and there are several reasons why this occurs. For some Poodles, more than one of the causes will be at the root of the problem. For this reason, owners are encouraged to look at all possible causes and take appropriate measures to remedy any that apply to their Poodle. 

The most common reasons why tear staining occurs on Poodles are:

Red Yeast Infection - This is the #1 reason for why Poodles develop tear stains. This is often triggered by facial hairs being damp over a long period of time which is conducive to the growth of bacteria. 
The hairs around the eyes may become wet due to a watery eye discharge and/or when the Poodle dips his head down to take a drink. 

Tear Ducts Issues- Red streaking coming down from the eyes may be caused by a problem with the tear ducts. This includes blockage (sometimes caused by lids that roll inward a bit too much and sometimes due to hairs that overgrow) and scaring over the ducts due to former eye infections. 

Ear Infection - While this is not the most typical reason, an ear infection can trigger excessive tearing, which in turn discolors the hairs. If treatments fail, a dog should be checked for this. Other signs are an odd shaking of the head, rubbing ears against surfaces (walls, bedding, flooring) and pawing at the ears. 

Teething - If a Poodle puppy develops tear stains, this can be due to teething. The process of teeth falling out and larger teeth erupting out from the gums can trigger an effect on the tear ducts and over time this can cause discoloration to the hair.

Water - Tap water can contain a high level of minerals that can in turn cause a problem with staining. Since unfiltered tap water also contains a whole slew of terrible toxins and chemicals, it is always recommended to offer filtered water to both puppies and dogs. 

Artificial coloring in food - Food and treats that are brightly colored can cause a discoloration of facial hairs. This is not 'typical' tear stains but can cause color issues. While this will occur more around the mouth, if a Poodle is dipping his head into bright kibble, it can slowly cause staining on any hairs that routinely come into contact with it. 

Treatment 

There are many methods to remove tear stains on dogs that either do not work or have limited success. And owners need to be careful since some home remedies can actually be harmful and cause injury. 

Here is what we recommend:

1) If you suspect any of the above mentioned heath issues, have your Poodle examined by the veterinarian. 

2) If there are no medical reasons for the tear stains, the most typical reason will be a red yeast infection that can be treated from home. 

3) We suggest AVOIDING 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. 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%). What this will do, is dye the hair to be lighter but will not resolve the underlying issue.

4) Use a quality, proven and safe canine tear stain remover product. The best product will be one that has all of these factors:

1- It will be an easy topical solution that is easy to apply.

2- It will have a gentle yet effective cleanser.

3- It will have a gentle yet effective astringent.

4- It will have an herbal antibacterial agent

5- It will be formulated to be safe for dogs of all ages - from young puppies to the senior dog and every age in between. 

6- It will not contain bleach, peroxide, or harsh chemicals. 

If you would like to see our list of recommendations, along with reviews, look to 'Grooming' in the Poodle Specialty Shoppe.

5) If the tear stains do not clear up, it is best to have the veterinarian take a look. In some cases, a dog will need a prescribed antibiotic to resolve the issues. 

This may include Tetracycline (usually a 10 day course and should not be given to puppies that are teething since it can cause permanent staining to teeth that have yet to erupt), 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). 

How to Prevent Tear Stains

Tear staining will be much more obvious on light colored Poodles than darker colors (particularly reds and browns), however owners should check the area regardless for not only discoloration but also for hair health; the hairs should be just as soft as those on other areas of the coat. It is far more easier to clear this problem up when caught early than to wait until it has enveloped both eyes over a long period of time.  

Here is what you can do to prevent this from happening:
1) Offer your Poodle filtered tap water. This can be via a canine water fountain with a charcoal filter or via a filter that is attached to your kitchen tap.

2) If you feed manufactured treats to your Poodle, try to stay with white or cream colored ones. The bright ones not only can stain hair but also can trigger chemical allergies. 

3) Get into a habit of wiping your Poodle's face and especially the eye area at least twice per day. If you use a quality canine facial wipe that is geared toward keeping tear stains away, this is all you will need to do. If however you use a damp wash cloth, be sure to dry the hairs afterward since you will want to avoid leaving them damp since this can be the cause of the problem. 
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