What are tear stains and how do I deal with them?

What are tear stains and how do I deal with them?

Tear Staining in chihuahuas

It can be very upsetting to see your chihuahua with tear stains around his eyes. Especially if your chihuahua is a show dog. But the good news is tear stains can be dealt with.

What are tear stains?

Tear stains are the natural over-flow from your chihuahua’s eyes. They go brown when the normally clear tears react with the natural bacteria on your dog’s fur.

Why do they occur?

Tear stains occur when the tears overflow and are not drained away through the tear ducts or ‘puncta’. Your chihuahua has these openings in the upper and the lower eyelid.

Some dogs are born with a condition called ‘unperforated puncta’ which means nothing can drain into the tear duct. This can be corrected with surgery if the hole tear duct system is present.

The shape of your dog’s eye can also have an impact on how much tear staining will occur and in some cases surgery can help here as well.

Chihuahua’s do have naturally protruding eyes that can make them vulnerable to foreign objects irritating the eye and making them tear-up.

Some tear staining is inevitable, but if the tear stains are excessive then you might need to check with your vet that your chihuahua does not have a problem.

Can tear stains be prevented?

Keeping your chihuahua’s eyes clean and free from irritations is key. Chihuahuas don’t have a lot of facial fur but if they did keep it trimmed and out of the eyes.


There is some suggestion that excessive tearing up can be the result of allergies. This makes sense when you consider that people will get a runny nose and eyes when they have an allergic reaction to something.

If the tear staining is seasonal, then it could be hay fever. Dogs are prone to this like people. Chihuahuas are close to the ground and with their protruding eyes they are going to be collecting pollen and dust. Antihistamines can help here.  Read ‘Can dogs get hay fever?’ for more information on how to deal with this.

Food intolerance

They could also be having a problem with food intolerances, if your chi is tearing up all year around and it is not a physical reason then look at his diet. Especially if you are feeding dry dog food (kibble).

Diets with excessive grains and starches (all kibble contains starch, even if they are grain free) can cause all sorts of issues with your dog’s digestive system. This can result in ‘leaky gut syndrome’, which can in turn be the trigger for food allergies and intolerance.

House hold products

VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that are present in many household products from your scented candle, carpet freshener to floor cleaners can cause allergies. Read ‘ 5 Everyday products that cause allergies in dogs.

What’s the cure?

If the tearing is excessive then seek medical advice from your vet who will be able to advise if there is a physical medical cause.

Once you have ruled out any physical reasons then look at the areas like diet or environment and see what changes you can make.

How to clean the staining

The staining that is brown or red-brown is the clear tears reacting with the normal bacteria on your chihuahua’s fur.

Chihuahuas with light fur are going to be prone to staining more than dogs with dark coats. You need a good tear stain remover. Products that contain colloidal silver are good as they have anti-bacterial properties. ‘Lintbells Dog Eye Cleaning Spay’ is one that comes recommended.

Use a clean pad for each eye, so you don’t spread any infection.

Clean around the eye areas daily to maintain good eye hygiene. Make sure you don’t get products in your chihuahuas eyes or he may test his pearly whites on your fingers!

The brown staining should disappear after a week or so of treatment, however you will need to maintain your cleaning routine to keep them at bay.

But to some extent, it is something you are going to have to live with and should be regarded as the natural colouring of your chihuahua’s eye region.

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1 Comment

  1. Sharon
    February 15, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    About 2 yrs. ago I began giving my baby “Stewart’s freeze dried chicken livers as treats. She loves them and after approx. 2-3 mos. ago. Amazingly, she no longer has the tear stains! I highly recommend them and now I don’t worry about having to constantly cleaning her pretty face.

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