Tear stains in chihuahuas can be very upsetting to see . Especially if your chihuahua has light coloured fur.  But the good news is tear stains can be dealt with.

What are tear stains?

Tear stains are the natural overflow from your chihuahua’s eyes. They go brown when the normally clear tears react with the natural bacteria on your dog’s fur. People often believe that giving filtered water will help cure tear stains in chihuahuas. It is a good idea to give your chihuahua filtered water, but it will have little impact on tear stains.

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.

Do dogs with longer muzzles have fewer issues with tear staining? I have no research evidence to support this theory apart from my own dogs. Arlo and Prince always have clear eyes, but the others, with the more traditional ‘apple shaped head’ all get some some tear staining. Arlo, in the photo, never has tear stains or runny eyes.

Arlo always has clear eyes and no tear staining.

Can you prevent tear stains in chihuahuas?

Keeping your chihuahua’s eyes clean and free from eye 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 may also be other reasons your chihuahua is getting tear stains.


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 intolerance, 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. How you store dry dog food is really important as it can grow moulds that cause allergies.

Diets with excessive grains and starches can contribute to tear stains in chihuahuas. All kibble, dry dog food, 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. Our little Macy had issues with tear stains and chaining her diet to a fresher option, keeping her weight correct and adding a probiotic to her food daily has made a huge difference. She was also a poop eater and this approach has helped here as well. (Poop eating can also be the sign of digestive issues).

Household 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.

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