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Tear Stains

Chihuahua Tear Stains


Tear stains are marks on a dog’s fur either surrounding the eyes or under the eyes in which the hairs have become discolored.
The color of tear stains will vary, though most are reddish or brownish. The extent of that color showing will vary depending on the color of the dog; these are much more viable on light colored Chihuahuas such as white, gold, tan, etc. However, with tear stains, there are other aspects as well such as the discolored hairs having a crisp texture. 

It is common for owners to become frustrated when trying to get rid of tear stains; either a highly touted product does not work or it seems to resolve things for a little while and then it comes back again.

This section will cover all that you need to know, including:
  • Why clear tears cause colored stains
  • What causes tear staining
  • Conditions to rule out
  • Exactly how to treat tear stains

Why Clear Colored Tears Cause Red or Brown Stains

You may wonder how in the world clear eye discharge can lead to red or brown hairs. There are 2 parts to this. The first is that while tears appear clear, they consist of much more than just water. Canine tears contain water, mucin, lipids, lysozyme and porphyrins among other things. And it is the porphyrins that are the culprit. This is a molecule that contains iron. It is excreted not only through tears about also saliva and urine. The iron stains the fur; for many dogs the stains will be brown. However, when those stains are exposed to sunlight, this can cause them to turn to a more reddish color, so you may notice that they get worse in the summertime

What Causes Tear Stains

Essentially, any condition that causes the eyes to produce more discharge than normal can cause tear stains. Some are acute and others are chronic. In addition, secondary conditions can develop due to the tearing. Here, we will look at the most common causes. 

Teething – It is not uncommon for teething puppies to produce excessive tears, thus leading to stains. Typical teething time for Chihuahuas starts at 4 months old and ends around 8 months old, however there may be some early or late bloomers. In most cases, the tearing will end when all of the adult teeth have emerged. However, it is important to treat the tear stains, since excessive moisture in one area can lead to yeast infection. 

Plastic bowls – These can really do a number on dogs of all ages. Plastic bowls can not only cause tear staining, but also led to loss of pigmentation on the nose. Some dogs are allergic to plastic, these are notorious for slipping across the floor and since they scratch easily, these tend to harbor bacteria. The best bowls for Chihuahuas are shallow, floor-level or raised stainless steel. Ceramic is another option. 

Tap water – Many cities and towns all across the U.S. with tap water deemed ‘safe’ contain shocking levels of contaminants, toxins, fluoride (toxic to dogs) and even cancer-causing agents. Any number of the hundreds if not thousands of chemical can cause tear staining.  

Irritants – This would include anything airborne that can irritate the eyes. Smoke is an obvious one, however overuse of air fresheners and for Chihuahua that have allergies, pollen and other allergen triggers can cause tearing. 

Ear or nasal infections – With internal passages connected, infection in the ears or sinuses can trigger excessive tear flow. Signs of ear infection include rubbing the head against surfaces and trying to paw at the ears. 

Eyelash/lid issues – Both ingrown eyelashes (trichiasis) and inverted eyelid (entropion, which causes one or more lashes to grow abnormally) will cause a dog to have tearing. 

Tear duct problems – Both blocked tear ducts and ducts that are too small will prevent fluid from properly draining; it then spills out over the bottom lid onto hairs under the eyes. 

Eye issues and diseases – This includes glaucoma, conjunctivitis and other eye diseases. 

What About Yeast Infection?

Yeast infection does not cause tear stains; however, it can develop due to them. Whenever you have an area that is near constantly wet, yeast can start to grow. This compounds the problem. Chihuahuas with both initial tear staining issues and yeast infection this can often be remedied from home; but stubborn cases will need veterinary treatment. 

How to Fix and Treat Tear Stains on a Chihuahua

1) First and foremost, all possible health conditions must be ruled out. If not, you’ll be treating the stains but not the actual cause of them. This will be a vicious circle, in which they come back as fast as you can remove them. In most cases of a Chihuahua having reoccurring tear stains in which the owner is constantly battling them, this is because the root cause has not been resolved. 

2) Take steps at home to change what you can:

- Throw away any plastic food and water bowls and replace these with appropriately sized stainless steel bowls; ceramic may be okay as well; however, these are not unbreakable as stainless steel is.  

- Clear the air as much as possible. Of course, smoking in the house should be banned for the sake of everyone in the household. Use aerosol sprays sparingly. In regard to air fresheners, swap out sprays for gels, beads or plug-ins. For Chihuahuas that have allergies, ELISA testing should be done to pinpoint the triggers and the dog should be under vet care for proper medications and monitoring; however, steps at home include using HEPA filters in both your vacuum and air circulation system as these can trap tiny microbes. A MERV rating of at least 8 is recommended; however, MERV 11 or 13 is best. 

- Do not give your Chihuahua unfiltered tap water; long-term effects can be much worse than tear staining. Attach a filter to your kitchen tap or give your Chihuahua water via a canine water fountain. 
3) Clean the eyes daily and treat the stains. * Steer clear of at home treatments as these can cause eye irritation or eye injury to your Chihuahua, not to mention that they are not proven to work. This of course includes anything with bleach, but also apple cider vinegar (applied or ingested), boric acid, corn starch, milk of Magnesia and peroxide.

In regard to daily cleaning and treatment for stains, these two treatment work hand-in-hand. You’ll want to get into a habit of cleaning your Chihuahua’s eye area daily. Three times is really best for dogs that are naturally prone to tear staining due to moderate natural tearing and high levels of porphyrins found within them. 

In conjunction with this, you will want to use a tear stain treatment and of course, choosing one that actually works while being very gentle is paramount.  

The eye wipes: You will want to use a quality canine eye wipe that is all-natural and does not contain lanolin or alcohol. Use 1 wipe per eye. Starting at the eyebrow, swipe down being sure to sweep over the inner eye to the nose bridge and then down across the cheekbone. 

The tear stain treatment: Be careful. Some of the well-known brands such as Angel Eyes have come under fire from the FDA due to adding non-approved antibiotics.

Here are the top 2 best tear stain remedies that work best on a Chihuahua:

Eye Envy – Our #1 choice. This is a safe and gentle and extremely effective product. It contains no bleach, peroxide or harsh chemicals. Results can be seen in as little as 1 week and full results will be seen in 3 to 4 weeks. This comes as either a liquid or a powder; both are very easy to apply with a makeup sponge, Q-tip, cotton ball or cotton pad. Some owners prefer to use both liquid and powder on their Chihuahua for super-fast results, but it’s fine to just choose one. Since the porphyrins that are found in tears is also in urine and saliva (thus causing stains to other parts of a Chihuahua’s body), this is also made to work on stains for that as well. 

Tropiclean SPA Fresh Facial Scrub – This is particularly good for Chihuahua that whose hairs tend to have a crispy texture. This is a scrub that is non-irritating and contains mild coconut cleanser, vanilla, blueberry, kiwi, vitamin E, oatmeal, white tea and ginger. You’ll find that using a small children’s toothbrush is a very effective method of applying this. You’ll scrub for 2 to 3 minutes and then wipe well with a warm, wet, soft washcloth. As with Eye Envy, results can be seen within a week or so, with best results in 3 to 4 weeks.

Important Follow Up

Once the tear stains are gone, you’ll want to continue wiping your Chihuahua’s eyes each day with your chosen basic eye wipes. 

If your Chihuahua’s tear stains do not go away, this points to a yeast (or in some cases bacterial) infection. This will need to be treated by the veterinarian with an approved antibiotic. 
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