Whether due to breed, color, or a medical condition, some dogs are more prone to rust-colored tear stains around their eyes. It’s a very common and usually harmless condition, but owners typically aren’t in love with the teary look. Tear stain removers may be able to help control the staining.
“Tear stains in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, anatomy, medical conditions, and grooming habits,” says Denver-based Dr. Alejandro Caos, veterinarian with The Vets, an in-home vet service.
Some breeds like those with short snouts or flat faces—like pugs, Shih Tzus, and bulldogs—are more prone to tears because of shallow eye sockets and extra skin around their eyes. Medical conditions like allergies, infections, or blocked tear ducts can also make staining worse.
“The color of a dog's fur can also affect the visibility of tear stains, with lighter-colored dogs often showing more noticeable staining,” Caos told The Spruce Pets. “The type of hair a dog has can also play a role in tear stains, as dogs with long or thick hair around their eyes may be more prone to tears building up and staining the hair.”
Rule out any underlying medical problems with your vet, then consider a tear stain remover. Our favorite is Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes. They’re lightly textured and contain aloe vera and chamomile to soothe irritated skin.
Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes
Well-saturated with solution
No rinsing necessary
Contains aloe vera and chamomile extract
May be too small for larger dogs
Eye wipes are so convenient. These individual pads are slightly textured so they can gently wipe away your pet’s eye gunk. They are pre-moistened with solution so all you have to do is swab around each eye to remove dried discharge and mucus. Be sure to use a fresh wipe for each eye, and there’s no need to rinse after.
Angels’ Eyes makes several products focused on tear stains. These wipes are mostly purified water, but they contain aloe vera and chamomile extract for soothing. They are unscented and pretty heavily saturated with cleaning solution. The wipes are just under three inches in diameter, so they are particularly easy to use with small pets, but you may have to use a few extra for larger dogs.
You can use these daily or as needed. To keep your dog’s eye area clean, it can help to also wipe around the eyes with a warm, damp cloth or cotton ball. Always wipe from the inner corner of the eye outward to avoid contaminating the eye.
Price at time of publish: $14
Count: 100 wipes
Best Eye Wash
Burt’s Bees Natural Eye Wash with Saline Solution
Safe for puppies and adults
Simple ingredients including saline solution
No sulfates, parabens, phthalates, colors, or fragrances
pH balanced for dogs
Bottle can be slightly unwieldy
Known for natural products targeting the care of pets and humans, Burt’s Bees has several pup-related eye products, including this simple eye wash made with saline solution. Created without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, colors, or fragrances, the solution is pH balanced for dogs and has saline in order to mimic your pet’s normal tears. To use, apply 2-3 drops in each eye as needed. It can be used on puppies as young as eight weeks old, then dab away any remaining liquid with a soft, dry cloth or tissue.
Burt’s Bees products are cruelty-free, meaning they aren’t tested on animals. The company focuses on natural and responsibly sourced ingredients.
Price at time of publish: $7
Volume: 4 ounces
Squishface Wrinkle Paste
Can be used for tear stains and wrinkle irritation
Has zinc oxide and coconut oil
May only need to be used daily for a week and then less often
Not for long-haired breeds
This thick paste is a popular choice for wrinkly breeds like bulldogs and pugs. It can be used on tear stains, but also can be applied between the folds of irritated, red wrinkly skin. Wipe the area first, and then use a pea-sized glob for tear stains. Be sure to wipe off any extra and don’t get it too close to the eyes.
The cream is antibacterial and antifungal and uses ingredients like zinc oxide and coconut oil to soothe skin and to create a barrier against fungus and moisture. The manufacturer suggests using it daily for about a week and then continuing only if stains and irritation aren’t gone. After that, you may only need it every other day to keep tear stains and red skin in check. Because this has to be rubbed on the skin and not into the fur, it may be difficult to use for long-haired breeds.
Price at time of publish: $20
Volume: 2 ounces
Purina Pro Plan Fortiflora Canine Probiotic Supplement
Powder or chewable tablet
Easy to use
Liver flavor is tempting for most dogs
Tear stain chews hope to work on tear stain formation from the inside out, says Caos. They have natural ingredients that are targeted toward a healthy immune system, as well as skin and coat health and lubricated eye membranes. But a good probiotic may help too. Probiotics help with the immune system and gut health, but research also suggests they may help with eye health.
Popular with veterinarians, Fortiflora from Purina Pro Plan comes in single-use packets or as chewable tablets. GIve a tablet or sprinkle the powder over your dog’s food once a day at mealtime. It’s meant to be given under your vet’s supervision.
Price at time of publish: $34
Count: 45 chews
Petpost Tear Stain Remover Comb
Rounded stainless steel teeth
Small and easy to maneuver
Gentle on skin
Can be hard to clean
Before using a tear stain remover, you might want to try using a fine-toothed comb to gently brush through the eye area with a little water.
“This will help separate the hairs, remove material that has congealed or gunked up, and make it easy to clean,” Caos told The Spruce Pets.
This small comb from Petpost has rounded, stainless steel teeth for safety and comfort. They bend slightly so they aren’t as stiff as a similar-looking flea comb.
The comb is just over two inches, so it’s relatively easy to maneuver around the eye area for all but the smallest dogs. It can be a little difficult to clean when eye gunk gets caught deep in the prongs. Washing after each use with hot, soapy water can help keep it clean.
Price at time of publish: $12
Our favorite is Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes. They’re lightly textured and contain aloe vera and chamomile to soothe irritated skin. If you prefer an eye wash, Burt’s Bees Natural Eye Wash is a simple saline solution that is pH balanced for dogs.
What to Look for in Tear Stain Removers
“In general, it's a good idea to choose a tear stain removal product that is free from harsh chemicals and unnecessary additives,” says Caos. He suggests looking for products that contain natural, non-toxic ingredients and avoiding those that have artificial dyes, fragrances, or preservatives.
You might find active ingredients such as boric acid, salicylic acid, or hydrogen peroxide. Because these ingredients may be harmful to your pup’s eyes, Caos says to be careful when using these products. “Additionally, dogs with allergies may be affected not only by these active ingredients but also by the other ingredients that make up these products.”
Read the label carefully and consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
How To Use Eyewash
While tear stain wipes are easy to use, you may find an eye wash more effective. However, using saline solution or an eye wash can lead to dry eyes, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before implementing. If eyewash seems like the best remedy for your dog's tear stains, then Dr. Caos suggests this step-by-step process:
- Fill a clean cup or eye dropper with eye wash solution or sterile saline solution.
- Keep your dog’s head steady with one hand as you use the other to gently flush the eye.
- Let your dog shake their head to get rid of any extra solution.
- Use a clean, dry cloth or a tissue to gently dab the area around their eyes.
- Repeat daily or as recommended.
Do Tear Stain Remover Treats Work?
Tear stain remover treats claim to work by reducing tear stains through diet. They most often have ingredients that may help keep the immune system healthy and lower inflammation which might contribute to tear stains. “However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these treats in reducing tear staining,” Caos told The Spruce Pets.
Tear stain treats might be a helpful part of comprehensive treatment to reduce staining, but they shouldn’t be the only method you use. “It's important to keep in mind that tear staining can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, anatomy, medical conditions, and grooming habits,” he says. “It's always best to consult with your veterinarian for advice on the best tear-stain reduction plan for your dog, which may include a combination of grooming, dietary changes, and medical treatment if necessary.”
What else can help control tear stains?
Keep the hair around your pup’s eyes trimmed and clean. Wipe gently with a warm, damp soft cloth or cotton ball. Bathe and brush your dog regularly to manage dirt and debris that can irritate your dog’s eyes. Scented products or environmental allergens can cause irritation. See your vet if tearing seems to get worse.
Why Trust The SprucePets
To find the best tear stain removers for dogs, we consulted with veterinarians and groomers about what to look for when shopping, asked dog owners about their favorite products, and sifted through loads of online product reviews.
This article was researched and written by Mary Jo DiLonardo who has covered animals and pets for several decades. Mary Jo has fostered more than 60 dogs and puppies. She is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use with them such as best dog brushes and best dog shampoos.