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Tear Stains


Tear Stains ... Causes and Cures

Background and Causes

Remember . . .  you must understand tear staining and have it under control or removing it will do no good -- it will only come back and may be worse!!!

  • Excess Tearing -- Red Yeast

Most veterinary eye specialists believe the actual cause of tear staining is excess tearing. When the face hair is wet from excess tearing it is the breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.  One of the most common yeast infections is Ptyrosporin or Red Yeast which causes a deep reddish-brown stain.  Low grade bacterial infections in the tear ducts are also common and may cause excess tearing and staining.

  • Blocked Tear Ducts

If you have a Bichon with excessive tear stains and tearing, a visit to your veterinarian may be needed.  It is not unusual to find that your Bichon may have completely clogged tear ducts which need to be irrigated by your vet.  A veterinary opthamology specialist indicated that as many as 20% of small dogs, such as Bichons, may be born with lower tear ducts that are physically closed. These may need to be surgically opened.

  • Ear Infections

Many times a rampant ear infection can be the cause of excessive tearing and staining.  Care needs to be taken that when your Bichon is bathed the ears are dried after the bath. When your Bichon is bathed make sure a good cleansing product that will leave the ears dry is used. Scraggly hairs in the ears should also be removed by plucking or using a forceps to gently pull the hair out.  Frequent cleaning with a product such as Nolvasan Otic can go along way to insuring clean ears and a white face.  

  • Genetics

Genetics may play a significant role in excessive tearing and staining. Many veterinary eye specialists believe that the actual structure around the eye area plays a significant role in excessive tearing.  Being selective in Bichon breeding stock can play a significant role in tear staining.

  • Cutting Teeth

During the time when Bichons are cutting their adult teeth, the head structure and mouth are under going many changes causing pressure on the tear ducts.  Many Bichon puppies who have had no previous tear stain problems will during this time. It is most important to keep the facial hair as dry as possible and frequently wash it to help keep yeast and bacteria under control. The good news is that when the adult teeth are in this will go away if you have kept it under control. Make sure your Bichon has plenty of chew type of toys to help relieve the pressure on the mouth during this time.

  • Irritation & Allergies

Eliminating excess tearing is one of the best ways to stop staining.  Bichon owners should pay attention to the hair around the face and prevent hair from falling into the eyes causing irritation and infection.

Bichons can be susceptible to allergies so watch the environment your Bichon is in.  I have heard from other Bichon owners whose dogs previously had sparkling white faces and overnight tear stained when in a hotel room with a friend who smoked. It also is important to be extra careful when bathing your Bichon. Shampoo and other chemicals in the eyes can cause irritation and excess tearing.  I use a little DuoLube -- basically sterile mineral oil -- to protect my Bichon dogs' eyes when I bathe them. You can find this human product in the eye care section of most drug stores.

Some Vets believe that many times a "sub-clinical" allergy ... something as simple as a type of food can cause an allergy which is an inflammatory reaction.  The inflammatory reaction can change the pH fluid in your dogs systems causing excessive tearing and potentially allergies.

  • Water

The water in many areas has a high mineral level.  If your Bichon drinks from a water dish and your local water has a high mineral content you may find the entire face and beard stained.  You can solve this by training your dog to drink from a water bottle.  This also keeps the face dry.  Alternatively, a Bichon can be placed on purified or commercial bottled water.

  • Food & Treats

Diet can play a significant key role in tear staining.  I find that feeding a dry kibble that is natural with no additives, preservatives or food color in it seems to aid in maintaining white stain free faces.  Many commercial dog foods contain beep pulp which can cause staining of the face and beard.

  • Fleas

Another potential source of tear staining is fleas. If you read the directions on most flea shampoos they suggest starting the shampoo with the head. Why -- because fleas need moisture to survive and get this from the dogs' tears/eyes. Naturally, this an cause an irritation in addition to red stain from the fleas' left behind feces (which contains digested blood). Another problem that comes with fleas is ear mites. These are carried by the fleas. Ear mites can cause severe ear infections and as a result tear staining. Fleas require a pro-active approach to keep under control.

Cures For Tear Staining

Before a Bichon owner attempts to remove the tear staining from a dog's face it is most important to have eliminated the source of the staining. Otherwise it will just come back and many times it will be worse than before. Once the source of excessive tearing and staining is found a pro-active program to remove the staining can begin. After insuring that health, irritation, environment, water and diet issues have been eliminated as a source of excessive tearing you can begin to think about removing the tear staining.


Some have found success in eliminating tear staining by putting their Bichon on a ten day course of low dose chlortetracycline or tetracycline. Occasionally this may need to be repeated.  However, do not use this in puppies that have not yet cut their adult teeth. Tetracycline has been shown to cause teeth which have not erupted to permanently stain yellow.

Delta AlbaPlex 

An antibiotic of the tetracycline class, Delta AlbaPlex also contains a low level of steroid (not enough to cause Cushing's Syndrome).  A veterinary specialist in Opthmology recommended this product for tear staining as the steroid will help eliminate inflamation that goes along with excessive tearing, thus allowing the antibiotic a chance to work.

Gentian Violet Flush

One of the best products found to deal with "gunky ears" (and in my personal opinion one of the biggest causes of tear staining) is Gentian Violet Flush.  Yes, this is purple but it does not stain the coat.  The place to buy this is from Belcher Animal Clinic, Clearwater, FL, phone:  727-536-6548; email  Using this over about 2 weeks will clear up most ear problems and many times solve a tear staining problem.


Flagyl (Metronidazole) is an anti-diarrhea medicine commonly used in dogs to treat yeast or Giradia infections causing irratible or inflammatory bowel syndrome.  This can also be very effective in the treatment of tear stains, particularly when the staining is the result of red yeast.  This is given for 2 weeks.  You will need to see your vet to have this prescribed.


Bichons not responding to tetracycline may respond well to Lincocin.

Otomax or Gentamicin Sulfate 

Yeast infections in the ears may also be a frequent culprit of tear stain; this generally responds well to OTOMAX (gentamicin sulfate) or liquid drops.

Xonodine Solution

Manufactured by Veterinary Products Laboratories this product available from your veterinarian is a polyhydroxydine solution with Iodine as the main active ingredient.  It does work well with fungus infections such as yeast in the ears.  Also good as a topical for cuts and abrasions to prevent bacterial infections.


Another useful product is AK-TROL which is a human prescription eye drop containing neomycin, polymyxin B and dexamethasone.  AK-TROL is also available in an ointment form.  Your vet can prescribe this for your Bichon and can be used before the adult teeth are cut if needed.


Tums is primarily a source of Calcium, known as an antacid formulated as 500 mg Calcium Carbonate. Giving your Bichon 1/2 of the Fruit flavored variety twice a day will help change the pH of the tears.  This will change the tears' environment and can help make it hostile for the continued growth of yeast and bacteria. Some Bichon exhibitors also use TUMS with success to control excessive tearing before shows.  There are other brands of 500 mg calcium carbonate that may work as well.

Colloidal Silver

This is a product that is again placed in the eyes and works much like an antibiotic.  I have not personally used it but know of others who swear by this.

White Vinegar

A teaspoon of white cider vinegar can be added to your dogs drinking water to control new tear stains.  It may take a while for your dog to "decide" to drink this water so start with a little less and gradually increase the amount of vinegar.  Vinegar works much like TUMS in that it can changes the pH of the drinking water.

Removing Tear Stains

If you wish to attempt to remove tear staining from the facial hair there are a several things that can done. There are a number of products available from the dog products suppliers at shows or through mail order that can be used on the facial hair on a daily basis. However, it is my opinion that unless you have minimal staining these products just do not work.

I have several methods that I can suggest to remove tear staining. Care must be taken in using these products or any other chemical solutions to not get anything in the dog's eyes. It is also important to remember that when attempting to removing tear staining you my also be damaging the hair. Before trying a bleaching method,  make sure to condition the hair well first. Wella Kolesterol is a popular choice.  Pack the face furnishings with this for several days before you bleach. After you bleach make sure you neutralize the effects of the chemicals you have used and condition the facial hair after any attempts to remove stain.

  • Milk of Magnesia, corn starch and peroxide (20 to 40 volume)

Use equal volume of MOM and peroxide, and then use the corn starch to make a good paste of this; put on and work well into the stained area and let dry overnight. Wash out, CONDITION WELL. Keep doing this for several days until tear staining is gone, although I would recommend skipping a day or two between applications if possible. I also like to use a few drops of Nexus KerapHix in this mixture to help with conditioning.

This MOM formula is a personal preference as it works quite well overnight.


  • 2% Peroxide & Crown Royale Magic Touch

Use the Magic Touch grooming spray concentrate full strength 1:1 with 2%/3% hydrogen peroxide - as opposed to human hair peroxide (formula above).  Mix up enough for a week at a time & keep in a closed bottle.  Use as cotton ball to clean the eyes.  This can be drying to the coat so follow with a conditioner such as Paul Mitchell's The Conditioner (a human product).  This is a longer term lifting of color over a week or two and may need to be conditioned to maintain clear conditions.   Crown Royale's phone # is 1-800-992-5400 and is also available from many vendors at the dog shows.

  • Crown Royale makes a product called "WHITENER"

Mix this with human hair peroxide (20 volume to 40 volume) into a paste and again leave on overnight. The Crown Royale Whitener works a lot like MOM/peroxide, it works faster but it is much harsher -- again, CONDITION WELL. 

  • Human Hair Bleach

There are any number of brands of this. Many professional breeders ONLY to use Wella Wellite (this is the one in the light blue/turquoise package). Many of the human hair bleaches are very harsh and they all work, but care needs to be used in selecting the bleach to use. A gel based bleach such as Wellite is much gentler than some of the other beaches available. Other products that many have used with success is Quick Blue and Redken.  Like Wellite they are very gentle  products.

When you bleach it is important to use a product such as DuoLube, a sterile mineral oil ointment, in the dogs eyes for protection. You can buy this at most pharmacy/drug stores.

NOTE: Please use caution if you are going to try bleaching -- this is a last resort!

  • #1 All Systems Whitening Gel

This is a gel product that contains a mild bleaching agent.  It is applied to the facial hair and left to dry.  It takes several applications to work, but will also gently help lift some color from the hair.

When using a bleaching product, one of the things that is suggested is to follow up with JOICO Phine (this is a human hair product).  This is a chelating conditioner that will help remove all traces of the bleach product.  It is most important to get all traces of the beach from the hair.   If you do not and then dry with moderate heat the bleach can "frizzle" the hair causing irreversible damage.


Also use 40 volume peroxide most of the time.  A hairdresser stated that if your going to bleach 20 volume is just as bad for your hair as 40 volume -- the color comes up faster with 40 volume. The DAMAGE you do to the hair -- and yes bleaching can do damage -- is the same with 20 volume as 40 volume.  It depends on how long bleach is on the hair (time) as to the amount of damage and it is shorter with 40 volume -- hence less damage.  Cream peroxide and gel peroxide are less harsh than the liquid variety.

And finally, don't be impatient.  If you have a face that is badly stained it may take several attempts to bring the color back up to white. Do it several days apart and in between ...



Yellow Stains (urine) & other stains on feet

It is not unusual for Bichons to stain yellow on their feet from urine, mud and other things.  A good formula to remove this yellow color is one made of 50% liquid Woolite and 50% human hair peroxide (20 volume), dilute this 50% with water, add a little conditioning shampoo.  Shampoo this mixture into the stained portion of the coat and let remain for 3 to 5 minutes.  Wash out and shampoo and condition as normal.