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Are reddish stains under your dog’s eyes making her look sick and depressed?

If you have a small dog with light-colored fur, tear stains are inevitable. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the appearance of these markings.

Why Do Chihuahuas Get Tear Stains?

Have you ever wondered why larger dogs never seem to have tear stains?

Every mammal produces tears to keep their eyes clean and clear. Excess tears drain down the back of the throat, largely unnoticed.

For small dogs like your Chihuahua, though, those large, round eyes protrude, and their tear ducts are shaped differently.

It’s not uncommon for a Chihuahua’s tears to drain down their face, rather than down the back of their throat.

This variation in eye shape means that the predisposition towards tear stains is genetic. There’s not much you can do to prevent your Chihuahua from getting eye discharge. Fortunately, this condition is not painful or harmful in any way – it just makes your Chi look a bit unkempt.

However, there are plenty of methods you can use to keep your Chihuahua’s eyes clean and clear so she always looks her best.

Can You Prevent Tear Stains Through Diet?

You may have heard that by making changes to your Chihuahua’s diet, you can actually change the chemical makeup of her tears, making them less likely to stain.

I’m not sure if this is true. I can’t find any strong evidence, and I haven’t particularly noticed any differences in Matilda, no matter what she eats, or what kind of water she drinks.

Keep in mind, reddish tear stains are not normally caused by impurities at all. Tears contain waste products called porphyrins, which contains iron that oxidizes when exposed to the air. That’s why tear stains have that “rusty” appearance.

A normal, healthy Chihuahua may have leaky tear ducts. Normal, healthy tears will stain. That’s inevitable.

Still, it never hurts to introduce healthy foods into your Chi’s diet. An excess of waste products in the tears may, quite possibly, create darker tear stains.

Blueberries are cited as being effective for reducing tear stains. Again, I’m not sure if they actually help, but they’re packed with antioxidants, so there’s no reason not to feed them. They are, however, slightly high in sugar, so you would want to limit your Chihuahua’s intake to 1-3 per day.

I personally like to keep frozen berries in my freezer at all times. You never know when you’re going to need to make a smoothie! Frozen blueberries are flash frozen at peak freshness, so they’re sweeter and extra nutrient-dense. Matilda loves nomming on them straight from the freezer!

Though I’m a huge advocate of fresh foods for dogs, I wouldn’t recommend switching your Chihuahua to a raw diet SOLELY in hopes of reducing tear stains. Matilda eats raw most of the time, but she still has tear stains.

Even so, please consider feeding your Chihuahua a raw or cooked diet. Remember, you can’t just give them chicken and rice and call it a day – there are many nutrients your dog needs, and many are only found in weird foods like oysters, liver and kidneys.

Work with a holistic veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete diet, or feed fresh snacks that make up no more than 20% of your Chihuahua’s diet while feeding a complete commercial diet.

Can Filtered Water Prevent Tear Stains?

Some people say filtered water prevents tear stains. Again, I have no evidence to back this up. Matilda gets filtered water, but she still has tear stains.

That said, I think Matilda’s tear stains have become less severe since she started eating fresh foods and drinking filtered water. These simple changes are totally worthwhile for multiple reasons.

If you drink filtered water, your dog should too. Dogs may not be picky about how their water tastes, but they still deserve fresh, clean water without impurities.

Another possible way to prevent tear stains: adding apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water.

Does it work? Again, I don’t know. Note, first of all, that your dog might not like apple cider vinegar, so adding it may reduce her water consumption.

Apple cider vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and can help kill bacteria in your dog’s mouth, reducing the buildup of plaque and controlling bad breath.

It can also be used to help reduce yeast infections, which can contribute to dark stains.

If your dog has a yeast issue, though, she’ll likely have other symptoms like a general yeasty, cheesy or bread-like odor, scooting, indigestion, chronic ear infections, itching and redness on different areas of her body.

Tear Stains Caused By Yeast Overgrowth

If the cause of your dog’s severe tear stains is actually yeast overgrowth, then getting to the root of the issue will do wonders for her health.

Yeast is a tough issue to tackle. It warrants a separate blog post. In fact, Cow is our resident yeasty dog, so I personally know how hard it is to get under control.

In the meantime, see your vet if you suspect your dog has a yeast issue.

Should You Use Tear Stain Products?

Some tear stain products, the ones made to be taken internally, contain antibiotics. Unnecessary use of antibiotics creates superbugs, and also kills off beneficial bacteria in your Chihuahua’s gut, compromising their immune system.

Getting rid of tear stains is not worth putting your Chi’s health at risk. Tear stains are purely a cosmetic issue.

However, there are also wipes and solutions that are used externally to break down the chemical compounds that cause those rusty stains.

I don’t use eye wipes, so I personally cannot vouch for these, but this is the first product I would try.

You get a lot of wipes for the price, but what’s more, every ingredient listed in Botanivet eye wipes is safe and natural. A lot of medicated wipes are antibacterial, which might not be necessary if you only need to gently freshen up the eye area.

Ingredients: Purified water, Organic Castile (Organic saponified coconut/jojoba/olive oils), Manuka honey, Citric acid (fruit source), Silver citrate, Citrus/lavender/mint oils, Organic Aloe Babdensis leaf extract, Organic Camellia sinensis leaf (green tea) extract

Using Contact Solution To Clean Your Chihuahua’s Tear Stains

Multipurpose contact solution is wonderfully effective at cleaning tear stains. It contains a small amount of boric acid, which breaks down the porphyrins.

If Matilda’s tear stains are getting icky between baths, I just squirt a bit of contact solution into the palm of my hand, dip in a q-tip, and gently wipe away the stains.

Since contact solution is designed to go into my eye, I have no hesitation about using it around hers.

I do, however, hesitate to use apple cider vinegar topically so close to her eye, along with almost anything else that wasn’t specifically designed for eyes.

Even many eye wipes say that the product should not enter the eyes – and when you’re wiping down a squirmy animal, that’s way too big of a risk to take.

Getting Rid Of Eye Boogers

I personally do not clean away Matilda’s eye stains very often. She’s tan, so they do not look very noticeable most of the time.

However, I do try to keep eye boogers out of her eyes. Clumpy eye boogers block the tear ducts, which can lead to infection.

Can you simply pick at your dog’s eye boogers and flick them into the greater beyond?

Well, I don’t recommend doing that, but… I do it all the time.

I wouldn’t do it if I had pointy acrylic nails. If you’re going to pick your dog’s eye boogers like a heathen, please just use common sense.

If you’re a reasonable, sanitary person, you can use a warm, damp cloth to soften eye boogers and wipe them away. They’ll also wash away easily during a bath.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.