Downeast Dog News

Staining Tears Running Down the Face

By Dr. Judith Herman | Mar 31, 2017

Q. My beagle has rusty colored streaks down his face from his eyes. I thought this was normal until I saw another beagle who didn’t have it. What is going on?

A. Many times symptoms we see in ourselves or our companions are common but not really normal. Eye discharge is one of these issues. Eye discharge may be benign or an indication of a problem. If your dog never had the rusty stains on his face until now, there may be a medical problem. Some dogs have runny eyes ever since they were tiny puppies. There are many reasons for this.

Some breeds of dogs are inclined to have watery stains on their faces because of the conformation of their heads. These are usually brachycephalic breeds, which means they have a smushed in nose. Common breeds are pugs, boxers, bulldogs, Pekinese, and Bostons to name a few. Other breeds with bulging eyes that have this problem are Chihuahuas, toy poodles, and beagles.

There are medical reasons for runny eyes. Sometimes dogs are born with extra eyelashes that grow toward the eyeball, causing irritation and pain. This condition is called distichiasis. Another problem is when the eyelash grows inward called trichiasis. Both of these conditions can be treated by removing the offending eyelashes. Unfortunately many times these lashes will grow back.

Another eyelid problem that can cause excessive tearing and discomfort is called entropion. This condition can involve upper or lower lids, part of an eyelid or the entire eyelid. Entropion is the condition where the eyelid curls in toward the eye, and the fur and lashes rub the eye causing pain. This is usually an inherited problem but can happen later in life. Surgery will correct this problem.

Other medical issues that cause excessive tearing is foreign debris blown into the eye when your dog’s head is out the window while driving. Infections, such as conjunctivitis, allergies, and inflammation inside the eye called anterior uveitis can all cause excessive tearing or eye discharge.

If the problem isn’t medical or surgical, there are products out there to decrease the staining of your dog’s face. Many products are antibiotic drops or ointments. The antibiotic is usually a tetracycline product. Non-drug products for getting rid of the stains can be herbal products such as No More Stains. There are many products being sold to get rid of stains. Be sure to read the labels so you know what you are giving your dog. Check with your veterinarian before trying any new product on your dog.

Other techniques are to trim the fur around the eye in long furred dogs and make a salt water solution of 1 teaspoon salt in 1 pint boiling water. Wipe the eyes 2 to 3 times a day to keep the stains away. Adding 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to his water may decrease the staining. Apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg’s, has many health benefits for you and your dog.

Whatever the reason for the staining tears running down your best friend’s face, be sure to have your veterinarian check him over.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, ME