Dogs’ Tears Stain Their Fur Because Of Blood. No, Really.

Written by: Greyceli Marin

August 27, 2015

Why do dogs’ tears stain their fur? It’s not because they stay up all night watching Grey’s Anatomy.

The watery eye discharge condition, medically known as Epiphora, causes an excess of tear drainage that, over time, taints the fur to a reddish brown hue and can potentially lead to skin irritation or infection.


According to Dr. Wendy C. Brooks from the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, Epiphora is “one of the most difficult conditions to resolve in all of veterinary ophthalmology.”

tear stain

What causes the staining?

Porphyrin is a chemical substance left behind in the bloodstream after red blood cells are naturally broken down by the body. Many contain Iron, which is known to discolor and stain.


In dogs, Porphyrin is excreted mostly through tears, saliva and urine. Since white fur is actually translucent, because white is really the absence of color (Science!!!), the staining is significant in white pups.


Why does my dog keep crying?

Eye irritation and abnormal tear drainage are the two causes of Epiphora.

When the eye is irritated, its natural response is to produce more tears and flush out the irritants. Some causes include eyelashes or hair growing into the eye, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, inflammation of the eyelid or cornea and more. **Veterinary attention should be sought if the tearing is accompanied with signs of distress, like squinting or pawing at the eye.

Normally, dog tears flow through two tiny holes, called puncta, in their inner upper and lower eyelids into a lacrimal sac, from which the tears are carried into the nose (this helps keep the nose and nostrils moist).


Some pups, however, can’t drain tears as efficiently as others.

Cocker Spaniels, for instance, are prone to “Congenital deformity,” which results in failure of one of more puncta to be open, and thus the excess tears flow outside the eye and onto the fur. Other obstructions like partially closed puncta or abnormally small ducts are commonly seen in breeds like the Maltese, Bichon Frise, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, American Eskimo and Shih Tzu.


How to treat Epiphora

1. Find out why your pup’s eyes are watery in the first place. It’s important to rule out any causes of irritation before proceeding with a treatment.

2. A vet can prescribe oral antibiotics depending on the cause of Epiphora. Once the condition is under control, the staining will also subside.

3. If the cause cannot be corrected, the staining of the fur can be controlled by gently wiping away any eye fluid with a sanitary cloth or tissue daily.


Featured image via: Dogster

Sources: Pet Place, Its Magic Maltese, Veterinary Partner, VCA Hospitals

Written by: Greyceli Marin

August 27, 2015

Toothbrush-free dental care for dogs.

Fresher breath in 1–2 weeks.