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Unsightly Tear Staining

I have bred Maltese for about 15 years now and have never come across a true fix for tear staining.  I have tried Angel Eyes, Eye Envy, used and still use stainless steel bowls, filtered water however I have never used distilled water so I can’t count that one out yet.  I have talked to families though that have used the distilled water and say it didn’t clear the staining up in their Maltese. The latest thing I have been using is baking soda or baking powder.  I clean my pets eyes well with a warm cloth and then I roll a q-tip in the baking soda and dab it under the eye where it stains. If done often enough it does calm it down but its a daily routine for some that stain more than others.  I have one family that told me when they were having their male neutered their vet did a naso-lacrimal flush and their boy (Max) doesn’t have staining issues ever since that procedure.  So I do think it would be worth trying if you could locate a vet that does the procedure without charging an arm and a leg.

In researching what to cure staining for my Maltese I came across this article from a vet in Colorado Springs, Co.

The naso-lacrimal duct (tear duct) is a passageway connecting the eye to the nose and mouth. Tears produced in the eye normally drain through this duct. There are two openings (puncta) to the duct on each eye; one is located on the upper lid, and the other is on the lower lid. If the naso-lacrimal duct is obstructed, excess tears spill over the lids onto the face. As a result, the primary symptom associated with an obstructed naso-lacrimal duct is excess tearing. (*Please note that excessive tearing is a common symptom of a number of other ocular issues in addition to nasolacrimal duct obstruction).

There are several possible causes of a blocked tear duct. Debris may accumulate in the narrow passageway. There may be a congenital defect of the duct; some patients are born without a complete puncta, and in others the duct may be too narrow or too kinked to allow fluid to pass. In older patients, we sometimes suspect a tumor may be pressing on and closing the passageway.

During the examination of your pet, we will test the patency of the eyelid punctae and nasolacrimal duct using a fluorescein green dye. If the dye fails to passively flow out the nose and the duct is obstructed due to debris, we may be able to manually “flush” out the duct to remove the obstruction. As this involves working right next to the globe (eye), this procedure requires extreme caution and should only be performed by a trained professional. In cooperative patients, this procedure can be attempted in the exam room after the eye has been numbed with topical anesthetic drops. If this is unsuccessful, a surgical approach may be discussed.

Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction

Another interesting article I found was on the website for the VCA Animal Hospital:

What is Epiphora? Epiphora means an overflow of tears from the eyes. It is a symptom rather than a specific disease and is associated with a variety of conditions. Normally, a thin film of tears is produced to lubricate the eyes and the excess fluid drains into the lacrimal or tear ducts, which are located in the medial canthus or corner of the eye next to the nose. The tear ducts drain tears into the back of the nose and the throat. Epiphora is most commonly associated with insufficient drainage of the tear film from the eye. The most common cause of insufficient tear drainage is a blockage of the lacrimal or tear ducts. Epiphora may also result from the excessive production of tears.One of the simplest tests to assess tear drainage is to place a drop of fluorescein stain in the eye, hold the patient’s head slightly downward, and watch for drainage into the nose. If the drainage system is functioning normally, the eye stain should be seen in the nose within a few minutes. . Failure to observe the stain doesn’t definitively diagnose a blocked lacrimal duct, but it does indicate the need for further investigation.

There are many remedies that have been recommended for removing or eliminating the facial staining associated with excess tears. None of these has proven to be 100% effective. Some over-the-counter treatments may be harmful or injurious to the eyes. Hydrogen peroxide can seriously injure the eyes.

Treatments that may lessen tear staining in some cases include:

  • Parsley or parsley flakes – add a small amount to the diet
  • Low doses of doxycycline, tylosin, tetracycline or metronidazole. These treatments are no longer recommended due to the risk of developing bacterial antibiotic resistance, rendering these valuable antibiotics worthless for human and veterinary use
  • Cleaning the area daily with MalAcetic® wipes
  • Cleaning the area with Diamond Eye® or a similar product
  • Missing Link® nutritional supplements – the manufacturer claims their products reduce tearing and tear staining in three to four months

ME:  So Parsley! Wow, I haven’t tried that but I am willing to give it a try.  I have tried the tylosin because it used to be in Angel Eyes until they had to remove it from their product, and I did get some results while using it but wasn’t consistent with it because of the negative discussions about the tylosin.  Since they removed it I tried using it more consistent and then I got zero results.  I have not tried the Diamond Eye and not sure if its an “Ad” on this site or not and the same for the Missing Link.

I also found the following on Pinterest, a Blog titled A Veterinary Guide to Tear Stains:

STEP 1: Meticulously maintain your dog’s clean face. Wipe face with a damp cloth twice a day to remove excessive tears, and keep regular appointments with the groomer.

STEP 2: Throw away your plastic food bowls. Use stainless steel, porcelain or glass. Plastic food bowls often develop tiny cracks that harbor bacteria and cause facial irritation.

STEP 3: Consider a mild boric acid containing solution as found in some contact lens cleaners, or use liquid vitamin C, on a cotton ball, to wipe the dog’s face and lighten the tear stains that have already formed. Acids like boric and citric (Vit C) presumably oxidize the porphyrin iron compounds and lighten them, whereas sunlight makes the stains darker.

STEP 4: If porphyria remains despite your best grooming efforts, consider a NON-Tylosin containing oral supplement like the ones listed above. (NatureVet and Tearlax)

STEP 5: If your tap water happens to be high in mineral content or iron, consider giving the dog bottled water, or use a filter to create cleaner water.

STEP 6: If you insist on using antibiotics, under veterinary supervision, drugs like doxycycline, metronidazole and enrofloxacin have all been used with some success.

BONUS? – STEP 7: Tums or Apple Cider Vinegar? – I have found no evidence that adding a tiny amount of antacid or vinegar to your dog’s giant tub of stomach acid will have any effect at all on the pH of their tears, so I’m calling BS on this one.

BONUS – STEP 8: Does a higher quality diet reduce porphyrin production in some dogs? Certainly. Veterinarians always recommend feeding your dog the highest quality balanced diet you can afford. Some folks swear by homemade or raw diets, others are concerned about nutrient balance issues with homemade diets, most veterinarians prefer you feed a well-studied commercial diet of some kind, from a major manufacturer. No clear right or wrong here, do what works for you and your family.


Here is a partial post from Maltese Only telling about her success with the flush…

Flushing tear ducts?
by Barbara and Touquet
Hi, everyone! I am so grateful for this site which provides so much guidence and information on caring for our little fur-babies! Right now, I am hoping some of you will share your experience with me on tear-staining. My little Touquet has always had major tearstaining, but it seems to be getting worse. I clean his eyes gently with a tissue every morning to get the gunk out, and I keep his under-eye area clean, but my baby’s eyes always seem irritated. On Friday, Touquet has an appointment to have his teeth cleaned. Since this procedure requires a general anesthetic, I am considering having his tear ducts flushed at the same time (contingent on my vet’s advice, of course).

Have any of you had your dog’s tear ducts flushed? If so, did it help the problem? Was it traumatic for your baby? I would really like to be aware of the pros and cons of this procedure before I put Touquet through it! Also, have any of you used Tetracycline to any benefit or detriment. I wouldn’t consider these procedures strictly for cosmetic reasons, but I think my baby is really uncomfortable, and I am afraid of possible infection. I would really appreciate any responses from you other Maltese parents out there! Thanks so much!


Barbara: My little guy had problems with tear staining also. A few month ago he had to have 2 of his baby teeth pulled. I had the vet flush his tear ducts also. It made a tremendous difference. Although he could have tearing because of the teeth. Now, I’m just woking on getting the old stain out with daily washing and clipping. I have used the ointment in the eyes and I didn’t like it. Seemed to irritate them more. Tried the peroxide solution, dried the hair way too much and he seemed irritated by that also. Bought Collyruim, that made the staining worse. So I just went back to good old warm water, washing faces everyday and keeping the hair clipped around his eyes. I also check very often, making sure he has no hair in the eyes. If you see them blinking alot, usually means something is in there that is irritating them. It doesn’t come on overnight and it does’t dissappear overnight, I learned patience is probably the best policy with tear staining. If there is a miracle solution out there that is safe for these little guys I would love to know about it. Good Luck with your little fur ball.

Thanks so much for the advice, Deb, Aimee, Sandy and Shelley! Being the nervous mom that I am, I didn’t sleep the night before I took little Touquet in to have his teeth cleaned and tear ducts flushed. Too many worries about possible complications from the general anesthetic. The good news is that he came through it all with flying colours — sparkling white teeth, no dog breath, tear ducts flushed. The vet told me that only one of Touquet’s tear ducts was partially occluded, and the other one was already open. Therefore I am not to expect a huge improvement. However, in the 3 days since the surgery, Touquet has had clear eyes and no more tears! I’m thrilled with this result, and hope that it will last. Thanks so much for your advice and support.

So here I have pasted 4 very interesting opinions all of which I plan to incorporate into my tackle against tear stains throughout the next six month.  I plan to pick several of my Maltese (I have 15 total) and plan to give one the supplement Tearlax, the other NatureVet and another I plan to get a consultation with a vet that will do a naso-lacrimal flush.  I will be as diligent as possible about meticulously maintaining clean eyes and I will follow up with my results as often as I feel I have something to report.

I welcome any feedback you may have on your experience with treating and clearing up tear staining.


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