Sometimes my Cavachon has brown streaks coming from his eyes down his face. These brown streaks may make him appear less attractive, and his face looks dirty, but they also make him look sad, vulnerable, and somewhat cute. So what are eye stains on dogs, and why does my Cavachon have tear stains?
Tear stains refer to the change of color of the fur around the eyes and along your dog's nose. The fur takes on a reddish-brown, rust color at the corner of his eyes, where the tears are produced.
They're more noticeable on dogs with white or lightly-colored fur, like most Cavachons. If the tearing is excessive and left untreated, it will accumulate in the corner of the eye and crust. The tears will overflow and stain the fur down the dog's face making your Cavachon appear unkempt.
It is good to know that eye stains are normal and do not cause any health issues. But, some Cavachons have brown stains, often caused by allergies or dry skin. It is, therefore, wise to have your dog checked out by your veterinarian and treat any underlying condition your canine may have.
This article will explain eye staining and any cause for concern.
How does eye staining form?
Where there is excessive lubrication of your Cavachon eyes, this will produce a lot of tears. If your Cavachon makes too many tears, they must be drained away from the face. On the other hand, if your Cavachon cannot drain them away as usual, then the excess overflows onto their face. The medical term for excessive tear production or tears that are not able to drain away as normal is Epiphora.
The actual color of the staining is caused by a pigment in the tear fluid called porphyrin. Porphyrin is naturally found in all dogs and can be more excessive in some than others. When oxidized, it turns to a rusty brown color. It is excreted through saliva and tears. That is why discoloring can appear around the eyes, down the nose, and around the mouth.
Tears usually drain into the lacrimal ducts, commonly known as tear ducts. The nasolacrimal ducts drain the tears into the back of the nose or throat. When the ducts are blocked or narrowed, tears will overflow onto the fur down the nose of your Cavachon and is the most common cause of staining.
Excessive tearing in dogs.
We all have a natural response when our eyes get irritated; they get more watery/teary, or we rub them to clear the discomfort. Our canine friend does the same to wash the eye surface if it is irritated by lubricating the eye more than it should, leading to more tears. Unfortunately, what also happens is more pawing of the eyes or rubbing, leading to more tears.
Many conditions produce the symptoms of tear overflow. Eye or ear infections, abnormal eyelid or eyelash function, hair that touches the eye, allergies, tumors, glaucoma, poor diet, environmental factors, and aging. Tear staining is also a common problem in short-nosed dogs.
The most common reason for excessive tearing is a swollen duct due to allergies or an infection. Mucus plugs the duct in the corner of the eye or forms a blockage in the canal. Also, dogs with lots of hair around the eyes irritate the front of the eye, causing more lubrication than usual.
Some breeds have an inherited predisposition to blocked tear ducts. Cavachons are a mixed breed of brachycephalic dogs, the medical term for dogs with short heads. Genetically they have smaller noses and, as a result, have blocked/narrow tear ducts. Their eyes are often exposed and irritated. Despite all treatment efforts, tear overflow will persist.
Tear staining affects all breeds of dogs to varying degrees, and evaluation is done individually to determine the degree of concern. Brachycephalic or short-nosed dogs, toy breeds, giant and hound breeds will all have tears spilling onto their face.
How to evaluate the tearing?
Before there is any chance of correcting tear overflow, any underlying conditions will have to be treated beforehand by your veterinarian.
Suppose you are concerned that your dog has tear staining and are unsure of the cause or a discharge from their eyes. In that case, It is best to contact your veterinarian for treatment and rule out anything more serious.
A test called the Jones Test can be performed by your veterinarian to observe if the tear drainage system is working correctly. First, a drop of fluorescein stain is placed in your Cavachon's eyes. After a couple of minutes, if the stain is seen in the nose, this would mean the drainage system is functioning normally. If not, this would need further investigation as it may mean that the nasolacrimal duct is blocked.
Every case of tearing and tear staining may have slightly different causes and, therefore, different treatment plans. The cause of the staining will be investigated further by your veterinarian, with a diagnosis and correct treatment plan.
The three-step treatment for my Cavachon tear stains;
- The best and natural way for me to control the facial staining of my Cavachon is by grooming. By keeping the long hair around my dog's eyes and nose trimmed down. If their hair hits the eye's surface, it will naturally irritate them. So I keep it clipped between grooms.
- I soak cotton pads in a saline eyewash solution and remove the overflow built up throughout the day. I do this twice daily, generally in the morning and evening.
- I rub a small amount of coconut oil down the side of his nose so any tears don't stick. I like to use coconut oil because it is a natural product. There are other products to buy that you can use. However, these products may use harsh chemicals and irritate the eyes. Try out the product on some other part of the body first to ensure your dog will not react as the eyes are very sensitive.
The AKC suggests flushing the eyes with an appropriate saline solution. Also, use eyewash wipes containing boric acid. Boric acid may sound a bit harsh but is used to relieve burning or itching. Again, it is non-irritating and soothes the eyes.
A safe alternative is to apply a water repellent barrier such as petroleum jelly to the skin below the eyes to prevent tears from penetrating the fur. Breeders apply white chalk powder as camouflage before showing their dogs, but it can irritate the eyes. I use coconut oil as a good choice as it is all-natural and will create the same barrier as a water-repellent coating.
Vets and groomers are concerned that high mineral and iron content in water may cause increased porphyrin, which leads to staining. They suggest using filtered water and noting any changes. Also, ensure your dog has access to fresh, good-quality water daily.
There is concern that excess tearing is due to food allergies that cause inflammation, further narrowing the tear ducts. Ultra-processed foods can be a problem for dogs since they contain grain fillers with a long list of ingredients and preservatives and are more likely to cause allergies. Using high-quality food with natural ingredients will less likely irritate your dog. A vet-approved nutritious diet will help your dog's health in the long run.
As dogs are all different, they will not always respond the same way to tried treatments. It is, therefore, better to experiment with grooming techniques and use high-quality food and water. I would highly recommend consulting with your vet first before feeding supplements or medications to your dog.
However, I would suggest daily cleaning the eye area with a saline solution if the staining is only cosmetic and is not causing any health issues. If the stains are not entirely removed, so be it.