In “Tear Staining (Part 1) we discussed the many causes that leave a brown stain that occurs under the eyes next to the nose in some dogs. We listed the breeds that are particularly prone to this tear staining. In this post, we want to talk about how we find out what is causing the staining and how to treat it.
How Do You Find the Cause of Tear Staining?
Your veterinarian should perform a thorough examination of the eye to look for any cause of irritation or evidence of eye infection or inflammation. Growths or ingrown hairs on the inside of the eyelids that irritate the cornea often go unnoticed by dog owners. The same is true of eyelids that are only slightly folded-in (entropion).
With a handheld scope, your veterinarian may be able to see eyelashes directed toward the eye just enough to scratch the cornea and cause excessive tear production. Often the assistance of a veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary. They have equipment that is better suited for finding tiny ingrown eyelashes or abnormalities around the eye causing the tearing that can’t be found by your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can perform an easy test to evaluate the tear duct system by putting 2 drops of a green, liquid stain in the eyes called “fluorescein.” If the green stain does not appear in the nostrils within 15 minutes, the tear duct opening is blocked or the tear duct is not functional.
How Do You Treat Tear Staining?
Surgery: Growths or ingrown hairs or eyelashes need to be surgically removed. Eyelids with entropion can also be corrected with surgery.
Medications: Blocked openings to the tear ducts can sometimes be opened by applying medications to the eyes. The medications break down the film or scar that is blocking the tear duct opening and relieve strictures of the tear ducts.
Flushing: Your veterinarian can insert a small stainless steel tube called a cannula in the tear duct opening and flush out any debris in the duct to open it up for normal drainage. Like surgery, this procedure does require anesthesia.
These procedures will help the majority of dogs with tear staining. Unfortunately, those dogs with no tear duct system or bulgy eyes and small eye sockets cannot be helped. Their tears will always overflow and run down along the nose. So how do you help those dogs?
Helping the Incurable Tear Stain Dog?
Treatments to Avoid:
Many dog parents swear by-products that include an antibiotic called tylosin. Tylosin is used extensively by swine producers to control pneumonia in large herds of pigs. The overuse is raising concerns about promoting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We, dog veterinarians, have the same fear that this might happen with overuse in tearing dogs.
Although less reliable for tear stain relief, supplements using herbs, vitamins, or oils are recommended by veterinarians over those containing tylosin.