Eye staining! Oh the trials and tribulations! There is no subject on any of the list serves that
comes up more frequently than this one. God, Allah, Yaweh, Krishna and Mohammad bless all
those long time participants in dutifully replying to a newbies cry for help.
There are as many answers as questions about what causes eye staining. I will provide you with
the answers I have heard and/or researched which make sense to me.
1) Regardless of why some dogs produce more tears than others, the reason the staining
occurs is due to a substance called porphyrin that is present in tears. When porphrin is exposed
to light, it turns reddish brown in the same way chlorophyll turns green. Since Cotons are white,
this discoloration becomes very apparent.
2) Many if not most puppies go through a stage of eye staining; some more than others.
There seems to be a consistency in litters with respect to the degree of eye staining. This may be
a result of other reasons I will mention later. Sometimes the eye staining clears as they grow
older, sometimes not. Staining can occur with teething as a consequence of pressure areas in the
upper jaw changing the angle of the space beneath the eye.
3) Whether your Coton stains or not is a consequence of several factors: the facial structure
of the eye, the angle at which the hair is growing around the eye and likely some other factors I
don’t know about yet. Regarding the facial structure, some dogs structure provide a little “shelf”
for the tears to pool and in so doing allow more time for exposure to the chemical reaction with
light. The mechanism of hair growth stimulates increased tear production through irritation, the
same mechanism that will cause your eye to tear when confronted with a foreign body. With the
addition of more tears, the turnaround time for tears to evaporate decreases thereby allowing
more tears to be exposed to the air which results in increase staining.
4) In some cases the tear duct is not patent or the lower lid is too shallow. Both of condition
result in an increase accumulation of tears spilling onto the outside of the eye; the more tears,
the more discoloration!
5) The possibility of infection should always be considered in the event of a change from
baseline. If your dog has not had much tear-staining and suddenly develops stains, a visit to your
vet is in order.
So now that we know some of the causes, what can we do to prevent or fix it? The remedies are
equal to or greater than the causes. There are pros and cons for each treatment some of which
concern your lifestyle and what is realistic for you to do.
1) Tylan added to the water daily will interfere with the reaction of porphrin with light. Tylan
is an antibiotic so the cause and effect is not entirely clear to me. I suspect that since an
antibiotic is involved there must be some sort of bacteria that work with the porphryn and light
to cause the staining. This is probably the easiest remedy but I a personally reluctant to give
antibiotics on a daily basis just for the sake of cosmetic appeal. However, keep in mind that there
are thousands of people on daily doses of antibiotics for the prevention of acne (including
myself), so who am I to judge? Also, the amount of antibiotic required is really very small. How
antibiotic administration could be managed in a multidog household is another question. This
particular antibiotic should not be given to pregnant bitches or puppies as it can result in tooth
discoloration. There are definitely foods that result in an increase in eye staining. I experienced
this personally with Iams dog food. I also have noticed a difference in beard staining between
using purified water and tap water. I haven’t noticed that this has any effect on the eyes.
2) I have heard many people swear by Angel Eyes which is a product that can be found on the
internet. Just do a google search by entering angel eyes dogs and a number of websites will pop
up. I appreciate the explanation provided about how their product works:
“Angels’ Eyes works to prevent tear staining by tying up circulating porphyrins. A porphyrin is a
compound that reacts with light to produce a reddish brown stain to the medial canthus. The
ingredients in Angels' Eyes will prevent your dog from contracting Ptyrosporin (Red Yeast) and
bacterial infections which causes excess tearing and staining.”
This appeals to my passion for knowledge based on evidence or at the very least, containing logic.
3) A cheaper solution is to use Boric acid mixed with distilled water. This definitely works as
long as you apply it religiously each night for at least six weeks and then on a somewhat regular
basis after the initial therapy. I know this works because I have used it. Unfortunately, my
religion didn’t have the staying power necessary for maintenance so the stains are back and I
haven’t yet become born again. Should you decide you have what it takes, I will provide
instruction. Basically, you mix up about three tablespoons of pharmacy grade Boric Acid in a cup
of boiling distilled water and stir until dissolved. You will store this in a bottle from which you will
be able to either squeeze out a controlled amount of well-placed solution or simply or wet a
cotton ball or pad. Contrary to some sources, you do not want to get Boric Acid in the eye
However, should a small amount inadvertently find itself in your dog’s eyes, do not worry.
So, now you have the Boric acid solution in a manageable container. If you were fortunate to
find the perfect squeeze container, you will invert the bottle and carefully squeeze several drops
onto the hair on the inner aspect of the eye, AKA, the part that’s stained. After doing so, you will
take one or several cotton balls and firmly wipe away the solution and hopefully along with it,
some of the discoloration. If using a cotton ball in conjunction with the container holding the
solution, just simply wet the cotton ball and wipe. You will do this every night until the staining is
gone. Subsequently you the go to the maintenance part of the program, which is probably every
3-4 days but I wouldn’t know for sure since I flunked maintenance. My excuse is that I have more
dogs than you, what’s yours?