Growing up, we had a West Highland Terrier.
As you may know, this breed has all white fur. Except for the eyes.
The fur around our dog’s eyes was usually rust colored.
We were never able to prevent our pup from getting tear stains.
In his case, it was genetic and had nothing to do with his diet.
But in many cases, the food you feed your dog can cause those unsightly tear stains.
What foods cause tear stains in dogs exactly?
Keep reading for a list of common ingredients that can cause you dog to have tear stains. Avoiding these foods may lead to some relief.
- 1 What Foods Cause Tear Stains In Dogs?
- 2 Foods That Cause Dog Tear Stains: Related Questions
- 3 Foods Causing Tear Stains In Dogs: Final Thoughts
What Foods Cause Tear Stains In Dogs?
The following foods are all known to cause tear stains in dogs. However, there is no guarantee that eliminating any of these foods from your dog’s diet will eliminate tear stains. Many factors can cause the stains. Food is only one possible culprit.
Certain grains can cause tear stains in some dogs. Note that not all dogs are sensitive to all of the grains. But the ones that are, could suffer from an allergic reaction to grains like corn, wheat, and soy.
These grains trigger an increase in melanin production resulting in the darkening of the fur beneath the dog’s eyes. In sensitive dogs, grains like wheat, corn, and soy could also cause inflammation and digestive issues.
Again, please note that not all dogs will suffer from tear stains due to these grains. Therefore, it is important that you talk to your vet to check if grains are the reason behind your dog’s tear stains.
Your vet might ask you to switch to grain-free dog food, to see if it leads to a reduction in your dog’s tear stains. You will need to give the new food at least 3 to 4 weeks to see results.
Also, note that most dogs can tolerate grains like brown rice and barley, as well as gluten-free grains like millet and amaranth. These grains are an excellent source of proteins, complex carbs, vitamins, minerals, and fiber for your dog.
Naturally, it is also important that you consider the quality of the grains and how they are processed.
You must also take into account your dog’s breed, age, and overall health condition when choosing or eliminating grains from its diet. As always, it is best to consult with your veterinarian regarding the best dietary options for your pet.
In some dogs, foods rich in iron can increase melanin production, which can darken the tear stains under their eyes.
Iron is an important nutrient for dogs, because it helps in maintaining their red blood cells. Unfortunately, certain iron-based foods like red meat and liver could increase melanin production and cause ugly tear stains.
As mentioned, these are going to be more prominent in dogs with light-colored fur. If you have a dark-haired pup, you may not even notice the stains.
Before you eliminate iron-based foods from your dog’s diet, you must also assess whether the tear stains could be caused by genetics, breed, and your dog’s environment.
After all, not all dogs that eat iron-rich foods suffer from tear stains. Only the ones that are sensitive or have an intolerance to food containing iron sulfate are more likely to develop the stains.
These foods trigger excess melanin production which causes those reddish-brown stains under the dog’s eyes.
It is very important that you discuss the right type of diet to feed your dog with your veterinarian, if your pup is prone to developing tear stains.
Do note that reducing or eliminating iron completely from your dog’s diet could result in other health issues like anemia. You need to consider, and ideally discuss with your vet, any possible repercussions, before you come to a decision.
Dog Foods With Preservatives
Dog food containing preservatives like BHA and BHT are some other possible culprits behind tear stains in dogs. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are commonly used preservatives in commercial dog food.
These ingredients are okay for human consumption, but in dogs, they are known to cause a variety of health issues, especially if consumed over a prolonged period.
In addition to causing tear stains, BHA and BHT could also cause endocrine disruption in dogs. They are also linked to allergies and behavioral changes in pets.
Of course, not all dogs will suffer from such issues. These reactions also depend on the dog’s overall health and age. So, before you write off all commercial dog foods with BHA and BHT, it may be worthwhile discussing it with your vet.
You could always opt for natural, organic dog food that is preservative-free or go in for food that uses vitamin E-based preservatives. Alternatively, you can go for a raw diet or home-cooked meals for your dog, but only after consulting your veterinarian.
Foods With Artificial Colors
Some dogs are sensitive to food colors like red #40 and yellow, which are both often used in commercial dog food. These dyes contain iron-rich molecules called porphyrins which are known to trigger melanin production and cause tear stains in dogs.
In addition to causing tear stains, food colors could also cause allergies or digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, and constipation in dogs.
Some studies show that red dye #40 is also linked to cancer in dogs, due to the presence of benzidine and other carcinogens. Learn to read food labels and please refrain from feeding you pup dog food containing these types of artificial colors.
Foods High In Sugar
Some studies have shown that food high in sugar (carbs) can also cause increased tear staining in our canine pals.
This is because sugar increases yeast production, as well as inflammation in the dog’s body. Inflamed tear ducts are further exacerbated by the yeast resulting in a discharge that stains the fur under your dog’s eyes.
Sugar also alters the balance of bacteria in a dog’s body, which can result in eye irritation and infections.
Note that some dogs are prone to tear staining irrespective of their diet. So, along with dietary changes, you also need to clean your dog’s tear ducts with tear stain fighting products recommended by your vet.
Your Dog’s Drinking Water
In addition to food, hard drinking water or har tap water containing salts like calcium and magnesium can also contribute to tear stains.
In many cities in the United States, tap water contains a lot of calcium and magnesium. These minerals result in a buildup around your dog’s eyes.
Furthermore, your dog’s water bowl can also accumulate slime and result in a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. These factors can all contribute to tear stains.
Foods That Cause Dog Tear Stains: Related Questions
Next, we will answer some common questions related to food and tear stains in dogs. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.
What Food Gets Rid Of Tear Stains?
You can go in for hypoallergenic grain-free dog food or home-cooked food. Blueberries may also help fight tear stains. Just make sure to discuss all dietary changes with your vet first.
Does Eating Chicken Cause Tear Stains In Dogs?
Some dogs could suffer from tear stains due to chicken, because of the presence of iron-rich porphyrin pigment molecules in it. If your dog is allergic to chicken, you may want to switch to other protein sources. Do note that liver, beef, and pork also contain porphyrin.
Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains After Eating?
Dogs that get tear stains after eating may be allergic to the red meat, preservatives, dyes, or sugar in the food. You could try switching to a fresh, home-cooked, well-balanced diet for your pet to see if it makes a difference. There are also specific dog foods that help against tear stains.
Are Tear Stains Caused By Diet?
Diet is not always the culprit behind tear stains. Other factors like genetics, your dog’s breed, environment, hygiene, stress, lifestyle, and its overall health can all play a role in causing tear stains.
Foods Causing Tear Stains In Dogs: Final Thoughts
If your dog suffers from tear stains, eliminating some of the foods that commonly cause tear stains in dogs may help reduce, or even eliminate, the problem. But it also may not do anything.
There are many possible causes of tear stains in dogs. Diet is just one possible cause. Discuss your pup’s diet with your vet and see if eliminating some of the foods above might be a good idea.
Give it a try for a month and see if the tear stains go away. Or there is at least some reduction. If so, great! If not, food may not have anything to do with your dog’s tear stains.