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What is the best dog food for tear stains?
If your dog has tear stains and you have tried everything to treat them with no luck, their diet may be the culprit.
Did you know fillers and preservatives in kibble cause chemical waste buildup in dog eyes, ultimately leading to excessive tearing and tear stains? This is just one of many dietary and underlying health reasons these pesky marks appear. Today we share a list of foods that cause tear stains in dogs to avoid and explain the causes, dog food’s importance and impact on tear stains, prevention tips, risks and everything in between.
We also reviewed the ingredient lists of dozens of brands and selected the best dog food for dogs with tear stains. Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents 📖
Chapter 1: The Research
- What Are Dog Tear Stains?
- What Causes Dog Tear Stains?
- Susceptible Breeds
- Food & Tear Stain Connection
- What Food Should You Feed?
- Can Dog Food Stop Tear Stains?
Chapter 2: The Reviews
- Dog Food For Tear Stains Reviews
Chapter 3: Tips, FAQs & More
Best Dog Food For Tear Stains A At Glance
Scroll to the right to see all our recommendations for the best dog food to prevent tear stains.
Why You Should Trust Us
What Are Dog Tear Stains?
Tear stains are dark brown or reddish marks that can appear beneath a dog’s eyes, around their muzzles, between their toes, or in other places on the body. However, it most commonly manifests under the eyes. Sometimes a discharge may accompany this condition.
Tear stains can affect any dog, but they are typically more visible on dogs with white or lightly-colored fur like the Maltese. It may not be noticeable in dogs with darker fur colors.
What Causes Tear Stain In Dogs?
Tear stains are caused by a pigmented molecule that a dog’s body excretes as a waste product. This waste product is known as porphyrins, the waste product of red blood cells.1
Porphyrins contain iron, which has a dark reddish-brownish color and carries oxygenated blood. This explains the reddish color of tear stains.
This waste product is usually excreted through the digestive system, but it may also be expelled via urine, saliva, and tears when there is a buildup of porphyrin in the dog’s system.
Internal or external factors can cause a buildup of porphyrins and drive the over-stimulation of excessive tear production, also known as Epiphora.2
According to Mercola Healthy Pets, the most common medical causes of tear staining in dogs include but are not limited to:
- Ingrown eyelashes
- Infection of the eye
- Unusually large tear glands
- Unusually small tear duct openings
- Inverted eyelid
- Brachycephalic syndrome
- Ear infection
- Secondhand smoke
- Poor-quality diet
- Plastic food bowls
Beware, tear stains will intensify/darken in the presence of sunlight.
Tear stains develop when a dog’s tears accumulate under the eyes, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria or yeast to grow.
Furthermore, the overproduction of tears causes chemical waste (porphyrins) in their tears to soak into their fur, leading to tear stains. Constant watery discharge and moisture in the eye or other body parts can lead to this condition.
While tear staining in dogs is usually harmless, it can also be a symptom of a serious underlying health problem. Infections in the eye, such as glaucoma, conjunctivitis, ingrown eyelashes, and entropion, can cause tear staining.
If you notice tear staining in your dog, please take him to a veterinary ophthalmologist to rule out any health concerns. Dogs can also experience tear stains due to sensitivities, such as food or seasonal allergies, stress, genetic exposure to irritants such as dust, or even teething during puppyhood.
Many conditions can cause dogs to suffer from tear staining. However, this article will focus on how a dog’s diet and food may help increase or prevent this condition.
Top Dog Breeds Prone To Tear Stains
Tear stains are more common in certain dog breeds. These tend to be small breeds with long hair on their faces and white dogs in general.
Breeds prone to congenital tear duct abnormalities are also at higher risk of tear stains. Brachycephalic (short-nosed and flat-faced) dogs can also be prone to tear stains. Brachycephalic dogs don’t have a normal tear drainage function due to their cranial structure. “The shape of the head and the way the eyes fit into the socket will affect whether a dog is prone to tear stains,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, Illinois resident and AKC Chief Veterinary Officer.3
Some common breeds that have a higher risk of tear stains include:
- West Highland White Terriers
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apsos
- Bichons Frises
- Cocker spaniel
- Bull Terriers
- French Bulldogs
- Cairn Terrier
But, do you ever wondered where tear stains come from or what causes them? Let’s find out below!
Dog Food & The Connection With Tear Stains
Can dog food contribute to tear stains? In short, yes. But how?
We already know that tear stains’ reddish coloration is caused by a chemical compound known as porphyrins. But why is this important?
Well, porphyrins are iron-waste molecules (toxins) produced due to the breakdown of red blood cells. Porphyrins are primarily excreted through the liver (bile and intestinal tract, poop). However, external factors, such as poor dog dieting, may cause a buildup of porphyrins. According to the Mayo Clinic, dieting or fasting can trigger porphyrins buildup.4
In dogs, when porphyrin is produced in excess amounts, this excess is excreted through tears, saliva, and urine.
When Fido is on a bad diet, and you feed him toxic levels of some nutrients (such as iron), you are potentially making his liver work twice as hard to secret toxins. What is scarier is that you may be contributing to the buildup of porphyrins, which we know is the chemical compound that causes tear stains.
That is why experts recommend paying strict attention to your dog’s diet and the commercial dog food brands you choose when fighting off tear stains.
What Is The Best Dog Food to Prevent Tear Stains?
Is there such a thing as the best dog food for tear stains? If so, what does it consist of?
A good rule of thumb is ensuring your dog eats a balanced, species-appropriate diet and fresh, filtered drinking water. This prevents your dog from eating excess iron (porphyrins) or impurities that could contribute to tear staining.
Many dog food brands only meet the minimum nutrient requirements set by the AAFCO, but you want a dog food that goes above and beyond to surpass these standards.
The best dog food to prevent tear stains should improve your dog’s overall health, digestion, and ability to filter out toxins. You want Fido to eat as clean and healthy as possible to avoid putting stress on your dog’s liver. Creating a toxin-free environment in your dog’s stomach may eliminate or keep tear stains away.
According to the American Kennel Club, a high-quality, grain-free diet works best to prevent these pesky stains in dogs. Avoid tap water, as it is high in mineral content or iron and other impurities, including chlorine and fluoride, which are toxic to dogs. Using a dog water dispenser with a filter to remove chlorine, sediments, and odor from your pet’s drinking water might be a good idea to further help with the tear-stain removal process.
Because tear stains often result from excess toxins caused by hard-to-digest diets from highly processed kibble ingredients, fresh dog food minimizes the amount of indigestible ingredients your dog will have to detoxify.
In chapter 3, we cover the ingredients that can cause and prevent tear stains in dogs.
Can Healthy Dog Food Help Stop Tear Stains?
Do you need more evidence that eating healthy and giving your dog the best food can stop or keep tear stains away?
Well, you are in for a surprise! V-Dog, a vegan dog food company, reports that dogs have become tear-stain-free on a vegan diet.4 What’s healthier than eating vegan, right? Similarly, customers report that Wild Earth (our top vegan dog food formula) has helped dogs with brown stains under dog eyes.
Here are two of the many testimonials on how a vegan diet helped dogs with tear stains.
Be mindful when feeding animal proteins to your dog. Chicken, beef, or any meat are among the most common allergens in dogs. Food allergies can cause eye discharge in dogs, which may increase the risk of those pesky dark marks.
Best Dog Food For Tear Stains Reviews
Now that you understand the relationship between dog food and dog tear stains, let’s discuss the best dog foods to prevent tear staining in dogs.
We based our rankings on several factors, including quality of ingredients, customer reviews, pricing, and more.
Here is a list of dog food that won’t cause tear stains.
Best Overall – The Farmer’s Dog (Natural, Chemical-Free, Preservatives Or Harmful Chemicals)
Why we picked and recommended it: Cooking homemade food for your dog offers the highest quality and natural ingredients. A home-cooked meal is one of the best options to fight tear stains because it skips cheap fillers, additives and is not processed. Making your pet’s food from scratch provides the healthiest, cleanest diet and ensures ingredients keep all their nutritional integrity, unlike traditional kibble. Furthermore, toxin levels in freshly cooked food are non-existence, so you can be sure your dog’s liver won’t have to work as hard to filter out toxins with homemade meals. But what if you don’t have the time to cook for your dog? Or don’t know anything about dog nutrition. Enters fresh homemade dog food companies!
What sets it apart from competitors: Companies like The Farmer’s Dog deliver vet-designed, fresh-prepared homemade dog food tailored to your dog’s dietary needs straight to your door. They cater to your dog’s unique nutritional profile so you can tell them about your dog’s food allergies, nutritional goals, tear stain issues, and they will cook and personalize your dog’s meals to meet your pet’s requirements.
Coupon: Our readers have access to 50% off for your dog’s first box. No code is needed. Just use this link, and the discount will be applied!
Best Dry Dog Food For Tear Stains – Nature’s Logic
Why we picked it and recommended it: If you are looking for the highest quality dry dog food to fight those dog tear stains, then Nature’s Logic Sardine Meal Feast is your top choice. This formula is made free of chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals, or amino acids. It has no problematic ingredients that could trigger toxin buildup in your dog’s tummy. Recipes are highly palatable, nutrient-dense, and meat-based with concentrates of select fruits and vegetables.
What sets it apart from competitors: It’s the cleanest dog kibble formula we’ve found. It contains millet, a high-quality grain packed with protein, antioxidants, and nutrients.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Dog Food For Small Dogs With Tear Stains – Best Food For Maltese to Prevent Tear Stains
Why we picked it and recommended it: This formula is crafted into a smaller kibble size for small dog breeds and it has optimal protein levels and calorie content to help support the higher energy needs of small dog breeds. If your Maltese, Shih Tzu, Maltipoo, or small dog is struggling with those troublesome tear stains, Wellness CORE for small dog breeds is your best alternative. It includes a fish and flax omega fatty acid blend for healthy skin and coat, which may help clear up those pesky stains under the eyes.
What sets it apart from competitors: It offers the perfect blend of antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals carefully selected by veterinarian nutritionists to support immune system health, digestive health, healthy oxidative balance, and a healthy heart. It’s a protein-focused formula with several lean meat options like chicken, turkey, salmon, and fruits and vegetables.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Grain-Free Kibble For Tear Stains
Why we picked it and recommended it: Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food is your best grain-free kibble for dogs with tear stains. This dog food is great for repelling tear stains because they use whole and easier-to-digest ingredients like sweet potatoes, blueberries, and peas to reduce the strain on your dog’s digestive system.
What sets it apart from competitors: It uses deboned meat as the first ingredient in its recipes. This dog food only sources high-quality proteins and comes in various formulas like salmon, beef & bison, chicken, lamb, and more. Each formula features up to 84% of protein from animal sources.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Affordable Dog Food For Tear Stains
Why we picked it and recommended it: Looking for budget-friendly dog food for tear stains? Blue Buffalo Basics Limited offers a limited ingredient (grain-free formulated) to minimize food sensitivities while maximizing nutritional value. It’s made with LifeSource bits or specially formulated dog food containing a blend of the healthiest ingredients, with whole grains, antioxidants, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals blended precisely to create a healthy food option for dogs. This recipe uses real turkey as the first ingredient and adds peas and pumpkin to support gentle digestion in your dog without the grains that contain gluten. Thanks to the minimal and carefully selected nonallergic ingredient list, it may be a great option to fight off tear stains in dogs.
What sets it apart from competitors: It contains no chicken or poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Vegan Dog Food For Tear Stains – Wild Earth
Why we picked it and recommended it: Curious if vegan dog food can help solve your dog’s tear stains? Wild Earth vegan dog food can help remove dog tear stains, just like we saw on the V-Dog food case above. Vegan dog food contains monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for the health of the digestive tract. Furthermore, plant-based dog food is generally more easily digested by dogs’ digestive systems than regular kibble, which is vital in lessening toxin secretion.
What sets it apart from competitors: They use only clean, sustainable and tasty plant proteins that offer more protein by weight than traditional dog foods. It’s boosted with superfood ingredients, including chickpeas, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin and oats and more. It’s a clean, nutrient-rich, and all-cruelty-free recipe.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Our readers have access to 50% off their first order and an additional 20% off if they subscribe.
Best Puppy Food For Tear Stains
Why we picked it and recommended it: Do you have a puppy with tear stains? Puppy tear staining is usually caused by teething. Puppies tend to produce more tears during this stage, and tear stains may become apparent. You should check with your vet first so no other issues are causing the tears. When teething is over (assuming teething is the root cause of the stains), the problem often goes away. However, you can help your puppy by feeding him a limited diet that’s easier on his digestive system. Zignature Duck Limited Ingredient Formula is our pick for puppies with tear stains. They throw out troublesome ingredients offering nothing but nutritious formulas with no artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors. This grain-free hypoallergenic dog food uses low-glycemic nutrition such as whole chickpeas and peas, which promote stable blood sugar and provide valuable dietary fiber. They use real, farm-raised duck as a single protein source.
What sets it apart from competitors: Zignature Formulas are “Physiologically Tuned,” meaning they’re made to meet the nutritional needs of your pup and satisfy all of their instinctual cravings. Made with one protein source combined with key antioxidants, fiber, essential fatty acids, and a complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals for a well-rounded meal for growing puppies.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Tear Stain Food For Dogs With Sensitivities & Allergies
Why we picked it and recommended it: If your tear-stained dog has food sensitivities or is allergic to certain ingredients, Rachael Ray NutrishJust 6 limited-ingredient formula is ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs that also suffer from tear stains. With just six main ingredients in this formula, it has all the essential nutrients and vitamins to help maintain lean muscles and healthy organs. No poultry by-product meal, artificial flavors, colors, or artificial preservatives is used in this formula. Only wholesome food here.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Wet Dog Food For Tear Stains
Why we picked it and recommended it: Wet dog food usually provides an irresistibly tasty experience for dogs. But when your dog has tear stains, you have to pick the right one. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient grain-free wet dog food is an excellent alternative that won’t prompt allergic reactions that cause tear stains. It will also help dogs with digestion issues. This recipe uses a single animal protein (turkey) and only the finest naturally grain-free ingredients. It’s packed with garden fruits and veggies such as pumpkin, blueberries, and cranberries and enhanced with vitamins and minerals. Blue Buffalo wet limited is formulated with healthy carbohydrates to promote an active lifestyle. Keep your dog’s tail wagging during mealtime by providing reduced eye stains thanks to this limited ingredient formula that avoids fillers and artificial additives.
What sets it apart from competitors: It can be served as a delicious treat, add interest mixed into your dog’s favorite dry foods, or be fed as a meal on its own.
What We Like & Don’t Like
Best Dog Food For White Dogs
When it comes to dog food for white dogs and Maltese specifically, Royal Canin’s Maltese food stands out from the crowd. This food is specially formulated to maintain the beautiful white, silky coats of the Bichon Maltese and other white-coated dogs.
But can Royal Canin help with tear stains?
We noticed some of the ingredients in this formula include brewers rice, corn, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, and wheat gluten. These ingredients are not necessarily bad for dogs, but they are certainly not nutritious, either. While some dogs may respond great to this formula, other pups with more sensitive tummies may react adversely, resulting in more tear stains.
As discussed previously, white dogs are more susceptible to developing noticeable tear stains under their eyes or other body parts—some breeds more than others. If you are looking for dog food for your Maltese or white dog, our top picks, The Farmer’s Dog, or Nature’s Logic Sardine Meal Feast are better and safer alternatives. Just like Royal Canin’s, their recipes contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote a healthy white coat which is particularly important for the skin.
Red Tear Stains Vs Brown Tear Stains
What’s the difference between red vs. brown tear stains?
Tearstains that have a reddish or rusted-colored appearance result from porphyrins. As we explained above, this reddish coloration occurs when the iron-containing waste products are exerted from the dog’s body.
If the stains are more of a brown color, it may indicate your pup has developed a yeast infection on the face. Yeast infections smell, so give it a quick sniff. If you sense an unpleasant odor, think yeast. Brown stains happen due to the constant moisture present under your dog’s eyes.
It’s essential you know this! You want to treat the right stain with the right products. Sometimes both can be present. Always consult with your vet!
What Foods Cause Tear Stains In Dogs?
What ingredients can cause tear stains in dogs?
According to the AKC, cheap fillers found in inferior-quality foods such as corn, wheat, and meat meals can cause allergic reactions, resulting in excess tearing, leading to tear stains.
Generally, cheap dog food doesn’t ensure long-term good health and can is more likely to produce tear stains than high-quality options because cheap kibble usually contains excess chemicals, cheap fillers, artificial flavors/colors, and preservatives in their food,
Food-related tear stains in dogs are typically caused by chemicals and allergens found in your dog’s food. We recommend performing an at-home dog food allergy test to avoid giving Fido food that could trigger allergies. This test should help you discover the ingredients your pup is allergic to and give you the insight you need to create an allergy-free nutritional plan. Any allergic reaction could lead to tear stains, says the AKC.6
Here is a list of ingredients in dog food to avoid tear stains.
- Corn and wheat gluten
- Food allergens
- Meat and grain meals and by-products
- BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
- BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
- Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE)
- PG (Propylene Glycol)
- Rendered fat
- Sodium Hexametaphosphate
- Animal digest
- Propylene Glycol
- Sodium Tripolyphosphate
- Nitrites or Nitrates
- Xylitol and Other Sugar Alcohols
- Corn Syrup
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Meat meal
- Artificial colors
Can Dog Food Cause Tear Stains?
Yes. Feeding your dog a diet high in fillers, preservatives, artificial flavors, additives, and ingredients that may trigger allergies may cause food-related tear stains in dogs. Remember, a bad diet contributes to the buildup of porphyrins (the chemical responsible for the stains). The more stress you put on your dog’s digestive system/liver, the more chances your pup will secret porphyrins through their eyes and subsequently turn into those pesky stains.
Cheap commercial dog food contains harmful ingredients such as meat by-products, leading to systemic overload that can worsen tear stains. Avoid high sugar content, low-grade ingredients, canned foods, synthetic vitamins, and things of that nature at all costs.
Best Dog Food To Prevent Tear Stains
The best dog food to prevent tear stains should have the following characteristics.
- A limited number of all-natural ingredients
- No fillers or artificial preservatives
- Pure protein sources
- Homemade dog food
Switching your pup to a premium, balanced, whole-food, a grain-free diet rich in real meat protein is advised. Our top picks for the best dog food for tear staining is an excellent place to start.
Using a dog probiotic or adding one to your dog’s daily meals has been found to yield positive results. Probiotics promote friendly bacteria in a dog’s gut and assist his gastrointestinal tract function.
Remember to gradually transition your dog into his new food to avoid digestive upset or tummy trouble. Mix your dog’s current food with his new food. Over seven days, gradually decrease the amount of the old food while increasing the amount of new food. Contact your veterinarian for professional advice.
Dog Treats For Tear Stains
You got the right food to prevent tears stain, but it won’t do any good if you keep feeding your pup unhealthy treats.
The are several options to choose from, but our favorite all-natural treat is Full Moon’s Kitchen-Crafted Natural Dog Treats. They are made using human-grade limited ingredients that meet strict USDA standards for human consumption. These tasty treats are free of grains, glycerin, or artificial preservatives and flavors.
A more practical option is to get tear-stains-specific treats. Treats like PetPost’s Tear Stain Remover Soft Chews or NaturVet Tear Stain Soft Chews have the necessary ingredients to effectively combat the root of tear stains and provide additional immune support to prevent them from coming back. They are packed with the highest quality extracts from Eyebright Herb, Lutein, Oregon Grape Root, Marshmallow Root, and Cranberry. It’s advised only to feed your pet until the stains resolve, then switch to a more natural option.
Other Ways to Treat Tear Stains In Dogs Safely
We have covered how a proper diet can help with tear stains in dogs, but there are other alternatives and natural options that might mitigate your dog’s tear stains.
Stain removal is another chapter in itself (and we will cover it in another post), but here is a quick list of some of the most popular products people report to have worked.
- Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Tear Stain Remover
- Nutri-Vet Eye Rinse Liquid for Dogs
- Squishface Wrinkle Paste For Tear Stains (Great for Bulldogs, Pugs, and Frenchies)
- Arava Pet Eye Wipes For Tear Stains
At-Home Remedies For Dog Tear Stains
These ingredients, foods, and over-the-counter medicines work well to eliminate tear stains naturally.
- Adding one teaspoon of either organic apple-cider vinegar or buttermilk powder to meals seems to help.
- I-Stain, a probiotic enzyme
- Vetericyn ophthalmic gel is available over the counter.
- Soak a cotton pad in a water-diluted hydrogen peroxide dried into the muzzle (avoid eyes)
- Applying Visine to the fur, not the eyes can lighten the color enough to live with it until it grows.
- Add a daily teaspoon of white vinegar to your dog’s water bowl to suppress the frequency and severity of tear stains. Doing this changes the pH (alkalinity levels) of a dog’s tears, making it difficult for yeast and bacteria to thrive.
- Cleaning your dog’s face with colloidal silver is a great way to brighten stained fur (use a cotton ball)
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Chicken Cause Tear Stains In Dogs?
Chicken is among the most common allergens in dogs. Excessive eye discharge can result from food allergies, which compromise the immune system and cause uncomfortable symptoms, including tear stains. If your dog is allergic to chicken, it could develop tear stains.
What Is The Best Dog Food For Maltese Tear Stains?
Maltese dogs are among those most commonly affected by tear stains. Look for recipes with whole meats and produce in their recipes that never include any “meal” or meat by-products or highly processed ingredients. The best food for Maltese is fresh and low in toxins. The Farmer’s Dog, Nature’s Logic, and Wellness CORE for small dog breeds are excellent choices.
What Is The Best Food For Maltipoo Tear Stains?
Maltipoos with tear stains can benefit from clean, fresh formulas that avoid highly processed ingredients. The Farmer’s Dog and Nature’s Logic are excellent choices. Wellness CORE for small dog breeds is a great option as well.
Does Royal Canin Cause Tear Stains?
It’s not certain Royal Canin Bichon Frise Adult dry dog food causes tear stains. However, we noticed some of the ingredients in this formula include four questionable ingredients (brewers rice, corn, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, and wheat gluten). While not necessarily bad for dogs, these ingredients are not beneficial either.
Can Dog Food Help With Tear Stains?
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one solution to getting rid of this condition. Each dog will respond differently, so it often takes a little experimenting, patience, and finding a product that works.
Above all, we think it is worth the effort to have that precious little white face smiling at you again! Plus, taking care of anything that could jeopardize your pup’s health is crucial.