Tear Staining: Causes and Cures

tear_stainingThere are few things more unsightly than rusty tear stains marring the appearance of an otherwise beautifully groomed Havanese. This will of course be most noticeable on white and other light coloured Havanese and less visible, though no less of an issue, on a Havanese with a dark face. The stains are not the only problem, you should take note of tearing and/or eye discharge regardless of the colour of your Havanese. There are a number of reasons for eye discharge and excessive tearing and the unattractive stains that may result.

Excessive tearing, blocked tear ducts, acidity or pH of the tears, bacterial or yeast infections, genetics, teething, irritation, allergies, hair in the eyes, environment (smoke and other pollutants), shampoo and chemicals, diet, food allergy or intolerance are all potential culprits. Camouflaging the stains is a popular option, but in truth, understanding the causes, prevention. and controlling the tear staining are more important than simply covering up. Removing or camouflaging the stains is temporary at best as the stains will reoccur unless the source of the staining is removed.

tear_stainingGetting a health checkup is the first step. If the cause is a problem such as a blocked duct or an infection, veterinary interventions like surgery , treatment or medication may be necessary. Once you are sure that your Havanese is healthy, the next step is to eliminate the likeliest causes from the environment, water and diet. Ensure that there is no hair curling into the eyes to cause irritation. A tiny bit of trimming at the inner corner of the eyes may help (but as growth occurs after cutting, hair will irritate the eyes) as will keeping the facial hair out of the eyes, by keeping it brushed back or fastened with tiny elastics, barrettes, clips or a topknot.

In the environment try to limit the use of things like heavy air fresheners, carpet powders and other chemical products. Vacuum well and rinse well where any chemicals have been used.

Water - In many areas, tap and well water may have a high mineral content. The impurities in the water may cause tear staining of the face and beard. If this is the case, a very simple and inexpensive solution is to use bottled, filtered or distilled water for your Havanese. A difference may be noted in as little as 10 days though it may take up to 3 months for optimal improvement.

Food - Additives, preservatives and food colourings found in many dog foods and treats can be significant factors tear staining. Certain spices, flavourings and ingredients may be culprits, such as basted and flavoured rawhide and bones. Not only do they stain the face and beard but also any areas of fur that they come in contact with, as well light coloured carpets! Missing ingredients may also be contributing factors. Use the best quality food you can afford. For some Havanese, something as simple as an Essential Fatty Acid supplement can make a significant difference.

By simply removing some of these causative factors, you may significantly minimize or eliminate much of the tearing and facial staining. Though getting rid of the cause is the best way to control the problem, you may still want and need to remove or cover up the stains that are already there.

There are several options for dietary supplementation which may help minimize tearing and staining. If a pH imbalance is suspected, these may help the problem from the inside. A calcium supplement such as Tums (Calcium Carbonate) may significantly alter the pH of the tears which in turn will be less hospitable for the growth of bacteria and yeast. Another choice is to give an apple cider vinegar supplement. Vitamin C is another popular remedy purported to prevent beard staining as are Fatty Acid Supplements, parsley and Zinc. It is a good idea to check with your Veterinarian before starting any supplements as they are not right for all dogs and also to confirm correct dosing.

Until you can find and eliminate the cause of the tearing and staining, you may wish to use some temporary measures to keep your Havanese looking great. Daily cleansing of the area with a soft washcloth is essential in removing any accumulated debris around the eyes and beard. Using saline eye drops is safe and gentle and will help wash out any irritants. Many products available from groomers, pet supply stores and catalogues such as 'Diamond Eye' or 'Eye Envy' can be used to remove stains from facial hair as well as creams, chalks and powders used to cover up the stains temporarily or to protect the hair. Popular homemade remedies include­ mixtures of Hydrogen peroxide, milk of magnesia, corn starch , and conditioners.

Use extreme care when using any of these commercial or home made products to ensure that nothing gets in your Havanese’s eyes which could cause further irritation or injury. Always use mineral Oil drops or ointment in the dogs eyes for protection. It is also important to remember that many of these stain removal methods are quite harsh and drying/damaging to the hair. Be sure to condition the area during and well after any treatments with a deep conditioner.