When I was a kid, I thought those little white or brown dogs that you could carry in your purse were cute, but I didn’t really want to pet them. That’s because every time I got up close, those sweet little dogs stared back at me from gunk-filled eyes, often accompanied by long yellow-orange streaks staining the fur around their eyes and mouth.
What is that stuff, and why do toy dogs seem to get it so much more than other dogs?
Who wouldn’t want to pet this adorable Maltese? This is Walter, my in-laws’ dog. You can’t see his eye gunk in this picture, but he does have some.
The truth is that all dogs get eye gunk. Even Eira does and I have to wipe it off her face most mornings. But, Eira’s face is black, so even if her tear ducts produced a colorful gunk, I wouldn’t really see it. A lot of toy dogs are lighter in color, meaning any dog eye discharge or dog eye boogers are more noticeable. They also tend to have longer hair on their face.
Add to that that tears contain porphyrin, a rust-colored pigment that stains light-colored fur, and you have the reason why so many smaller dogs have noticeable eye gunk. Some also have slightly stained fur around their mouths—in the above picture, you can tell that Walter has a touch of this.
How to Deal with Dog Eye Discharge
If you regularly wipe your dog’s face, you’ll be able to keep tear stains mostly at bay. There are days when you might forget, though, and it’s on those days that the pigment will set into your dog’s fur. Then you’re left wondering: how on earth do I get this stuff off my dog?
You could wait for your toy dog’s facial fur to grow out; the stain can then be removed with scissors at grooming. But if you don’t want to wait several months or more for that to happen, you do have a few options.
Burt’s Bees All Natural Tear Stain Remover for Dogs
Does your toy dog have sensitive skin? This chamomile-based tear stain remover from Burt’s Bees is gentle on the skin but still works to get tear stains out of your dog’s fur. Soak a cotton pad with the liquid and gently apply it to the stained fur under your toy dog’s eyes. Don’t expect the stain to all come out at once—it can take several weeks of regular application before all the gunk and crust is removed from your dog’s fur. But that’s a lot shorter than several months!
Even after you get all the stain out, use this product once or twice a week to prevent the tear stains from setting back into your dog’s fur. Amazon offers a 5% discount on this product through Subscribe and Save, which will deliver it to your doorstep every two months.
GNC Dog Essentials Eye and Face Care Wipes
From the trusted health and wellness brand GNC come face care wipes for your dog—and while they’re not all-natural like Burt’s Bees’ tear stain remover, they are gentle on your dog’s skin. The neat thing about these is that they’re wipes, so once you purchase the product you have everything you need to clean your dog’s face. No cotton balls or pads needed!
Treats and GNC Dog Essentials Eye and Face Wipes.
These are the pads I used with Walter and Rosemary, my in-laws’ toy dogs. As soon as I got the treats out, both dogs started leaping with excitement. I gave them each a piece of treat before attempting to wipe their faces. Then I removed a damp wipe from the bottle. At first, I tried to wipe Walter’s face from behind the outdoor doggy gate.
Getting ready to wipe Walter’s face with a GNC Dog Essentials Face Wipe.
Walter has a stubborn tear stain, pictured below, that I decided to attack with the wipes.
See that reddish stripe in Walter’s facial fur? That’s the tear stain I decided to go to battle with.
First, I gently wiped the stain in a circular motion. Lighter, less set-in stains surrounding the main stain came off with ease—yay for the GNC wipes! But the big stain had encrusted several strands of fur, and it did not want to come out.
I massaged the fur with the wipe for at least a minute before giving Walter a break. The stain looked lessened, but it wasn’t gone. I moved on to cleaning Rosemary’s eyes. She didn’t have a lot of gunk and only a small tear stain, and it came out easily.
Rosemary, free of tear stains. She still needs work on her mouth, though!
Rosemary’s chin had saliva stains, so I tackled that next.
Rosemary getting her saliva stains wiped off.
The wipes worked wonderfully to remove her saliva stains. See how clean her chin looks in the above photo?
Like the Burt’s Bees Tear Stain Remover, these wipes need to be used daily for best results, but they do a fantastic job removing newer stains and saliva gunk. We wiped Walter’s tear stain again today, and it has gotten less encrusted into his fur. Within a week of applying the wipes, it’ll probably be gone!
Mindful Pets Tear Stain Comb
If your toy dog has really bad tear stains, you might need a little extra oomph to remove them. Enter the Mindful Pets Tear Stain Comb, a super fine-toothed comb that moves through your dog’s fur, removing those set-in crusts. To really up your tear stain removal powers, soak your dog’s facial fur in a little bit of liquid stain remover first, and then run the comb through after a couple of minutes.
Bodhi Dog New Natural Tear Eye Stain Remover
This natural tear stain remover takes it a step up from Burt’s Bees, using hydrogen peroxide, lavender oil, and lemongrass oil to lighten old stains (and remove them if you use the Mindful Pets comb with it) and prevent new eye gunk stains from building up. It’s almost like dental health—you need to take care of your dog’s eyes daily, preferably, in order to keep them clear and the fur unstained.
What if the Dog Eye Discharge Isn’t From Tear Stains?
If your toy dog or even larger dog is having eye gunk issues that don’t cause rust-colored staining, you might feel concerned. Why does your dog have so much extra eye gunk? What can you do about it?
Here are several reasons your dog might be getting gunky eyes.
Regular Old Eye Goop
Those white gunky globs in your dog’s eyes that appear in the morning and are easily wiped away are nothing to worry about—unless you notice a marked increase in eye goop one day. This type of gunk is made from the tears your dog’s eyes naturally shed every day, dead skin, and the natural oils present in your dog’s skin. Wipe them off with the GNC face cleaner for clear, gunk-less eyes.
Greenish-Yellow Dog Eye Discharge
If your dog starts leaking green or yellow (or greenish-yellow) discharge from his eyes, take him to the vet as soon as possible. He might have conjunctivitis, an eye inflammation usually caused by a deeper underlying issue. It could be something as simple as allergies or as serious as a tumor, infection, or injury to your dog’s eye, so be sure to take your dog to the vet to figure out what’s going on.
Red, Watery Eyes
If your dog’s eyes start watering more than normal, it’s also a good idea to take him to the vet. He could have an eyelid issue in which his eyelashes are painfully poking his eyeball, or he could have a clogged tear duct.
These are all issues your vet can help you solve, and vets can also help you manage tear stains if you simply can’t keep up with them with over-the-counter products.
Walter says, “Thank you for reading! I love my new GNC wipes to keep my tear stains away.”
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.