Dog Breed Info

How Eye Tearing Contributes to Eye Disorders

The natural response of the dog's eyes is to create tears when necessary to help flush away any foreign material, whether it be dust, overgrown hair or an eye disorder such as eyelashes growing in the wrong direction. As professional groomers and stylists, we must never attempt to diagnosis an eye disorder, but we must have a working knowledge about eye disorders, be able to recognize the symptoms and recommend a visit to the veterinarian when we feel that those symptoms are present. With this knowledge, you will be able to partner with the pet family to better take care of man's best friend.

Pets with tearing disorders arrive daily in salons and families that care for their best friends typically ask the professional, "why does my dog tear so much and what can you do to help?"
Tear staining can be connected to more than just eye disorders; it can be due to health, diet, genetics and the hair around the eye area. The job of keeping the hair out of the eyes and keeping this area clean and fresh smelling is the job of the professional groomer.

In breeds with long hair such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, and Shih Tzu, the hair around the eye area acts as a sponge absorbing all the moisture from the tearing. The thicker the hair, the more moisture that is trapped. When the hair is thick enough or long enough, and absorbed tears keep the area constantly moist, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast growth, the most common being " red yeast," which leaves reddish brown stains and a very strong odor. The coat type becomes a factor in eye care since it is the hair around the eye that absorbs tearing and contributes to staining, crusting and bacterial growth.

The dog's eyes may tear because of the presence of two glands which produce tears. The main tear gland or lacrimal gland, which is above the eye, near where the lining of the eyelid meets the eye, secretes about 70% of the dog's tears, and the smaller gland, just inside the third eyelid, also contributes somewhat to tear production. Though it doesn't concern groomers very much, the most common tear-production problem is a shortage of tear production, called Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, in which the tears that are created are thick and viscous and give the pet's eye a dull appearance. If you suspect that a dog has this ailment, refer the dog to the veterinarian for treatment.

The eye problem that does affect groomers more is excessive tearing or tears overflow, which causes the staining around the eye area which groomers must deal with. The rusty looking stain is caused by the oxidation of iron porphyrins and epinephrine in the tears. Usually called "excessive tear production," this is really an issue of insufficient drainage away from the eye, caused by blocked tear ducts. If this condition is chronic, the dog should be referred to a veterinarian for treatment. The "red yeast" referred to above is another related issue.

Cases of excessive tear production may also be caused by hairs touching the eye which then work to wick tears out of the eye, causing staining. There are three such scenarios, trichiasis (hairs or eyelashes that actually curl into or lean into the eye), distichiasis (hairs that grow from the lid toward the eye) and ectopic cilia (hairs that actually grow through the lining of the eyelid and touch the eye), and all of these conditions may be managed by the alert groomer by trimming the offending hairs carefully, to keep them out of the eye.

As well, breeds with prominent nasal folds, such as Pugs, Shar-Pei, and Pekingese, may have hair from these prominent folds brushing the eye, which causes irritation and may cause excessive tearing because of this irritation. The groomer must keep the hair on these folds shaved closely enough that the eye is not abraded by the hair. If this condition is severe, and cannot be controlled by the groomer without altering the dog's appearance significantly, surgery may be necessary.

Dogs that have the following coat types need more eye care due to coat length are:
  • dropcoat type (example: Maltese)
  • tight curly coat type (example: Poodle)
  • loose curly coat type (example: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier)
  • tight wire coat type (example: Wire Fox Terrier)
  • scruffy wire coat type (example: Wire-haired Pointing Griffon)

Controlling Excessive Tearing & Staining
Staining around the eye is common, but it can be managed. The procedures for managing eye tearing and staining depends on the severity of the staining.


Severe Tearing and Staining:
Eliminating severe staining requires a 2 pronged approach. Daily treatment at home by the pet family as well as weekly salon visits for treatment, by a professional groomer.


Moderate Tearing and Staining:
Treatment by the professional groomer every 2 weeks is typically adequate for controlling moderate staining problems.


Mild Tearing and Staining:
Dogs with mild staining around the eyes should be treated every 6 weeks by the professional groomer.
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