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Dr. Michael Fox, Published June 21 2013

Pet care: Get rid of tear stains

Dear Dr. Fox: We adopted our white standard poodle from a rescue shelter in 2003. We think she was about 2 years old at the time, so that would make her 12 years old now. She has been a very healthy dog all these years.

However, in the past year, she has had a discharge from her eyes. The vet said that it was not uncommon in older dogs and even if he were to open the eye glands, the discharge would soon return. He suggested that we just use a warm washcloth with water to wipe off the eyes. We have been doing this and it does help to get rid of the crusty eye gunk, but I am wondering if there are any over-the-counter products that would help. We have to do this every day to keep up with it, and even then she looks like she has two black eyes all the time.

We had a black standard poodle years ago, and he didn’t seem to have this problem. Does it cause any infections or loss of eyesight? Do you have any other suggestions? – S. and G.F., Collinsville, Ill.

Dear S. and G.F.: Provided there are no in-curling eyelashes, blocked tear ducts or chronic conjunctivitis, which need special attention, simply clipping the long fur under the eyes and wiping daily with diluted boric acid or liquid vitamin C should suffice.

In many cases of staining tears and saliva, the culprit is a pigmented chemical called porphyrin, which animals secrete normally – in gerbils it can look like dried blood in the corners of their eyes. Short-term antibiotic eye ointment may be needed if a bacterial infection is causing reddening of the conjunctiva, which may also produce staining porphyrins, possibly in conjunction with a fungal infection called malassezia. This is all too prevalent in dogs’ ears. (Zymox Otic can provide effective relief for the ear.)

Oral treatment with a supplement such as Tearlax can help clear up dogs’ eyes. Another oral supplement, Angel Eyes, contains the antibiotic tylosin, and I agree with other veterinarians who contend that this should not be given without strict veterinary oversight and should not be sold over the counter.

I have proposed that pet food dyes can also cause staining – and more serious health problems – and so one should seek pet foods without these artificial coloring agents.

States of shame

What state do you live in? I live in Minnesota. Some of my taxes pay for legislators who put money before ethics and vested interests before animal rights and welfare. Recently, legislators pushed through a bill permitting the “sport” hunting and commercial trapping of wolves. This violates a five-year moratorium of such slaughter when the federal government took the wolf off the protected endangered species list. Shamefully, the Minnesota Agricultural Committee is currently blocking the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill, which passed through three House committees, because it sees the bill as a slippery slope to regulating how farmed animals are raised. For more details on your state’s cruelty laws, visit animallaw.info/statutes/topicstatutes/sttoac.htm.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.