Eye staining! Oh the trials and tribulations! There is no subject on any of the list serves
that comes up more frequently than this one. God, Allah, Yaweh, Krishna and
Mohammad bless all those long time participants in dutifully replying to a newbies cry for
There are as many answers as questions about what causes eye staining. I will provide
you with the answers I have heard and/or researched which make sense to me.
1)        Regardless of why some dogs produce more tears than others, the reason the
staining occurs is due to a substance called porphyrin that is present in tears. When
porphrin is exposed to light, it turns reddish brown in the same way chlorophyll turns
green. Since Cotons are white, this discoloration becomes very apparent.  
2)         Many if not most puppies go through a stage of eye staining; some more than
others. There seems to be a consistency in litters with respect to the degree of eye
staining. This may be a result of other reasons I will mention later. Sometimes the eye
staining clears as they grow older, sometimes not. Staining can occur with teething as a
consequence of pressure areas in the upper jaw changing the angle of the space
beneath the eye.
3)        Whether your Coton stains or not is a consequence of several factors: the facial
structure of the eye, the angle at which the hair is growing around the eye and likely
some other factors I don’t know about yet. Regarding the facial structure, some dogs
structure provide a little “shelf” for the tears to pool and in so doing allow more time for
exposure to the chemical reaction with light. The mechanism of  hair growth stimulates
increased tear production through irritation, the same mechanism that will cause your
eye to tear when confronted with a foreign body. With the addition of more tears, the
turnaround time for tears to evaporate decreases thereby allowing more tears to be
exposed to the air which results in increase staining.
4)        In some cases the tear duct is not patent or the lower lid is too shallow. Both of
condition result in an increase accumulation of tears spilling onto the outside of the eye;
the more tears, the more discoloration!
5)         The possibility of infection should always be considered in the event of a change
from baseline. If your dog has not had much tear-staining and suddenly develops stains,
a visit to your vet is in order.

So now that we know some of the causes, what can we do to prevent or fix it?  The
remedies are equal to or greater than the causes. There are pros and cons for each
treatment some of which concern your lifestyle and what is realistic for you to do.
1)        Tylan added to the water daily will interfere with the reaction of porphrin with light.
Tylan is an antibiotic so the cause and effect is not entirely clear to me. I suspect that
since an antibiotic is involved there must be some sort of bacteria that work with the
porphryn and light to cause the staining. This is probably the easiest remedy but I a
personally reluctant to give antibiotics on a daily basis just for the sake of cosmetic
appeal. However, keep in mind that there are thousands of people on daily doses of
antibiotics for the prevention of acne (including myself), so who am I to judge? Also, the
amount of antibiotic required is really very small. How antibiotic administration could be
managed in a multidog household is another question. This particular antibiotic should
not be given to pregnant bitches or puppies as it can result in tooth discoloration. There
are definitely foods that result in an increase in eye staining. I experienced this
personally with Iams dog food.  I also have noticed a difference in beard staining
between using purified water and tap water. I haven’t noticed that this has any effect on
the eyes.
2)        I have heard many people swear by Angel Eyes which is a product that can be
found on the internet. Just do a google search by entering angel eyes dogs and a
number of websites will pop up. I appreciate the explanation provided about how their
product works:
“Angels’ Eyes works to prevent tear staining by tying up circulating porphyrins. A
porphyrin is a compound that reacts with light to produce a reddish brown stain to the
medial canthus.  The ingredients in Angels' Eyes will prevent your dog from contracting
Ptyrosporin (Red Yeast) and bacterial infections which causes excess tearing and
This appeals to my passion for knowledge based on evidence or at the very least,
containing logic.
3)        A cheaper solution is to use Boric acid mixed with distilled water. This definitely
works as long as you apply it religiously each night for at least six weeks and then on a
somewhat regular basis after the initial therapy. I know this works because I have used
it. Unfortunately, my religion didn’t have the staying power necessary for maintenance so
the stains are back and I haven’t yet become born again. Should you decide you have
what it takes, I will provide instruction. Basically, you mix up about three tablespoons of
pharmacy grade Boric Acid in a cup of boiling distilled water and stir until dissolved. You
will store this in a bottle from which you will be able to either squeeze out a controlled
amount of well-placed solution or simply or wet a cotton ball or pad. Contrary to some
sources, you do not want to get Boric Acid in the eye However, should a small amount
inadvertently find itself in your dog’s eyes, do not worry.
So, now you have the Boric acid solution in a manageable   container. If you were
fortunate to find the perfect squeeze container, you will invert the bottle and carefully
squeeze several drops onto the hair on the inner aspect of the eye, AKA, the part that’s
stained. After doing so, you will take one or several cotton balls and firmly wipe away the
solution and hopefully along with it, some of the discoloration. If using a cotton ball in
conjunction with the container holding the solution, just simply wet the cotton ball and
wipe. You will do this every night until the staining is gone. Subsequently you the go to
the maintenance part of the program, which is probably every 3-4 days but I wouldn’t
know for sure since I flunked maintenance. My excuse is that I have more dogs than you,
what’s yours?