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Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Tear Stains?

Spend any time around dogs and you've likely seen one with tear stains. Those unsightly reddish-brown markings around a dog's eyes.

Because there are so many causes of tear stains on dogs, any pup can get them. But you won't always notice them.

Tear stains on white dogs are the most obvious, but not every white dog is going to get them. Some dog breeds are more prone to tear stains than others, regardless of their color.


What Causes Tear Stains on Dogs?

First, a quick overview of what causes tear stains on dogs.

Generally speaking, dog tear stains are caused by a condition called epiphora. Which simply means the dog is either producing excessive amounts of tears or has poorly-draining tear ducts.

Over time, a pigment called porphyrin, builds up under the eyes, resulting in the characteristic red-brown stains. Darker tear stains may also be the result of a yeast infection that has developed on the skin under the dog's eyes thanks to constant moisture. 

Many of the causes of epiphora are minor and not something to be concerned about. Allergies, for instance, or untrimmed hair around the dog's eyes.

Other causes are tied specifically to the dog's breed.

If you notice ongoing tear staining, we recommend checking with your vet to identify any potential health issues.


Dog Breeds with Tear Stains

The dog breeds most prone to tear stains fall into one of several categories, but can also fall into more than one category – like the Poodle, which falls into three!

These categories are:

  • Flat-faced breeds
  • Breeds prone to congenital tear duct abnormalities
  • Breeds with long facial hair
  • White dog breeds

It's also worth noting, some dogs, like German Shepherds are prone to allergies, one of the main causes of tear stains.

(This is a list of the most common dog breeds that are prone to tear stains. If you're considering getting a less common dog breed, you may want to check with a breeder to see if tear stains are a known issue.)


Flat-Faced Dog Breeds with Tear Stains


Bulldog, Boxer, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Pugs, Bull Mastiff, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, Maltese

Dog breeds with flat faces (or short distances between their eyes and nose) are particularly prone to tear staining because of the way their eyes have developed over time.

Flat-faced breeds typically have round, bulging eyes. And while many humans find this look endearing, it does make it more difficult for the dog to close his eyelids fully. Resulting in regularly irritated, watering eyes.

To make matters worse, many dogs with flat faces also have narrow or crooked tear ducts, making it nearly impossible to drain all that excess water.


Breeds Prone to Congenital Tear Duct Abnormalities

Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Labradors

A common congenital condition among these breeds is imperforate punctum (also called punctal atresia), which basically means the tear ducts are underdeveloped.  

You won't always notice the tear stains, however. For instance, on a brown Lab or dark Poodle. But there's a good chance they're there.


Breeds with Long Facial Hair and Tear Stains

Schnauzer, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Pekingese, Poodles, Cairn and West Highland Terriers

Dog breeds that require regular clipping around their eyes are prone to having watery eyes if not groomed frequently enough. And, as a result, tear stains.

Additionally, for some of these breeds, like Cairn and West Highland Terriers, their coarse hair will sometimes start to grow inwards, making eye irritation even more of a problem.


White Dog Breeds with Tear Stains

Maltese, Samoyed, Bichon Frise, Poodle, West Highland White Terrier

Tear stains on white dogs? It's so common, it's almost a cliche.

Almost any dog breed that is primarily white (like the Samoyed or Bichon) or can be white (like the Poodle) has a chance of showing tear stains at some point in their life.

It's simply part of having an all-white dog.


Size Doesn't Matter

Though many of the dogs most prone to tear staining are small, there are plenty of large dog breeds with tear stains. A white Standard Poodle is as likely to show tear stains as a tiny Maltese.

And a 75-pound boxer has the same flat-face issues that a 15-pound pug does.

Have a dog with tear stains that won't go away? Try Veterinary Formula's Eye Health & Tear Stain, which is packed with ingredients like sea kelp, cinnamon, and eyebright that help control watery eyes, and thus prevent tear staining.