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If you’ve spent a good amount of time around dogs, you might have noticed that some dogs frequently have brown or pink-colored tear stains on their faces, while other dogs don’t seem to have this problem at all.
Tear staining is the result of excess tear production in dogs and is seen particularly often in small breeds with light coats and long hair, such as maltese shih tzus, and short-nosed breeds like pugs.
Excessive tearing (or Epiphora, to use the scientific term) can be caused by a variety of factors, from simple genetic predisposition to eye infections.
There are many possible medical causes for tear staining in dogs (some of which we’ll get into later) and the root cause may even be a combination of factors, so it’s important to seek the advice of your veterinary practitioner to rule out anything serious.
However, in many cases, the cause and solution of tear stains in dogs is surprisingly simple and can be summed up in a single word: diet.
Waste products from filler ingredients in dog food can build up in your dog’s system, causing a combination of allergic reactions, which may in turn cause excess tearing.
Therefore, if you notice that your dog is producing more tears than usual, one of the first steps to take is to ensure your canine friend is eating a healthy, nutritious diet that is non-irritating, easy to digest, and free of unnecessary filler ingredients.
Here at My Best Bark, we understand that high-quality nutrition is key to helping our canine companions live their best, healthiest lives. That’s why we’ve looked into the best dog foods for tear stains currently available on the pet food market.
The natural and anti-allergenic properties of these foods should help to minimize tearing in the absence of any other contributing factors.
Nobody has time to start barking up the wrong tree when it comes to dog food. If you’re in a hurry, check out our top choice:
- Free from preservatives and fillers
- Contains antioxidants from spinach and blueberries
- High-quality whitefish protein
- Omega 3 content from flaxseed
- Taurine, probiotics, and glucosamine included
- Bags of 5 lbs, 15 lbs, and 30 lbs
Best Dog Food for Tear Stains – Reviews & Buying Guide
- Wellness Whitefish and Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food
- Nature’s Recipe Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Grain Free Easy to Digest Dry Dog Food
- Wellness Core Natural Dry Dog Food Small Breed
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Sensitive Stomach and Skin Small and Mini Breeds
- Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Sensitive Systems Dry Dog Food
Best Overall: Wellness Whitefish and Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food
Wellness as a pet food brand has lived up to its name for nearly a century, formulating and manufacturing food for both dogs and cats with the aim of promoting and providing a healthy, natural diet for our furry friends.
The Whitefish and Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food recipe from Wellness is particularly effective at reducing the production of tears and the appearance of tear stains in dogs.
The reason the Whitefish and Sweet Potato recipe is so good for tackling tear stains is that it doesn’t contain any filler ingredients or artificial preservatives, so you won’t find anything in this food that doesn’t directly contribute to your dog’s daily nutritional requirements.
This significantly reduces the likelihood of digestive irritation, as does the fact that the only grains used in this food are wholesome and non-GMO.
As well as being easy on your dog’s digestive tract, the Wellness Whitefish and Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food contains everything a dog needs in their diet.
Including a high antioxidant content from spinach and blueberries, combined with high-quality protein from the whitefish and Omega 3 fatty acids from flaxseed for skin health, your dog will want for nothing on a diet made up of this food!
Taurine, glucosamine, and probiotics have also been included for optimal nutrition.
Another great bonus of this dog food is the fact that it is available for purchase in bags of 5 lbs, 15 lbs, or 30 lbs, so you can easily tailor the purchase of this food to your needs according to how many dogs you have to feed and how long you plan on using the food.
- No fillers or preservatives
- Wholesome, non-GMO grains
- Spinach and blueberries for antioxidants
- High-quality protein from whitefish
- Flaxseed for Omega 3
- Includes probiotics, glucosamine, and taurine
- Available in 5 lb, 15 lb, or 30 lb bags
- Packaging not resealable
Runner Up: Nature’s Recipe Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Grain Free Easy to Digest Dry Dog Food
When it comes to reducing tear stains, feeding your dog food made up of natural ingredients is crucial in order to avoid irritation or allergies. Nature’s Recipe has created an ideal food in this category with the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Grain-Free, Easy to Digest Dry Dog Food.
Although this dog food is primarily marketed as a sweet potato and pumpkin-based recipe, the main ingredient in the formula is real chicken, which provides a healthy dose of high-quality protein.
Part of the reason why this Nature’s Recipe dog food is so easy to digest is because it’s grain-free. Some dogs (although not all, by any means) have allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities to grains that can prevent them from properly digesting food containing grains and lead to tear staining.
Instead of grains, Nature’s Recipe provides easily-digestible, energy-supplying carbohydrates in the form of sweet potato and pumpkin.
No artificial flavors or preservatives have been added to this formula, nor does it contain any soy or chicken grain byproducts.
This food is suitable for dogs of all breeds and life stages and can be purchased in bags of 4 lbs, 12 lbs, or 24 lbs, so you have a lot of flexibility in terms of the use of this formula.
- Contains real chicken
- Suitable for all life stages and breeds
- No artificial preservatives or flavors
- Available in 4 lb, 12 lb, and 24 lb bags
- Some reported quality control issues
Alternative: Wellness Core Natural Dry Dog Food Small Breed
Because tear stains often affect smaller dog breeds like pugs and shih tzus due to their genetics and physical characteristics, it’s important to be aware of dog foods for smaller breeds with tear stains.
One of the best products on the market for this specific purpose is Wellness’s Core Natural Dry Dog Food for Small Breeds.
Like Wellness’s whitefish and sweet potato dog food (see above), the Core Natural Small Breed food is free from artificial preservatives and filler ingredients for easy digestion. It’s also grain-free to minimize the chances of digestive sensitivity or allergic reactions.
This formula contains turkey and chicken meal as a healthy, natural protein source. It also includes prebiotics and probiotics to stimulate healthy digestion and Omega fatty acids for skin and fur health.
Glucosamine and taurine have also been incorporated into the formula for joint and heart health.
You can purchase this food in quantities of 4 lbs or 12 lbs according to the needs of yourself and your dog, for the short and long term.
- Suitable for small dog breeds
- No filler ingredients or artificial preservatives
- Contains real turkey and chicken meal
- Prebiotics and probiotics for digestion
- Omega fatty acids for skin and fur
- Includes glucosamine and taurine
- Available in 4 lb or 12 lb bags
- No reseal on packaging
Alternative: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Sensitive Stomach and Skin Small and Mini Breeds
For any canine medical issue that can be resolved or partially resolved through a change of diet, Hill’s Science Diet is one of the most reliable and well-loved dog food brands.
Hill’s Science Diet’s Small Sensitive Stomach and Skin dry formula for small dog breeds is one of the best foods for reducing tear stains in smaller dogs.
The Sensitive Stomach and Skin Small and Mini Breeds dog food from Hill’s Science Diet is so effective at treating excess tearing and tear staining because its nutritional benefits gently target sensitive canine digestive systems and dermatological health.
Recommended by veterinarians as a testament to its high quality and efficacy, this dog food contains real chicken as its primary, natural protein source.
This formula is made with probiotic fiber to help promote easy and healthy digestion. It also contains optimal levels of Vitamin E and Omega 6 fatty acids, amongst other nutrients, to help maintain healthy skin and fur.
All nutrient quantities have been carefully calculated to meet the nutritional needs of small dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin.
- Recommended by veterinarians
- Suitable for small dog breeds
- Contains real chicken
- Prebiotics fiber helps to ease digestion
- Includes Vitamin E and Omega 6 for skin and fur
- Some dogs don’t enjoy the taste
Alternative: Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Sensitive Systems Dry Dog Food
Purina ONE’s SmartBlend Natural Sensitive Systems dog food strikes a critical balance between easy digestion and hearty nutrition.
Made with real salmon, this dog food contains both high-quality protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. Because of this, the SmartBlend Sensitive Systems food works well for reducing inflammation and promoting joint and muscle health.
Salmon is also one of the easiest protein sources for dogs to digest.
Because of the lack of filler ingredients in this formula, the food is even easier to digest, making it perfectly suited for dogs with more sensitive digestive systems that may be contributing to tear staining.
As well as protein and Omega 3, this Purina ONE dog food contains Vitamin E and Omega 6 to ensure skin and fur health.
This food comes in bags of either 16.5 lbs or 31.1 lbs, so you can select the option that works best for you, although both bags will supply you with plenty of food.
- Contains real salmon
- No filler ingredients
- Vitamin E and Omega 6 for healthy skin and fur
- Available in 16.5 lb and 31.1 lb bags
- Some reports of spoiled food on arrival
Best Dog Food for Tear Stains – Buyer’s Guide
In our food reviews, we’ve touched on all the most important nutrients and properties of each of the best tear-stain-reducing dog foods.
However, as a loving dog owner, it can be useful to have a more comprehensive breakdown of all the factors to consider when purchasing dog food for tear stains so you can be confident that you’re making the best possible decision.
That’s exactly what this buyer’s guide is for! Keep reading for more information on selecting dog food for tear stains according to nutrient content, quantities, and breed size.
While there are many dog foods on the market that cater to the needs of all dog breeds and life stages, many dog food brands create versions of their formulae specifically for smaller or larger dog breeds.
As we’ve already mentioned, tear staining seems to disproportionately affect smaller, snort-nosed dog breeds. If your dog falls into this category, it may be worth trying a natural, easily-digestible dog food that is formulated specifically for small dogs.
We’ve included 2 such formulae on our list for this reason.
Dog food that has been specifically formulated for small breeds typically has a smaller kibble size to make the food easier to chew, swallow, and digest.
The nutrient content of these foods is also normally fine-tuned to provide enough nutrition through smaller meals while easing the digestive issues that smaller dogs are often prone to.
Once you’ve shortlisted your selection based on suitability for your dog’s breed and (if relevant) life stage, it’s time to take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrient content of the foods on offer.
First and foremost, dog food for tear stains should be easy to digest and non-irritating. This means that the formula should be as natural as possible and not contain any filler ingredients that might cause stomach upsets.
Grain-free formulae are popular amongst owners of dogs with tear stains because some dogs are allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to grains, and it is thought that this might be a cause of excessive tear staining.
If your dog is sensitive to grain, or you suspect that this may be the issue, consult your vet about trying out a grain-free formula to see if this resolves the issue.
However, many dogs are not at all sensitive to grain consumption and actually thrive better on a diet containing grains. In this case, any grains used in the formula should be wholesome and non-GMO.
As in any dog food, high-quality protein is an essential nutrient. Real chicken or turkey meals are a good source of natural animal protein, although meat can sometimes be difficult for dogs with digestive sensitivities to digest. If this is the case with your dog, we recommend a fish-based source of protein such as salmon.
Fish is easier for dogs to digest than meat and it packs high quantities of protein as well as Omega-3 fatty acids for immunity, skin, and fur health. Vitamin E and Omega-6 also help with this.
Because Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory, it may additionally help to soothe any irritation or inflammation in the digestive system.
To aid digestion further, an optimal probiotic and prebiotic content is recommended for treating tear stains through diet.
Other key nutrients to look out for in dog food to ensure that your pet is receiving whole-body nutrition as well as targeted nutritional benefits are taurine and glucosamine.
Glucosamine is essential for joint health and mobility, while taurine promotes healthy immune and cardiovascular systems, as well as other important bodily functions.
If your dog’s tear stains are, indeed, the result of digestive issues, then switching up your dog’s diet is likely to be a permanent change. This is because, if you allow your dog to go back to eating the way they were at the time the tear stains started appearing, it’s probable that the tearing issue will resume.
Therefore, it makes sense to have a large supply of your dog’s new easily-digestible and nutritious food on hand in advance.
Luckily, many of the dog food brands manufacturing food for tear stains supply their foods in large bags, so you can make sure you always have enough food to maintain your canine companion’s new diet.
However, because easily-digestible foods for tackling tear stains may be formulated quite differently from what your dog is used to, there’s a risk that your pet will not take to the first new food you buy.
If you know your dog to be a little fussy, you may be better off opting for one of the smaller bag sizes conveniently provided by the brands on our list to start off with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are tear stains harmful to dogs?
Tear stains in themselves are normally more of a cosmetic issue in dogs than anything else, in the sense that the tearing itself doesn’t actually do any harm apart from leaving marks that can be a pain to clean.
The bigger concern is the underlying cause of the tear stains, which could be something as simple as easy to rectify as an allergic reaction, or something more serious like glaucoma.
What are the medical causes of tear stains in dogs?
We mentioned earlier than tear stains in dogs can be caused by a multitude (and sometimes a combination) of factors outside of poor diet or digestion.
For this reason, if you notice that your dog has developed tear stains, it’s very important to get a veterinary assessment to make sure the root cause isn’t anything more serious.
Some of the most common medical causes of tear stains in dogs include: eye infections, ear infections, glaucoma, irritation or ingrown eyelashes. Luckily, these conditions can either be corrected, controlled, or cured with prompt medical attention.
A common cause of tear staining in puppies specifically is teething. If your puppy is aged under 18 months and has been displaying other signs of teething such as excessive chewing, drooling, inflamed gums, or bad breath, teething may be the cause of the tear stains.
Alternatively, your dog’s tear stains may have more to do with their genetics and physical traits than any specific medical condition.
For instance, the reason smaller, short-nosed dogs often seem to be affected by tear stains more than larger breeds is that they tend to have shallow eye sockets coupled with a predisposition to tear duct blockage.
In some breeds, like pugs, for example, folds of skin around the eyes can also increase the likelihood of eye irritation and infection through bacterial accumulation.
However, just because your dog’s breed is more prone to tear staining doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the only or main cause, so you should still seek veterinary advice for confirmation.