Why Do Dogs Get Tear Stains?

There is no doubt that we all love our dogs and we want the best for them, both in their physical and emotional health. There are times, however, when something happens to our dogs and we are not quite sure why.

One of those issues could be brown streaks near their eyes that make it appear as if your dog is crying. Many people wonder why it happens but the answer is not always so readily available.

The brown streaks that you are seeing are known as tear staining. It happens when the hairs near the corner of the eye become strained, typically in a dog with a light-colored coat.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Before we talk about what causes tears staining, it’s important to understand that it is not something that is harmful to the dog.

Article continues below

Our Featured Programs

See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!

It’s a natural phenomenon that occurs when the hairs are stained with a byproduct of blood in the tears, porphyrin. Once it is on the surface, it interacts with the light and turns brown due to oxidation.


There may be some issues that can lead to this problem, and although it is not typically a cause for concern, you should be aware of the potential issues.

If your dog has something in its eye or if there is a scratch on the eyeball, it could lead to tear stains. It may also occur as a result of ingrown hair that irritates the eye.

Photo: flickr/Heather Kennedy

If your dog seems uncomfortable in any way, it’s a good idea to have them checked by a veterinarian. Otherwise, you can look for a way to reduce the issue or simply understand that it is not hurting them.

Help Rescue Animals

Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!