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Tear Stains

Shih Tzu Tear Stains


This section is dedicated to helping your regarding Shih Tzu tear stains. While this problem is more obvious on dogs with light color coats, it does happen to dogs of any color or multi-color.

Sadly, some owners believe that staining is normal. Since it can develop slowly, owners may mistakenly believe that the coat is changing color around the eyes as the Shih Tzu matures. And therefore, those owners will have no idea that anything is wrong. 
While the stain itself does not cause health issues, there are some health issues that can cause the staining.
Furthermore, it can make the dog uncomfortable since that part of the coat, around the sensitive eyeswill often not be soft and clean. It is often difficult to comb….And it can be an irritation to the dog.

Lastly, in regard to appearance, a Tzu is not meant to have discoloration on the coat and to have this around or under the eyes is not normal. Luckily, it can be fixed.

Let’s looks at the causes of this,prevention and treatments that actually work…and what does not work.
Red Yeast

This is an infection that is thought to grow when a dog has extreme tearing. This means that a watery solution that has an elevated sodium content is almost continually dripping from the tear ducts and slowly yet progressively being soaked into the hairs that are beneath and to the side of the eyes. When the moisture is always there, it develops into a breeding area for moisture loving microorganisms....with red yeast being the most widespread.

This will cause a red to brown stain that is very obvious. If a Shih Tzu has very noticeable red or brown hairs around the eyes and that hair has a crisp feel to it, it most likely is a red yeast issue.

The excellent news is that there is a cure (more ahead). 

Water and Food Bowls

The containers that your Shih Tzu eats and drinks out of is just as significant as what is in them. Many plastic colored dog food bowls can cause hair stains, predominantly to the face. The colorants used in manufacturing them will gradually be released into the food and water, which then goes into the hairs on the dog’s face. This can be fixed by using only stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls.

The size of the bowl will also be important. It is best to use smaller, shallow dishes. If a bowl is too large, Shih Tzu tear stains can develop when the face becomes too wet by having to dive too deep into the bowl... The hairs become wet, stays wet and then the red yeast that we mentioned above can set in. While putting any longer hairs back into a tie or bow, even short hairs around the face can easily become damp and if not wiped dry soon after drinking and/or eating, bacteria can begin to grow. 
The Actual Food & Water

There are many doggie treats that can cause staining. To make them appear more appealing, many have colorants added…This makes the treats red, orange, yellow, etc. It is a shame that this is done, as they would taste exactly the same without this additive.  

If you see tear staining, it is recommended to keep away from colored treats and stick to white or light cream ones. The alternative, of course, is to home cook and have no colorants at all.

The iron content of your tap water can cause staining. Using a filter attached to the tap will work well to catch not only intense iron concentrations but also other elements that you and your Tzu should not be ingesting. On the other hand, you may wish to use bottled water . (Cheaper if bought in gallon containers).
Treatment No Matter What the Cause
First, let's look at what doesnotreally work very well:

1) A mixture of boric acid mixed with corn starch. It can be dangerous to use this around the eye area and frankly, there are much better high-quality, proven products.
2) Buttermilk in powder form. This has 'so-so' results. 

3) Adding vinegar to drinking water. Most dogs dislike the strong taste and this method is not proven to work.

4) Cornstarch applied carefully is said to help but this powder is not recommended...This is because it can cause irritation to the dog's eyes, thus causing more tears, which causes wet hairs, which causes bacterial infection...and the cycle begins all over again.

5) Tums - Too many Tums (or Tums like products) can equal too much calcium. There are options that work better.

6) Milk of Magnesia, corn starch and peroxide (20 volume to 40 volume), using an equal volume of MOM and peroxide, and then use the corn starch to make a good paste of this. This may work for minor to moderate tear staining problems. It is put on and massaged well into the stained area to dry overnight. Wash out and then use a super good conditioner…Condition twice in a row. If you choose this, keep doing this for several days until tear staining is gone, although we would recommend skipping a day or two between applications if possible.

What Does Work

What is the best tear stain product for a Shih Tzu puppy or dog? You may be surprised! We do not recommend the most commonly used one: Angle Eyes. It’s been around for a long time and perhaps due to marketing or the catchy name, it’s the one that many owners rely on. It is a decent product that may lighten the hairs a bit; however, it is not our recommended choice.  

When it comes to keeping a Shih Tzu tear stain free, this is no time to be half in the game. Use a great product that can produce quick results so you can clear up the problems and focus on the coat as a whole.

The best product will be one that works in 6 ways:

1- It will be an easy topical solution that is easy to apply.

2- It will have a gentle yet effective cleanser.

3- It will have a gentle yet effective astringent.

4- It will have an herbal antibacterial agent

5- It will be formulated to be safe for dogs of all ages - from young puppies to the senior dog and every age in between.

6- It will have the above tear staining removal benefits without containing bleach, peroxide, or harsh chemicals.

If you would like to see our list of recommended products that are effective and safe, along with reviews, look to 'Grooming' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe.
Prescribed Medication

If tear staining removal methods are not working or if you did reduce or eliminate the stained hairs but they keep reappearing, it will be time to have your veterinarian take a look. Let him/her know what you've tried. There's a good chance that at this point, your Shih Tzu will need an antibiotic (most often tetracycline ) to wipe out a strong infection. A 10 day low-dose course is often done. Please take note that puppies not yet done with the teething phase should not be given tetracycline as it can stain teeth that are not yet erupted. Other choices for prescribed meds to treat tear staining include Delta AlbaPlex, Lincocin or even Flagyl (off label use).
Don't forget to become a free AllShihTzu Member, so that you may receive reminders when we add new pages of information & also be able to suggest a subject for us to discuss and write about. 
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