French Bulldog Tear Stains – an Unsightly and Annoying Problem

By: Danielle Harris

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French Bulldog Tear Stains – Why Frenchies are Prone to this common problem

French bulldog tear stains and allergies

Because of the way French bulldogs and other brachycephalic dog breeds faces are shaped, they tend to develop tear stains more frequently. The rolls in the skin trap moisture, staining the skin and hair more than other dog breeds.

These unsightly stains are less than desired.

When moisture builds up, this can cause bacterial or fungal infections(yeast infection) and added irritation.

Keeping the area clean, dry, and applying Aquaphor or Wrinkle Paste can help to alleviate these problems.

It’s common for all dogs to develop tear stains. However, it’s extremely visible on light or white dogs.

It’s especially important to pay attention to all colors of French bulldogs and brachycephalic dog breeds skin folds. Although they may not show the tear stains, it’s important to keep skin folds and wrinkles clean to prevent yeast infections and irritation.

Allergies can also be a cause of dog tear stains on dogs.

Especially in brachycephalic breeds, allergies can cause all kinds of problems, including yeast infections. Yeast infections can happen anywhere on the skin but most often is in the skin folds, feet, and tail pocket. Food allergies are one of the most common reasons for these infections and irritations.

These yeast infections will discolor skin folds, wrinkles, and paws.

In December of 2023 we finally decided to test one of our girls for alleriges. She has been strugging with tear stains, skin fold and ear infectings. When we got the results back we learned we had been feeding her everything she was allergic to despite the items being commonly known for being great for dogs with allergies!

She is now irritation free.

dog allergy test results

What are Dog Tear Stains?

The red/brown discoloration in dog tear stains comes from porphyrin.

Porphyrins are iron containing molecules produced when the body breaks down iron. Porphyrins are excreted through the gastrointestinal tract, urine, saliva, and TEARS! All dogs have some porphyrin in their tears, but some dogs have more porphyrin and tear stains are always more noticeable in white or light-colored dogs.

A common misconception about tear staining is that it’s due to excessive tear production.

Most dogs with tear stains have normal tear production and do not have an underlying problem such as allergies.

However, many dogs have a normal variation in their eyelid formation that causes tears to drain onto their face rather than draining down the nasolacrimal puncta and into the nasolacrimal system.

Excessive tear production can be caused by lacerations or ulcers to the eye. Ulcers can also cause dry eye.

Remove Dog Tear Stains, Treat Tear Stains

Keep hair short.

If you have a long haired dog, keep the hair around the eyes and nose as short as possible to prevent build up of tears on the hair. Hopefully, cutting the hair will remove dog tear stains, or most of it.

Quick daily “Cleaning Tear stains” will go a long way in keeping those tear stains away.

Flush eyes with an appropriate canine eye-wash, such as saline eye-wash solutions or Terra Septic eye drops.

Use an eye wash wipe and rub underneath and around the eye area.

A warm washcloth and baby shampoo are safe to use to clean around the eyes.

Diluted Chlorhexadine is also a great way to keep your pets skin clean. They make wipes or you can use a cotton ball/make up pad to clean in the wrinkles.

There are many types of eyelid and eyelash cleaning pads that can also be used to clean the face and around the eyes.

Contact lens solution can be used to clean around the eyes—not in the eyes! The boric acid in the contact lens solution oxidizes the iron in the porphyrins and may lighten the staining.

Try dog tear stain removers as a last resort.

Keep Skin folds, wrinkles, and hair dry to prevent tear stains.

After washing the face, always dry the area with a clean towel to prevent ulcerative dermatitis secondary to wet skin. Cornstarch can also be dusted underneath the eye, around the muzzle, and in between toes.

Tylosin-containing products claim to treat or prevent tear stains.

Tylosin’s effect is unpredictable and often has intermittent efficacy. Because tylosin is an antibiotic, there is controversy using it for cosmesis due to possible drug resistance. There is also controversy regarding tylosin’s addition to over the counter medications that do not always list it as an ingredient or identify how much tylosin is in the product.

Many probiotic supplements claim to decrease tear stains as well.

Try adding one teaspoon of either organic apple-cider vinegar or buttermilk powder to meals as a healthy food additive.

Preventing Tear Stains

Examine the quality of your pet food.

Since carbohydrates enhance inflammation properties throughout the body, pay attention to how much of their diet (treats included) is carbohydrate-based.

Lastly, avoid any preservatives, fillers, and food additives.

Avoiding these types of ingredients can help boost your pet’s resistance to inflammatory reactions. 

Skin inflammation will cause itching, especially in skin folds of French bulldogs. This is a cause of tear stains.

Focus on your pet’s pH levels.

pH imbalances are an important aspect when addressing the quality of a pet’s diet.

A high stomach pH can usually be attributed to certain medications (i.e., omeprazole and/or Pepcid) prescribed by a veterinarian.

These medications have a tendency to lessen pepsin (digestive enzyme in the stomach that breaks down proteins and polypeptide) levels.

Lower pepsin levels can eventually lead to malabsorption/maldigestion.

Consider the Protein Source in Your Pet’s Food.

Red meats are rich in iron and can contribute to tear stains in some pets. If your pet is prone to tear stains, this may be something to eliminate to determine if it helps.

The reason red meat contributes to tear staining is that their body works harder to break down the additional iron and magnesium.

For dogs with liver concerns, this can put additional stress on the liver.

As mentioned previously, excess iron intake can lead to the excess porphyrin – the compound responsible for the brown color in dog tear stains. 

Evaluate the quality of drinking water available to your pet.

Tap water, especially well water, usually contains both iron and magnesium.

As mentioned previously, these contribute to the build of porphyrins. Providing your pet with filtered water is best to help prevent or treat dog tear stains.

We use gravity feed water bowls.

The bowls comes with a jug that sits in one side of the peanut shaped bowl. The base of the water jug is outfitted with a charcoal filter. This filter cleans the water as it passes into the bowl as the bowl refills.

I don’t drink tap water myself, nor would I offer it to my friends or family. So naturally, the dogs only get filtered water too.

Bottled water is something we keep with us at all times, especially when traveling.

Luckily for us dog tear stains aren’t a problem here. Using both filtered water and Victor Ocean Formula dog food has seemed to prevent our dog tear stains.

Use a specially formulated dry shampoo or waterless shampoo to clean around eyes.

Dry shampoos and waterless shampoos are recommended to help clean up existing tear stains because they allow the user more control than traditional shampoos.  This can come in handy when trying to cleanse the area around sensitive eyes to avoid irritation. 

Pay attention to the material your pet’s bowls are made of.

Plastic bowls are not recommended because they tend to harbor bacteria more so than glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.

Any bacteria in your pet’s bowl can be easily transferred to your pet’s coat, which can cause infection.

Regardless of material, it is always best to clean your pet’s bowl regularly with soap and water to avoid the spread of bacteria.

Because French bulldogs and other breeds with similar face shape have to get closer to the bowl to drink, this can cause excess moisture to build up in skin folds and wrinkles, causing unwanted infections and leading to tear stains on dogs.

Overuse of antibiotics can also contribute, as these can disrupt the normal healthy bacteria in the gut which help to reduce inflammation.

If you find your pet is often on antibiotics it is best to work with your vet to determine the cause of recurring infections to avoid overuse.

Gut health affects more things than you could imagine.

From bad breath to ear infection. When looking for dog food, you need to find a dog food that is 100% complete and balanced nutrition with aafco certification.

When your dog’s diet is excellent there will be more than one sign. Smaller and less frequent bowel movements, brighter eyes, better breath. Your dog’s fur will glow and they’ll have more energy. Don’t overlook your dog’s diet, they’ll thank you for it later.

Natural ingredients are both great for your dog but they also enjoy it. Don’t ever let a veterinarian tell you not to give your dog natural foods.

Blueberries, Strawberries, Salmon and leafy greens are a great antioxidants and anti inflammatories. These are great for preventing health issues later on.

Tear Stains and Allergies In Pregnant


French bulldog tear stains

We always notice tear stains in our breeding girls.

Once they come into heat we start them on OxyMate.

OxyMate Meat Treat Prenatal is a specially formulated blend of herbs, vitamins, and minerals that support pregnancy including developing puppies.

This premium prenatal supplement provides elevated levels of iron, folic acid, and zinc that optimizes the production of red blood cells and blood flow.

Also this supplement provides the essential nutrients for the development of healthy newborns.

Herbal ingredients are added to improve uterine function and to ease birthing.

Because Iron and magnesium are both essential during pregnancy, increased levels might have an effect on tear stains.

Iron As its primary function, iron combines with copper and protein to form hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Iron also is necessary for certain enzymes in the body to function normally.

Puppies can be born with lower than normal stores of iron if the dam did not receive adequate iron during pregnancy.

Feeding supplemental iron to the dam while nursing can not make up for this lack of reserves since this treatment does not increase the iron content of the milk.

Puppies with this condition often develop iron deficiency anemia during the nursing period.

Iron values in the blood often decrease in the dam near the end of pregnancy.

Iron can be found in organs, meat and fish.

Liver, kidney, brain, and heart all have high levels of iron. Dried liver, kidneys, and hearts are all great treats to give your dog. We get ours from the local farmers market.

Hearts also contain phosphorus which can help your dogs skeletal system.

Magnesium Magnesium requirements increase during pregnancy due to the synthesis of new tissue – both fetal and maternal.

Magnesium may also be important for normal vascular circulation during pregnancy.

A severe deficiency during pregnancy may lead to birth defects puppy mortality.

Magnesium and calcium work in combination: Magnesium relaxes muscles, while calcium stimulates muscles to contract.

Research suggests that proper levels of magnesium during pregnancy can help keep the uterus from prematurely contracting, which results in the onset of labor.

Magnesium also helps build strong bones and teeth, regulates insulin and blood-sugar levels, and helps certain enzymes function properly.

Food sources of magnesium are found in bones, liver, heart and kidneys.

Many of our friends complain of tear stains in their pregnant dogs. Unfortunately during this time there isn’t much you can do about the tear stains.

Hormones Can Also Play a Role In Tear Stains.

Like humans, dogs can develop allergies during pregnancy.

Scratching to relieve the itch or licking can rub the skin raw, causing irritation. Of course with irritation comes moisture. For example, if you trip on a carpet and get a rug burn, that wound then becomes damp during healing when covered. The same thing happens to wrinkles and skin folds.

Allergies can cause fungal infections (yeast infection) in skin rolls and tail pockets, ear infections, and infected paws. Thus causing dog tear stains.

Hormonal fluctuations impact your allergies because estrogen and progesterone have an impact on your mast cells. New allergies can emerge during periods of significant hormonal shifts.

Our immune system has two systems: innate and adaptive immunity. Both have varying responses to pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the immune system changes and adapts to allow for coexistence between the mother and the placenta that contains paternal genetic material.

To achieve this, the responses of the adaptive part of the immune system are reduced. This is why pregnancy is considered a state of immunodeficiency.

The natural immune response, which defends against infection, remains elevated.

In this new state, the body can perform two key roles—keeping the growing puppies safe from an immune system attack and protecting the mother from harmful bacterial and viral infections.

As for allergies, they are the result of an active or overactive immune system, not one that is weakened.

It mistakes a non-threatening trigger, such as pollen, and attacks as though it were a potentially life-threatening pathogen.

Usually allergies seen in pregnancy subside quickly after delivery.

If your dogs show any discomfort during pregnancy, consult with your veterinarian for safe effective treatments during this time.

Many dogs with allergies already, requiring a monthly shot, are required to stop the shot during breeding. A dog with this severity of allergies, I might reconsider breeding. Allergy problems can and will pass on to puppies. They might not be as severe or can have a potential to be worse.

However, puppies can still develop allergies regardless of whether the parents are afflicted or not.

Dog tear stains are annoying but there are solutions

Now that you know what could be the cause of dog tear stains, treatment and the ability to be proactive is now possible.

To sum it up

Check for allergies. Keep those brachycephalic wrinkles and skin folds clean and dry. Evaluate your food and water situation. Switch to stainless steel bowls and clean regularly. Don’t forget that pregnancy can cause tear stains too due to increase of minerals. Keep hair short and don’t forget about the basic daily grooming to maintain tear stains.

Dogs are our best friends! As you can see tear stains in dogs aren’t a huge problem but can also point you towards other underlying medical conditions that could be easily corrected.

Treat your dogs to the best of the best and invest in their food!

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