Tear Staining — by Bobbie Linden, Bhe-Jei Maltese
This was a combination
of my AKC Gazette article and some other things so the eye
protection got left out.
For eye protection I use Duralube — its a petrolium
jelly type product that comes in small tubes like the
tetracycline, etc. You can buy this in the optical section
of a drug store.
Put in both eyes before bleaching.
For those of you that asked I am including the text of my
tear staining column for the AKC Gazette, with the
inclusion of the bleaching information. Although written
for the Maltese world it certainly can apply to other
breeds. Hope this helps.
— by Bobbie Linden,
Perhaps one of the most frequent questions I am asked about
Maltese at dog shows is “what do you do to keep your
dog’s face so white?” My answer is always
multiple in nature.; it includes the multiple causes of
tear staining, including genetics, health and diet, and
what the prevention is, and what can be done about it when
you have it.
Most veterinary eye specialists believe the actual cause of
staining is excess tearing. When the face hair is wet from
excess tearing it is the breeding ground for bacteria and
yeast. One of the most common yeast infections is
Ptyrosporin or Red Yeast which causes a deep reddish-brown
stain. Low grade bacterial infections in the tear ducts are
also common and may cause excess tearing and staining.
I believe that genetics plays a significant role in
excessive tearing and staining. Like most everyone with
more than one dog I have had Maltese that tear stain.
However, my first champion Maltese bitch has had minimal
tear staining. When I breed her both of her puppies had no
tear staining as baby puppies. The female puppy continued
through her championship and a limited specials career with
no tear staining. She recently had a litter of 3 puppies
and as of 4 months of age they have absolutely no tear
staining or facial stain from nursing. One month after this
litter of puppies was whelped I had another unrelated bitch
whelp. Both were breed to the same sire The second litter
of puppies had tearing and staining from the beginning. The
head structure on the two litters is different. Many
veterinary eye specialists believe that the actual
structure around the eye area plays a significant role in
excessive tearing. I feel there is a genetic predisposition
toward tear staining. Being selective in Maltese breeding
stock can play a significant role in tear staining.
Eliminating excess tearing is one of the best ways to stop
staining. Maltese owners should pay attention to the hair
around the face and prevent hair from falling into the eyes
causing irritation and infection. Maltese can be
susceptible to allergies so watch the environment your
Maltese is in. I have heard from other Maltese owners whose
dogs previously had sparkling white faces and overnight
tear stained when in a hotel room with a friend who smoked.
It also is important to be extra careful when bathing you
Maltese. Shampoo and other chemicals in the eyes can cause
irritation and excess tearing.
The water in many areas has a high mineral level. If your
Maltese drinks from a water dish and your local water has a
high mineral content you may find the entire face and beard
stained. I have solved this by training all my dogs to
drink from a water bottle. This also keeps the face dry. I
start training puppies to drink from a water bottle when
they are weaned. Alternatively, a Maltese can be placed on
purified or commercial bottled water.
I also believe diet plays a key role in tear staining. I
find that feeding a dry kibble that is natural with no
additives, preservatives or food color in it seems to aid
in maintaining white stain free faces. I also keep my show
dogs’ face hair in wraps so that their food does not
come into contact with their hair.
Before a Maltese owner attempts to remove the tear staining
from a dog’s face it is most important to have
eliminated the source of the staining. Otherwise it will
just come back and many times it will be worse than before.
Once the source of excessive tearing and staining is found
a pro-active program to remove the staining can begin.
After insuring that irritation, environment, water and diet
issues have been as a source of excessive tearing you can
begin to think about removing the tear staining. Dealing
with yeast and bacterial infections is next. I have found
success in eliminating tear staining by putting my Maltese
on a ten day course of low dose chlortetracycline.
Occasionally this may need to be repeated. However, I do
not use this in puppies that have not yet cut their adult
Tetracycline has been shown to cause teeth which have not
erupted to permanently stain yellow. Maltese not responding
to tetracycline may respond well to Lincocine. Yeast
infections in the ears may also be a frequent culprit of
tear stain; this generally responds well to Otomax
If you wish to attempt to remove tear staining from the
facial hair there are a several things that can done. There
are a number of products available from the dog products
suppliers at shows or through mail order that can be used
on the facial hair on a daily basis. However, it is my
opinion that unless you have minimal staining these
products just do not work.
I have three solutions that I can suggest to remove tear
staining. Care must be taken in using these products or any
other chemical solutions to not get anything in the
dog’s eyes. It is also important to remember that
when attempting to removing tear staining you my also be
damaging the hair. Before I bleach I make sure I condition
the hair well first. What works best for me is Wella
Cholesterol. I pack the face furnishings with this for
several days efore I bleach. Make sure you neutralize the
effects of the chemicals you have used and condition the
facial hair after any attempts to remove stain.
1) Milk of Magnesia, corn starch and peroxide (20 volume to
40 volume) — make a good paste of this and put on the
stained area and let dry overnight. Wash out, CONDITION
WELL. Keep doing this for several days until tear staining
is gone, although I would recommend skipping a day or two
between applications if possible.
2) Crowne Royale makes a product called
“WHITNER” — mix this with peroxide (20
volume to 40 volume) into a paste and again leave on
overnite. The Crowne Royale Whitener works a lot like
number 1, it works faster but IMHO it is much harsher
— CONDITION WELL. Crowne Royale’s phone # is
1-800-992-5400 and is also available from many vendors at
the dog shows.
3) Human hair bleach — there are any number of brand
of this. When I started in Maltese a number of years ago my
mentor told me ONLY to use Wella Wellite (this is the one
in the light blue/turquoise package). Many of the human
hair bleaches are very harsh and they all work, but care
needs to be used in selecting the bleach to use. I’ve
tried others but always go back to Wellite.
The bottom line of beaching is CONDITION CONDITION
CONDITION. I also use 40 volume most of the time. My
personal hairdresser (who was one one of the top colorists
is NYC before “retiring” to Northern
California) told me that if your going to bleach 20 volume
is just as bad for your hair as 40 volume — the color
comes up faster with 40 volume. The DAMAGE you do to the
hair –and yes bleaching can do damage — is the
same. It depends on how long bleach is on the hair (time)
and it is shorter with 40 volume — hence less damage.
I always use the creme bleach and have recently found a gel
bleach that works quite well.. These are much better than
the straight liquid types — better on the hair.
And finally, don’t be impatient. If you have a face
that is badly stained it may take several bleachings to
bring the color back up to white. Do it several days apart
and in between CONDITION CONDITION CONDITION.
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