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Maltese Tear Stains
  Maltese tear stains
 With proper care and attention to grooming, every owners can have a Maltese without tear stains

Overview of Maltese Tear Stains

What are tear stains?

This is a common and troubling issue in which the hairs around the dog's eyes, turn a red or brown color.

This is very common among dogs that are white; therefore very common among the Maltese breed
  • The discolored hair may be around 1 or both eyes.

  • It may be all around the eye or just underneath
  • The hairs may feel brittle, hard or "crusted"
  • There are reasons why this happens and there are methods to fix this.

What causes Maltese tear staining?

While the end result of discolored hairs is the same...there are many reasons why a Maltese may have tear staining.  It is best to look at each reason and then decide which one (or 2) may be the reason why your cute little white Maltese has red or brown staining.  This is for stains to the face, for full body whitening, see: How to Keep a Maltese White.

Because there are many possible causes for this issue,  it is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian to rule out the most serious possible reasons before you fix the tear stains:
  • Red Yeast Infection - This is a very common health issue with certain dog breeds, including the Maltese.  When the facial hairs are wet it is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 
  • Blocked Tear Ducts - This health issue is present in about 10% of all Maltese dogs.  This needs to be corrected with surgery.
  • Ear Infection - How can an ear infection cause tear stains?  Just about everything on a dog's face is interconnected.  To keep ear infections away, it is important to dry the inner ear very carefully after bath time.  Do not allow moisture to stay inside.  Excessive long hairs should be removed with a tweezers.  Your dog's veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics if your Maltese has an ear infection.
  • Teething - When a Maltese puppy is teething, this can have an affect on their tear ducts, causing them to go into overdrive. With many puppies, once the teething stage is over, the discoloration fades away.
  • Irritation of the Eyes - Beware of hairs hanging into your dog's face.  This can often cause irritation that will then cause excessive tearing.  Hair should be trimmed or the held back with a top knot.
  • Water - Believe it or not, the simple element of water can cause tear staining on a Maltese if that dog is drinking water with a high mineral content.  If all other possible reasons have been eliminated, it is suggested to give your dog only filtered or bottled water.
  • Dog food - Artificial coloring in dog food can cause the discoloration of the coat on a Maltese.  It is not that fact that the dog ingests the is the possibility that the hairs touch down into the food when they are eating.  If you suspect this, it is suggested to always have the hair pulled back into a top knot or even a simple covered rubber band just for dinner time.
  • Other Infections or Disease - It is rare, but there are some diseases that one would never think of that could cause tear staining.  One such case is a dog that actually had a herpes infection in the eye.  Therefore, if tear staining remedies do not quickly take care of the issue, your dog should be brought to the vet ASAP.
Safe Treatment - Beware of Home Remedies for Tear Stains

The Internet is a wonderful and vast world of knowledge. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information on the web.  While researching tear stains in dogs, you may have come across many home remedies.  Some of them are very dangerous.  We have seen concoctions ranging from bleach (which can  cause permanent blindness) to lemon blends that can severely irritate the eyes and cause more issues.

Real Treatments for Tear Stains- Prescribed

Before an 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.

After making sure that all of the things mentioned above have been checked,  you can begin to think about removing the tear staining. 


There has been success in eliminating tear staining by having a Maltese on a ten day course of low dose chlortetracycline or tetracycline. Occasionally this may need to be repeated. However, this should not be given to puppies that have not yet cut all of their adult teeth…This is because Tetracycline has been shown to cause teeth which have not erupted, to be permanently stained yellow.

Delta AlbaPlex

An antibiotic of the tetracycline class, Delta AlbaPlex also contains a low level of steroid (not enough to cause Cushing's Syndrome).  This can work for tear staining as the steroid will help eliminate inflammation that goes along with excessive tearing, thus allowing the  antibiotic a chance to work.


Flagyl (Metronidazole) is an anti-diarrhea medicine commonly used in dogs to treat yeast or Giradia infections causing irratible or inflammatory bowel syndrome.  This can also be very effective in the treatment of tear stains, particularly when the staining is the result of red yeast.  This is given for 2 weeks.  You will need to see your veterinarian to have this prescribed.


Maltese not responding to tetracycline may respond well to Lincocin. The typical dose of this for a Maltese is 50 mg twice a day.

Otomax or Gentamicin sulfate

Yeast infections in the ears may also be a frequent culprit of tear stain; this generally responds well to Otomax (gentamicin sulfate) or liquid drops.


Another useful product is AK-TROL which is a human prescription eye drop containing neomycin, polymyxin B and dexamethasone. AK-TROL is also available in an ointment form. Your veterinarian can prescribe this for your Maltese and can be used before the adult teeth are cut if needed.

What does NOT Work and "Maybe's"

1) Some owners swear on 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 is a treatment touted by some sources.   The dosing is 1/4 of a teaspoon per day.  This is a 'maybe' at best.

3) Many sources recommend adding vinegar to drinking water.  However we have found in our experience that most Maltese puppies and dogs do not like the taste and will be reluctant to drink as needed.

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.

Removing Tear Stains - The Best Products

What is the best tear stain product for a Maltese puppy or dog?  You may be surprised!  The most common one around is 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.  However, it is not our recommended choice.  When it comes to keeping a Maltese white, 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.

There are 3 products that we find to be a tie as all work extremely well with this breed.  And you’ll find the prices to be quite reasonable.




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