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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.

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

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.


Tums is primarily a source of Calcium, known as an antacid formulated as 500 mg Calcium Carbonate. Giving your Maltese 1/2 of the Fruit flavored variety twice a day will help change the pH of the tears. This will change the tears' environment and can help make it hostile for the continued growth of yeast and bacteria.

White Vinegar

A teaspoon of white cider vinegar can be added to your Malt’s drinking water to control new tear stains.  It may take a while for your dog to "decide" to drink this water so start with a little less and gradually increase the amount of vinegar.  Vinegar works much like TUMS in that it can changes the pH of the drinking water.

Removing Tear Stains

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 the Internet that can be used on the facial hair on a daily basis.  Here are the top rated products:

If you choose to try a home remedy for tear stains, there is another alternative treatment.  Remember – nothing will work long term unless you deal with the CAUSES as listed and discussed above.

When using this below treatment, REMEMBER TO PROTECT YOUR MALT’S EYES

Milk of Magnesia, corn starch and peroxide (20 volume to 40 volume)

Use equal volume of MOM and peroxide, and then use the corn starch to make a good paste of this; put on and work well into the stained area and let dry overnight. Wash out and then use a super good conditioner…Condition twice in a row.

Keep doing this for several days until tear staining is gone, although we would recommend skipping a day or two between applications if possible.

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