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Tear Stains

Maltese Tear Stains


Tear stains are discolored sections of hair under and/or around a dog's eyes. While these can appear on just about any breed of any color, these are extremely noticeable on Maltese puppies and dogs due to their solid white coats.

One of the main reasons why you may feel so frustrated about tear stains on your Maltese is because there are 3 steps to resolving them; and most owners only pay attention to the 3rd step. 

So, in this section we will cover:
  • More details of what tear stains are
  • Yellow stains around the mouth and chin
  • The 3 steps to fixing tear stains, which are: 1) Finding the cause 2) Daily maintenance and prevention and 3) Treatment if they are present

What Tear Stains Are

Tear stains present as discolored hair under and/or around a dog's eyes. The hair may develop a pink, red, rust, or brown tinge. Sometimes the texture of the hairs will feel dry and a bit 'crunchy' similar to straw. But, even if the hairs are soft, any discoloration like this is still indeed stains. 

Something seen very commonly with Maltese owners is that they will have a Maltese puppy that is a pure, snow white without any color around the eyes at all. Then, as the pup matures, pink or brown hairs will 'grow in'. When this happens, owners may think that this is some sort of natural coloring. It is not. 

Maltese do not have the genes to produce rust, brown, or dark pink hairs. This breed can have lemon or tan; however, if this is there it is almost always present on the ears.

Therefore, any coloring that you see as your Maltese grows older is due to unnatural staining. But, not to worry; this can be resolved relatively easily. 

Yellow Stains

Some of the elements that cause tear stains on a Maltese are also responsible for causing yellow stains around the mouth and chin area. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see a Maltese with tear stains also having problems with yellow hairs on his face as well.

Though the Maltese breed is capable of producing yellow (lemon) and tan hairs (these are permitted per the AKC standard, yet are alternate colors), these hues often only appear on the ears, if at all. Therefore, if a Maltese has a yellow color on his chin or around his mouth, this is almost always an issue of staining. 

Fortunately, the remedies for tear stains will take care of the yellowed hairs as well. 

How to Prevent and Remove Tear Stains on a Maltese

To properly fix the problem of tear stains, one must take a 3-step approach.

If not, there will be very little success or just temporary results. 

Therefore, if you are serious about fixing tear stains, try to make a commitment to resolving them. 

If you do, you'll see that clearing them up and keeping them at bay is easier than you may think. 

Step #1 Eliminate the Top Causes

There are several common reasons why Maltese dogs develop tear stains. If you can address all of these, you are well on your way to never seeing them again. 
These are the top elements to rule out and make changes when applicable: 

1) Inferior food. It is quite amazing how low quality food can affect a dog, and particularly a toy size breed like the Maltese. 

Aside from upset stomach, and skin and coat issues, inferior food can cause tear staining. This is often due to artificial additives including coloring, flavoring, and/or preservatives. 

Another issue are foods with heavy corn or wheat ingredients. This can cause an allergic reaction that results in excessive tearing; this then leads to wet hairs (see point #3), and then staining. 

You'll want to be sure to feed your Maltese the best food possible, sticking with a top rated brand that contains zero additives and either minimum corn and wheat or none at all (grain-free formula). 
If you are unsure of what to feed your Maltese, there are a couple fantastic choices. 

Wellness CORE Natural Dry Grain-Free for Small Breeds is exceptional. This is a premium food with zero grains, corn, soy, fillers, or by-products. It has absolutely no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. 

This blend has antioxidants, probiotics, omega 3's (great for skin and coat health), and it is made in the USA. 
For those on a budget, Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free for Small Breeds is a top contender. This also has no detrimental ingredients, has natural preservatives like sage, rosemary, and thyme, and is made in the USA. 
2) Tap water. It may seem very natural to run the kitchen tap to fill your Maltese's bowl, however this can have dire consequences. A high mineral count in tap water can lead to tear staining.

And in addition to this and of a much more serious nature, there are hundreds of chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens in tap water all throughout the US. 

The EPA allows countless chemicals to be present; and weeks, months, or years of ingesting these agents can have adverse health effects.

As part of our care tips for Maltese dogs, is the recommendation to use a filtering device for your kitchen tap, a filtered water pitcher like the Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher, or to offer bottle spring water. 

With a toy breed like the Maltese, obtaining gallons of spring water is rather gentle to the wallet. 
3) Wet hairs. Any time that hairs remain damp, this sets up the perfect foundation for yeast growth. This may happen in the genital area, ears (yeast ear infection), or on the face which causes a red yeast infection, a leading cause of stubborn tear stains. 
Every time that a dog drinks his water, tiny drops splatter up to his face. 

And if a dog eats a wet food diet, this can bring moisture up to the face as well. 
There are two things that you can do, with the second being the preferred one. You can work to keep the hairs around the eyes dry or you can wipe them several times a day with a specific wipe. More on this option next. 
4) Lack of daily facial upkeep. While days can be very busy, and it's not always easy to remember to do everything, you'll want to try to find time to wipe your Maltese's face several times each day. 

Once you get into the habit of this, you'll find that it only takes 10 seconds or so, and can make a big difference.

Chose a quality canine eye wipe and keep a good supply handy (a kitchen counter-top is often a good location). It is recommended to wipe your Maltese's face 2 to 3 times per day. And it is best if this can be done right after meal times. 
5) Plastic bowls. Even those that are BPA free can cause a host of issues with dogs, and especially toy breeds. The dyes and the material can cause contact reactions that cause nose discoloration (over a period of months or years), dry nose, and/or discoloration to facial hairs. 

You'll want to use small stainless-steel bowls for both food and water. A good choice is the Stainless Steel Double Pet Bowl Set with Bone Shape Tray by Delomo; these are sized for small dogs and cats, and are held in place with a sturdy bone-shaped rubber base. 
6) Other, more serious health issues. Excessive tearing leads to wet hairs around the eyes which in turn leads to staining. So, if you notice that your Maltese has runny eyes, this will be a top concern.

There are many conditions that can be at the root of tearing including allergies, inverted eye lash, a tear to the cornea, and more. For this reason you will want to have the veterinarian first diagnose the reason for the runny eyes. Once any health issues have been resolved, you can then concentrate on removing the staining. 
#2 Daily Maintenance 

Though we covered this briefly as one of the causes of tear stains with Maltese dogs, it is an important part of fixing the issue. 

If you are working to prevent tear stains, you can opt for a basic quality canine eye wipe. Be sure to choose a good brand that is gentle to this sensitive area and contains ingredients that are good for both skin and coat.

However, if despite ruling out all possible causes, your Maltese is prone to developing staining and you find yourself in an uphill battle, you'll want to take this up a notch by using canine eye wipes specifically formulated to prevent and remove stains. 

Please note that no matter how wipes are marketed, using these as your only remedy to fully fix existent staining is an exceedingly slow method. However, these are fantastic as a daily maintenance wipe. 
#3 Use a Tear Stain Remover
No doubt, you have already thought of this. In fact, in your quest to find the best tear stain remover for Maltese dogs, you may have already tried one or most of them. Yet, the stains may have only faded a bit, or they may have not nudged at all. 
However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1) If you do not resolve all of the possible causes, even a terrific tear stain remover can only do so much. It is akin to using a paint remover in your living room while another person is brushing paint onto your walls at a frenzied pace. 

If your Maltese is eating a cheap dog food, drinking unfiltered tap water, has plastic bowls, does not have his face wiped at least two times daily, and/or has runny eyes that have not been treated by the vet, do not expect his tear stains to vanish or at least to not come back after you treat them. 

2) The most well-known tear stain remover may not be the best for your Maltese.

Every dog is unique, so do not be surprised if the most popular name in the tear stain business has a product that does very little for your Maltese puppy or dog. This is not to say that it can't work wonderful for some dogs, or for some other breeds.

So, if you've tried one that you keep hearing about and had less-than-stellar results, it may be time to give another great brand a try. 
Below are our recommendations for both a daily eye wipe and tear stain removers. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4 items. 
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