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Tear stains can be a particularly stubborn pock on your dog’s otherwise adorable face. If you’ve tried treating your dog’s tear stains only to have them return, something in their diet may be to blame.
Tear stains are caused when your dog’s eyes water excessively and chemical waste in their tears soak into their fur. If your dog’s eyes are watering because of a dietary allergen, or if their tears contain excess chemicals because of cheap fillers and preservatives in their food, then you may need to switch your pup to a healthier, all-natural diet.
We’ve reviewed the ingredient lists of dozens of brands and selected the best dog food for tear stains. See our picks, below.
In this review:
- Our top picks at a glance
- Best dog food for tear stains (reviews)
- How dog food can cause or prevent tear stains
- Other tips to reduce staining
Our top picks at a glance
Best dog food for tear stains
Best whole food subscription service: The Farmer’s Dog
- Human-grade ingredients that you or I could eat.
- No artificial fillers, preservatives, or common allergens to cause tear stains.
- Food prepared fresh & shipped to your door each month. Cancel any time
- The Dog Tale Readers get an exclusive 60% off their first box.
There’s no specific food group that will reduce tear stains. This can only be helped by feeding your dog a diet of whole, natural ingredients that don’t contain allergens or toxins that will need to be filtered out of your dog’s body as waste. For some dog owners, this means cooking their dog’s meals at home with unprocessed ingredients from the grocery store.
But for others, cooking meals for themselves is hard enough, much less for their pets. If you want to provide your dog with a diet of nutritious, human-grade ingredients, but you don’t want to have to worry about getting the recipe just right or preparing their food each night, The Farmer’s Dog is an excellent choice. We’ve fed our dog Max The Farmer’s Dog and we liked it so much that we secured an exclusive 60% discount for our readers.
The Farmer’s Dog is a fresh, human-grade dog food subscription plan that features real meats and vegetables. You tell Farmer’s your dog’s breed, age, weight, and other information and they’ll calculate what portion size your pup needs. Your meal of choice will then be slow-cooked to preserve nutrients, frozen, and shipped to you every month, so you don’t need to do any work to feed your pup a wholesome meal each day.
All of The Farmer’s Dog’s meal choices are excellent, but if you’re trying to reduce tear stains, we recommend their turkey or pork recipes, since beef and chicken are more common allergens, which could promote tear stains. You can learn more about your options and watch us unbox it in our The Farmer’s Dog Food review.
What’s inside (Turkey recipe):
Turkey, Chickpeas, Carrot, Broccoli, Parsnip, Spinach, Fish Oil, Nutrient Blend
Best dry dog food option: Spot & Tango UnKibble
- Premium human-grade ingredients are gently dried, maintaining nutrition and flavor without the use of unnecessary fillers.
- The Dog Tale readers get 50% off their first box
Spot & Tango only uses natural, whole-food ingredients. While we prefer their human-grade fresh food, their dried kibble alternative, UnKibble, is a worthy option for those who want to upgrade their dog’s diet without breaking the bank. It’s free from many of the typical fillers and preservatives that big kibble brands use. With fewer additives, your dog is less likely to experience the irritation and secretion that cause tear stains.
UnKibble is great because it approaches the quality of human-grade dog food, like The Farmer’s Dog, above. But it also offers the convenience of kibble, since it’s shelf stable and doesn’t require any refrigeration. Check out our Spot and Tango dog food review for more information and to see what our dog Hobbes thought about it when we fed it to him.
Budget kibble option: Lucy Pet
- Limited-ingredient diet with real meat as the first ingredient
- All-natural duck meat sourced from the USA and France
- Rich in prebiotics, antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, and taurine for heart, gut, coat & muscle health
When it comes to preventing tear stains, the foods with the simplest ingredients take the cake. This means Lucy Pet is an excellent contender.
Lucy Pet’s foods have no wheat, soy, corn, artificial preservatives, or artificial coloring. All-natural meats (with no byproducts) form the main protein source and are always the first ingredient listed. Plus, the food is fortified with taurine and L-carnitine to promote good heart health and Omega-3 fatty acids to promote a healthy coat and skin.
Duck, Duck Meal, Dried Chickpeas, Dried Peas, Pea Starch, Pea Flour, Duck Fat, (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Pumpkin, Quinoa, Dried Carrots, Ground Miscanthus Grass, Natural Flavor, Flaxseeds, Fish Oil, Dried Chicory Root, DL-Methionine, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dried Kelp, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Taurine, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate), Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Citric Acid (Preservative), L-Carnitine, Turmeric, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract.
Best raw food option
- Raw human-grade meats sourced from the U.S. and New Zealand
- 90% of each vet-approved recipe is muscle meat and organ meat
- Get 20% off your first order if you subscribe
We Feed Raw makes feeding your dog raw food effortless. The brand delivers raw, human-grade dog food that has been formulated by vets for a canine’s nutritional needs. 80% of each recipe is composed of muscle meat, 10% is organ meat, and 10% is bone mineral. You can order pre-formed boxes or subscribe to a custom meal plan, so that your food always arrives just on time. Learn more in our full We Feed Raw Dog Food review.
Lamb, Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Beef Kidney, Beef Necks (with bone), Flaxseed, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid
>> Read more: Best Novel Protein Dog Food
Best dog food for Maltese tear stains: Halo Natural Dog Food – Small Breed
- Only whole meat—no meat meal—and non-GMO veggies are used to improve digestibility
- L-carnitine to boost metabolism and Omega fatty acids to enrich a Maltese's silky coat
- Salmon and Whitefish are sourced from sustainable fisheries
Unsurprisingly, eye stains are far more apparent on white dogs than those with darker or multi-colored coats. This means Maltese are some of the most common victims of tear stains, and their owners are constantly looking for a solution. If you’re looking for dog food for white dogs (and your dog is at least 10 months old), consider testing how your dog responds to Halo’s all-natural dog food.
Halo emphasizes the use of whole meats and produce in its recipes, and never includes any “meal” or meat byproducts. Halo’s research suggests this improves digestibility by as much as 30% in some dogs, and that “the proof is in the poop.” If more of your dog’s food is bioavailable for their body to absorb, you’ll see less of it excreted in their waste.
This holistic approach to food may also help mitigate tear stains, and the fatty acids provided by the recipe’s fish-heavy ingredients will help your Maltese’s coat shine.
Salmon, whitefish, dried egg product, dried lentils, tapioca, dried chickpeas, dried peas, soy protein concentrate, flaxseed, natural flavor, dried sweet potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dicalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried carrots, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, calcium carbonate, salt, inulin, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, biotin), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate), taurine, mixed tocopherols (preservative), L-carnitine.
>> Read more: Best Soft Dog Food For Senior Dogs
Best for sensitive stomachs: Blue Buffalo Basics
- No soy, grains, gluten, corn, dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, or artificial preservatives and coloring to upset dogs with food sensitivities
- No matter which recipe you choose, single protein sources help you find ingredients that bode well with your dog
- Added fish oil provides Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for a healthier coat and skin
When it comes to big-box dog food manufacturers, Blue Buffalo is an excellent choice. Many people choose Blue Buffalo dog food to reduce eye stains because of its commitment to limited, named ingredients without all of the fillers and artificial additives other companies use to reduce the cost of their food.
If your pup has a sensitivity to common meats like beef or chicken, Blue Buffalo’s Turkey & Potato Limited Ingredient recipe is an excellent alternative that won’t prompt the types of allergic reactions that cause tear stains, among other issues. But if you’re more concerned with fillers and preservatives, any of the Blue Buffalo Basics options (duck, lamb, or salmon) will work.
One of the additions we love is Blue Buffalo’s Lifesource Bits—little morsels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support your dog’s immune system as it fights off infections and sensitivities.
Turkey, Turkey Broth, Potatoes, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pumpkin, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Cranberries, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9).
>> Read more: Best Wet Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Most overrated dog food for white dogs
- Biotin and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are crucial for coat health
- Small kibble size for small dog breeds
- Claims to combat smelly stool
We decided to include a “Most overrated” selection because, frankly, a lot of dog food reviews make bad recommendations. These product choices are often based on how likely a reader is to buy a product, not on how good that product is for the reader’s pet. When it comes to dog food for white dogs and Maltese specifically, Royal Canin’s Maltese food was one of those products.
To be clear, Royal Canin’s food is by no means the worst option out there. It includes nutrients that nourish silky coats, like Biotin and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. But people tend to overemphasize these ingredients and the fact that they’ve tailored their kibble to the jaw size of small dogs, and breeze over all of the fillers in the food.
Three of the first five ingredients are brewers rice, corn, and wheat gluten. These fillers aren’t necessarily dangerous or bad for your dog, but they’re not nutrient-rich, either, and some dogs with sensitive stomachs may respond poorly, leading to more tear stains. Even if you have a Maltese, we think you’re better off choosing one of the options above.
Brewers rice, corn, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, wheat gluten, pork meal, natural flavors, dried chicory root, vegetable oil, fish oil, grain distillers dried yeast, potassium chloride, sodium silico aluminate, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), niacin supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), D-calcium pantothenate, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin A acetate, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement], salt, fructooligosaccharides, sodium tripolyphosphate, monocalcium phosphate, choline chloride, DL-methionine, taurine, calcium carbonate, marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.), trace minerals [zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, copper proteinate], magnesium oxide, L-lysine, glucosamine hydrochloride, green tea extract, chondroitin sulfate, rosemary extract, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid.
How dog food can cause or prevent tear stains
Dog tear stains are caused by porphyrins, chemicals canines excrete in their tears, saliva, and urine. There are many reasons your dog may develop porphyrins and tear stains, and it’s difficult to prevent them entirely.
Some breeds are just more prone to staining than others, due to the shape of their skulls and the depth of their eye sockets.1 Some dogs develop stains due to environmental irritants, such as pollen or cleaning supplies. These can be difficult to deal with since they’re largely outside of your control.
But if there’s one contributor to tear stains that you do have control over, it’s your dog’s diet.
What foods cause tear stains in dogs
In truth, any ingredient that your dog has an allergic reaction to could lead to tear stains, since excessive tearing will almost certainly result in stains. That means you’ll need to pay close attention to your dog’s physical response when you introduce them to new foods, and you should consult your vet if you have trouble identifying the root cause of their allergies.
But in general, cheap dog food is more likely to produce tear stains than high-quality options because they’re more likely to include less beneficial additives that your dog’s body processes out as waste.
- Fillers: Dogs require a simple, protein-heavy diet in order for their bodies to function properly. But many dog food manufacturers like to stretch their recipes with fillers like wheat, corn, and other grains in order to cut costs. These fillers aren’t necessarily harmful, but some dogs with sensitive stomachs react to them poorly, which can lead to tear stains. If your dog has substantial tear stains, ask your vet if a grain-free dog food could help.
- Preservatives: Most commercial dog food brands require unnatural preservatives to keep their kibble shelf-stable for longer periods of time. Dogs can have allergic reactions to these preservatives, which leads to excessive watering and subsequent tear stains.
- Artificial colors and flavoring: As with preservatives, dog foods that rely on artificial coloring and flavors to make their food more palatable can cause allergic reactions and eye staining. That’s why it’s best to opt for all-natural dog food with a short, simple, named ingredient list.
>> Read more: Purina Dog Food Recall
Using high-quality dog food to prevent tear stains
When looking for the best dog food to prevent tear stains, the foods with a short list of ingredients, pure protein sources, and few fillers are best (notice how short Nom Nom’s ingredient list is, above?!). These all-natural foods improve your dog’s overall health, digestion, and ability to filter out toxins. And the lack of fillers is less likely to upset dogs with allergies or sensitive stomachs, which can contribute to excess eye watering (epiphora) and tear staining.
Don’t forget about treats
Some people make sure to avoid questionable ingredients in their dog’s food, only to turn around and feed them lots of poorly made treats. If you’re really trying to revamp your dog’s nutrition in order to reduce tear stains, make sure you choose all-natural treats, too.
There are many good options on the market, but one we like is Full Moon’s Kitchen-Crafted Natural Dog Treats. These human-grade, limited-ingredient treats include no grains, glycerin, or artificial preservatives and flavors, and they come in chicken or beef options.
Another, more direct, option is PetPost’s Tear Stain Remover Soft Chews. These chews are manufactured with supplements to directly combat tear stains. However, it’s not recommended that you feed them to your pet in perpetuity. So, you should only feed your dog these chews for about a month—to get your dog’s tear stains under control—then switch to a more natural option, like Full Moon’s treats, for long-term use.
Other tips to reduce staining
Clean tear stains early & often
Sometimes, your dog will develop some tear staining no matter what you feed them. This is especially true of white dogs, such as Maltese and Bichons, as well as brachial dog breeds, such as Shih Tzu, Pugs, and Bulldogs.
In these cases, a good diet should be paired with regular cleaning. If your dog’s eyes water a lot, wipe their face every day to prevent stains from setting in. Keeping a good dog tear stain remover on hand can help you keep these stains in check.
>> Read more: The Best Dog Eye Wipes For Safe Eye Cleaning
Check for environmental irritants
Just as allergens in your dog’s food could be contributing to epiphora and tear staining, environmental irritants could also be to blame. Dogs can experience allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, and chemicals in household cleaning supplies.
If you notice your pup scratching a lot or experiencing dry skin, investigate the places they spend the most time for irritants. You may need to choose all-natural cleaning supplies or vacuum your home more frequently to help mitigate their allergies.
>> Read more: Dog Won’t Eat After Surgery? How & What to Feed a Dog
- Paul, Mike, DVM. “Why Does My Dog Have Tear Stains,” http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/why-does-my-dog-have-tear-stains