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Old 02-14-2017, 12:41 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Advice on different diagnostic trials to determine tear stain causes

Puffy the 10 month old spoo has some tear stains, and I just can't figure out what is causing it. I know this is a classic problem. I read old posts, did my own research and I still have some quandaries.

I am not just interested in treating it, but I want to know what I can do to figure out the cause. What kinds of trials have you guys run in the past to actually diagnose this complex problem? The situation is with us is possibly an allergy mystery tale (as too many allergy tales are!), maybe someone can help put some pieces together that I am missing.

For clarification, It wasn't always like this with tear stains. It developed in the last 2-3 months. He suddenly had it really bad when he came back from being with my MIL for a few weeks while we were away. Since then, I have been able to keep the face kind of clean (avoiding the eye, I wipe it with hydrogen peroxide. If I notice a fresh tear I clean it asap, I keep the fur short etc.). I have done 3 food trials each lasting for a couple weeks where I would feed totally unique food ingredients to determine if there was some particular ingredient that might be doing it. Didn't get anywhere with that.

It MAY have all been triggered when I switched his food a few months ago. He got a rash, and the vet ran a few inconclusive tests and thought it was a food issue, but charged me a few hundred bucks to say she wasn't sure. Since then, (despite us dropping that food right away) he has licked a lot more and I notice the eyes dripping and other signs of a potential mild allergy. I am not currently feeding any of those ingredients from the food we thought was the original cause of this allergy trigger. However, some time later I actually had a 2 week trial with the food we had originally blamed, and I saw no change whatsoever, no rash, no increased licking etc. This made me wonder if we were wrong about the food to begin with, which is what I had kind of suspected. Maybe it was a coincidence that the problems started at the same time as the food. Maybe the food was just a trigger. It's nice to feel like you are getting nowhere!

I notice that the bottoms of his feet are also red, indicating that he licks those a a lot (a sign of an allergy).

I am wondering if anyone has ever had luck in giving their dog a trial with over the counter allergy pills to see if that clears tear stains and other mild symptoms? If so, what would be a safe and smart way to go about that?

I have also read zinc could be useful. Any thoughts?

It could be environmental (as 90% of dog allergies are), but what could it be at this time of year? The whole country is under inches and feet of snow and ice. Also, we just moved house, so if there was some particular dust or something in the old one it wouldn't be here. This house is really new. A majority of the furniture and carpets are, as well.

I have thought to change the water. So far I give him tap. What would be better? I won't give him distilled water for any length of time.

I don't want to give him some silly over the counter "angel eyes" antibiotic type treatment. That's fool's gold if there ever was any.

I have also read that yogurt and apple cider vinegar could be effective, although that isn't exactly diagnostic.

To clarify, the problem is most likely cause by the iron containing components of the actual tears (porphyrins). I am quite sure that this is not a red yeast issue, because the face is not constantly wet and cannot enable the right environment for yeast. It also doesn't have that deep brown look to it.

I realize that tear stains can be caused by many things and it's different for every dog. Ultimately, if I can't crack it soon I will take him to the vet to rule out a more serious issue, but at this point I don't think anything serious is going on and I suspect some vague intolerance or slight allergy.

I know that this is often an issue that vets can't necessarily help with, and that k9 allergy testing is only so useful. Thus, I am not frothing at the mouth to run over there and have them charge me 500 bucks to tell me a bunch of inconclusive stuff that I already read last year on Google (I have been burned before).

But allergy tests will be in our near future if this keeps up. I have read that environmental allergy tests can be effective, and that there are numerous food intolerance tests on he market all with results that are not scientifically valid or reliable. I had hoped that my own food trials would have led to something but alas...

The only thing clear to me is that this is a mystery. I would love to hear what kinds of helpful trials you have run in the past to determine the cause of tear stains. They are ugly, and I don't think Puff Daddy is loving them either.
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Old 02-14-2017, 02:24 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ah Tearstains, they have been my Pia's bane. Hers resulted from a combination of food intolerances, environmental allergies and distichiasis.

Firstly in dogs, foodintolerances are more commonthan food allergies, intolerances cause digestive upset as in diarrhea or vomiting

The primary symptom in food allergies is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus. Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued.

Atopic Allergies/ environmental allergies consists of itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking, especially around the face, paws, and underarms.

The symptoms are similar

I kept a diary

My issue with with was complicated by long term Giardia and coprophagia. Once that was taken care of Pia still had soft stool. Major tear stains. Under my vet's blessing I tried Angel eyes supplement, Pia's tear stains got worse stopped Angel eyes they went back to the way they were. Major ingredient in the supplement Chicken liver.


I started an elimination diet including all treats, using a novel protein in Pia's case Fish or Salmon, the result firm stools and lessening in tear stains.

Reintroducing foods, showed intolerances for chicken, beef and lamb. She will now turn her nose up at these foods knowing they cause her GI trouble.

As for outdoors high pollen days cause major tearing, wiping her down when she comes inside helps.

Lastly Shallow eye sockets, poor drainage from tear ducts can cause tear stains as well. Along with other eye issues in Pia's case distichiasis, inward growing lashes causes tearstains along with (if not attendedto) corneal erosions . Pia is under the care of an opthamologist, she currently has the offending lashes plucked but if things worsen may have surgery to permanently remove those lashes.

I have another dog Gracie, a chihuahua/pomeranian mix that was diagnosed with canine atopy or allergies at 1 yr of age she is almost 12 now, her allergies last from spring to first frost and are worse on high humidity days, which points to mold or dust mites. She is a foot licker when allergies start to get bad, wiping all the dogs down when we come in from a walk helps, she also takes Apoquel during the summer months and gets weekly bathes.

Yes you can do blood tests and saliva tests, I have not opted to do that.
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Old 02-14-2017, 02:30 AM   #3 (permalink)
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At 10 months old he has probably finished teething, which is a common cause - I would get your vet to check for blocked or narrow tear ducts, ingrowing eyelashes, etc at your next visit, though.

Once anything physical has been ruled out, and given you have already changed his food back, I would start by suspecting environmental changes. As it started at your MiL's and has continued in your new home and is affecting his paws etc as well, look particularly at dust, carpets, soft furnishings and cleaning products, although paws could be down to frequent exercise in snow and ice, of course. As one who reacts badly to enzyme washing powders, spray cleaners, and sundry other common household chemicals I can vouch for how irritating they can be, and new carpets and upholstery are renowned for emitting chemicals that many people and dogs react to Allergies and Carpet - Allergy Center: Medical Information on Allergies - at this time of year it may be too cold to throw all the windows open to increase ventilation, which could be compounding the problem.

When it comes to food I think it can be tricky. The general consensus seems to be that a food has to be fed for at least 3 or 4 weeks, and possibly longer, before you can be sure of any benefits. You also need to tightly control treats, etc. As few pet food manufacturers stick to an exact recipe there are likely to be changes in ingredients between batches of the same food, and often dogs seem to be able to tolerate food in one form (eg fresh chicken) while reacting badly to it in another (processed poultry meal). If you are now using a food that you know he did well on before these symptoms appeared and that is still age-appropriate, I would stick with that and eliminate other possible causes before heading down the elimination diet or nutritional testing route.

Sophy had tear staining when she was teething, and still gets runny eyes from dust, especially wood shavings, and bright sunshine - fairly easy to establish as neither are everyday occurrences round here! I found frequent bathing and drying worked best for her.

ETA - Posted at the same time as Twyla, plus I have just remembered that Puff may have had a quite different diet while you were away...
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Old 02-14-2017, 04:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Twyla, thanks for pointing out the difference between food allergies and intolerances. I have read that actual food allergies are pretty rare. He did once break out in this rash which went away on its own (or when we discontinued that food?). Other than that, he doesn't and never did display the the food allergy symptoms you listed. It sounds like you have had a pretty rough time with this issue with your dogs, and it sounds so complicated! I do notice that he is prone to soft stool if we add something new to his diet, and sometimes for what seems like no reason. At this point, I am not sure if that is about intolerance, or if it is about the fact that dogs often have a sensitive stomach and you need to make changes slowly. Maybe I was too fast. Not sure. He is sensitive though, that I am sure of.

Keeping a diary sounds like a smart idea. I can imagine that makes it a lot easier to look back and identify patterns.

Since it is a newish problem, I am not sure if we can blame bad drainage or tear duct malformations etc. since he didn't have it before. But he has been growing and changing a lot so maybe it has developed, is that possible?

On that note FJM, you are right that I should have the vet take a look at it next time we are there and rule out any actual physical issue. Also, as you point out he did have a potentially wacky diet at MIL's house, and I was shocked to see him when he got back all crusted up with loads of tear stains like some unfortunate and unkempt beast. Maybe there was some sort of trigger at her place. Sure seemed it.

I also wonder if it is something in the house like you point out, or even his shampoo? It is cold but I should try airing the place out more. Also, the start of this seemed to coincide with the very cold weather and I notice that he is more prone to have fresh tears after being outside. I don't know if that could actually be a cause. Can it?

I didn't know that walking in snow could cause the redness on the feet. Thanks for pointing that out. I don't actually see him chewing his feet a lot so I was wondering how it was happening. Maybe you are right about that. However, he does like to lick the old groin QUITE a bit, and it is vaguely reddish around there. I am not sure if this is just his hobby or if it is itching him a bit. I don't see much real biting or scratching going on, the boy just really seems likes to lick his own balls and co. I am laughing now, but this is what I am dealing with. I think this might be a normal dog hobby for some, though I am not sure when enough is enough. I just know that if I give him the honor of sitting with me in bed, or next to me on the couch for a few minutes that this behavior is on the 'no no' list. Not in my bed, boy. Not in my bed...

I just don't know!!!

I realize my food trials could be too short. They were usually only 2 weeks.

He does rub his face into the carpet on occasion but I get the impression that his pony tail itches. He would prefer to run around blind as a bat and run into the table 9 times a day as opposed to donning a pony tail.

Since he has enjoyed pissing all over himself lately (ahhh, the joys of motherhood!) I give him a bath about once a week otherwise he starts to smell like my turtle's aquarium when I was a child. Poor Skipperdy. He never asked to be my pet turtle (I was 8 and not as attentive to my pets as I am these days.) But he was. I know the smell of an unkempt turtle tank far too well. It will haunt me through my life. 'tis a foul odor, indeed.


It's a lot of food for thought. I realize this is one of those unanswerable questions that might as well show up in a philosophy text book.

Other than his penchant for ball licking, the dog doesn't show any signs that he is irritated by anything. And maybe that is just a fun sport for him after all. So, at least he is happy. I will push on and continue to try and crack the case.

AH! I just caught him trying to counter surf my rice cake. A woman can't even have a snack around here in peace...Gotta go!
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Old 02-14-2017, 06:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't know how difficult it is to feed raw in Finland but if you suspect it is a food allergy then I would suggest you switch PuffDaddy to a raw diet and see if it makes a difference. With kibble there are SO many additives that it would be very hard to pinpoint exactly what ingredient he is sensitive to.
Also, it would be very costly to keep buying different bags of kibble.....only to discover that it isn't making a difference.

When my dog Jasper was a pup he developed rashes on his belly, ear infections and constant eye goop. I had a bag full of prescription meds from the vet...yes they got rid of the symptoms but not the cause. I decided to start him on a raw diet, starting with chicken as the only meat source and within a month everything cleared up! Anyway.....worth a try?
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Old 02-14-2017, 06:33 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I don't think snow etc would trigger allergies, but I know my two got sore feet from it balling between their toes, and the salt and other chemicals sometimes used to clear roads and pavements can definitely be problematic.
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Old 02-14-2017, 06:40 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks Crittrluvr. I am really taking what you said into consideration.

Before, he always ate a combo of some dried with raw food, and around the time these problems set in I was working to put him more and more on a whole food and raw based diet. I was slowly adding some chicken necks, and beef vertebrae etc. I actually pulled back when I saw there was an issue (the eyes and the licking started), and I couldn't identify where it was coming from as his diet became more diverse. Also, I read some studies which pointed out that chicken, beef and fish are some of the most common irritants, and that is what we have available. I became suspicious of those meats.

So, since then I have been feeding him kibble (supposedly high quality) with very specific ingredients (ie: lamb and apple) as only to avoid those meats I was suspicious of.

Honestly, i don't really prefer to feed him kibble, either. I am open to a change since it doesn't seem to be working anyway.

So maybe I will try switching to raw completely and seeing where that goes. Can you literally switch so that the dog is just eating one kind of meat and nothing else for a while? I don't want to malnourish him while he is so young by only feeding one thing. Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 02-14-2017, 07:24 AM   #8 (permalink)
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In my experience it is diet/sensitivity related OR teething related OR grooming related OR environmental irritant related (dust, hairspray, etc.). Most white puppies get tear stains when they are teething. Also, a lot of times show dogs who have whispy hairs that break out of the bands will get tear stains. Also some pet dogs who don't have their faces shaved enough will have this happen. Finally, an adult dog of mine who never stained began to start staining around any area that had exposure to "bodily fluids" - so around his butt, groin, eyes and mouth. This dog had some strong food sensitivities and I had been feeding him a diet without offending ingredients for years. I decided to try out a food with offending ingredients to see if he could tolerate them. That caused the staining. I changed his diet back to one without offending ingredients and the staining stopped.
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Old 02-14-2017, 07:50 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Everybody has different opinions when it comes to raw feeding but I will tell you what I do....and it works well for my dogs.

I would start with just one meat source first.....around here chicken is the easiest to get hold of. I feed a ground meat mix that has a small amount of organs added (around 10 percent?) and also some puréed veggies as well.
(I buy frozen peas and carrots and purée them in my blendtec)
Sometimes I add a small amount of filler liked rolled oats (soaked in water first), or cooked rice.
Four or five mornings a week I feed meaty bones instead of the meat mix. Not only do dogs love these but they provide the necessary calcium/phosphorus and they are nature's toothbrush!
If you are starting with chicken then these could be necks, backs etc., whatever you can get a hold of.

If he does well on the raw diet then you could start adding different meat sources for variety.....where I live I get a ground pet mix from the butchers which is a mixture of beef, chicken etc. Then I alternate the meaty bones, sometimes they get pork necks, or turkey necks, etc.
Also, they LOVE tripe, and while it is very very stinky it is also very good for them!
I also add raw eggs now and then too.....I think variety is the key to a healthy raw diet. But as I mentioned, at first keep it simple, that way you can easily figure out what foods he seems to be sensitive to.
Hope this helps, and good luck!!

(And no, just feeding one meat source for a while will not malnourish him.
Some people feed the same kibble day after day and most kibbles only have one meat source. )
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Old 02-14-2017, 11:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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CharismaticMillie, Thanks for adding your thoughts here. What you mention about the wispy hairs is interesting because he definitely has a few over each eye which I have noticed. Little things which broke off in ponytail or maybe got clipped by accident that hang just above the eye. I think that they do fall into the eye at times and bother it. I hadn't thought that those could be a considerable factor, but now that you mention it I am going to keep an eye on that.

But from what everyone describes it does have some symptoms of a mild food intolerance. I have tried a variety of high end kibbles, but I know that they can still have mystery ingredients like 'animal fat' etc. maybe they all share something that is bugging him.

I might try switching him to a few simple whole foods for a time, like only chicken with some veggies or something like this. And see if the elimination of the more complex processed kibble helps. I am going to do a bit of research and make a decision about exactly what kind of raw/whole foods I will put him on.
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