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Tear staining is a common occurrence in small breed dogs, such as the Maltese. Light colored dogs are particularly vulnerable to this condition. The easiest way to treat the dog coat is to first find the underlying cause for excessive tearing.

There are several causes and a few different theories as to what tear staining really is and how it occurs.

Rampant ear infections can be the cause of excessive tearing and staining. Dogs prone to ear infections, especially long eared breeds, should have their ears bathed and dried weekly. Use ear drying products, if necessary to keep the ear canal dry and free of debris and bacteria causing agents.

Genetics can play a significant role in excessive tearing. Much like large breed dogs often inherit hip problems, smaller breeds tend to have difficulty with low level infections and tear ducts.

Eliminating the cause of excess tearing is the easiest ways to stop staining. Owners of dogs with long hair should be certain to brush and bathe their pet frequently to remove pollens, allergens and debris from their coat. Allergies and irritation is another cause of tear staining.

Clogged tear ducts are a common health concern of small breed dogs. Veterinary opthamologists estimate that as many as 20% of all small dogs are born with lower tear ducts that are partially blocked or closed. Veterinarians can easily treat this problem by surgically opening the ducts or irrigating them.

Most veterinary eye specialists believe that the actual cause of tear staining is excess tearing. When the face fur is wet from excess tearing, it is a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. One of the most common forms of yeast infections in small breed dogs is Ptyrosporin or "Red Yeast." Red Yeast causes a dark, reddish brown stain to appear just below the dog's eyes. This is not a dangerous condition, and is one that can easily be treated with low level antibiotics or eye creams.

While cosmetically, it's not necessary to remove the stains from your dog's face, those that suffer from allergy, infections or irritation would benefit from treatment. There are several options available:

Tear staining can be completely eliminated by putting small dogs on a ten day treatment of low dose tetracycline. Pets that suffer allergies, irritation or infection often benefit most from this treatment. Do not use this treatment on puppies, as tetracycline has been shown to cause teeth staining.

For dogs with frequent ear infections, ear drops (made with gentamicin sulfate) work wonders at clearing up the infection and eliminating the stain.

With pets that simply excrete too many tears, a drying formula helps to control staining. Many over the counter and prescription remedies are available in drop, ointment and liquid form.

An antacid (Calcium Carbonate) is not only a good source of calcium, but also helps to change the tear's PH level, keeping the production of yeast and bacteria better under control. Give small breed dogs 1/2 tablet, twice a day. (250mg)

Omega3 is a fatty acid supplement which has been used successfully to treat tear staining in dogs with allergy and irritation problems. Omega3 can be purchased in pill form and added to food or bought as a food supplement. Tear staining will clear in as little as 7 days.

This over the counter eye drop works like an antibiotic and dog show circuit runners swear by it. Product is used, as needed, to clean up stain and help prevent further staining.

One teaspoon of white cidar vinegar can help to control excessive tear staining. Add vinegar to dogs drinking water. This works much the same as the antacid treatment, in that it changes the PH in your dog's system.

If you have only minimal staining, it is possible to physically remove them from your dog's coat. However, remember that the underlying problem still needs to be treated.

Use equal amounts of Milk of Magnesia, corn starch and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Brush paste on to dog's face, and work well into the stain. Allow paste to dry overnight. Wash out in the morning and condition. Repeat for several days until stains have disappeared.

A mixture of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 baking soda works wonders when it comes to whitening coats. Make a paste and work into fur. Let the paste set for 5-10 minutes and wash and rinse thoroughly. Lemon juice can irritate your animal's skin, so be sure to rinse well. Follow procedure with conditioner.