Frequently Asked Questions
about Maltese dogs - tear stain

by Jay Bianco
All Rights Reserved

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One of the most common concerns of Maltese owners is eye, tear and face stain. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions along with answers, suggestions and opinion after doing quite a bit of research on the subject. I hope you find them helpful.

Question: Is tear staining common with the Maltese breed?
In a recent survey we conducted, 93% of the 600 Maltese owners reported that they did have a tear staining problem with their Maltese.

Question:Could the water my Maltese drinks have anything to do with staining?
Yes. High mineral content in your water could cause almost the entire face to stain. One suggestion would be to train your Maltese to drink from a water bottle which will help keep the face dry. Another solution would be to purchase purified bottled water.

After an extensive 2 year test on 15 different Maltese of different ages from different bloodlines, the results showed that tap water vs bottled water made absolutely no difference in the amount of tearstain although there was a noticeable improvement in the amount of face stain using the bottled water vs both tap and well water.

Question: My Maltese had an ear infection last week and it seemed like the tearstaining had gotten worse when this problem started. Is this possible?
I believe an ear infection could cause excessive tearing and staining. Your vet would more than likely prescribe a product called Otomax to help eliminate the ear infection. Its important to find out how the infection started in the first place. You should be very careful after you bathe your Maltese to be sure its ears are dried thoroughly. Also, any hairs inside the ears should also be removed. This is something you can do yourself quite easily. Have your vet show you how once if you're unsure.

Question: What would cause a deep reddish-brown stain below my Maltese eyes?
A yeast infection could. One of the most common being Red Yeast or Ptyrosporin. You may want to get an opinion from a veterinarian as to whether your Maltese might have clogged tear ducts. There are methods to irrigate or surgically open them.

Question: When my puppy starts to cut its adult teeth, will this cause his face to stain?
I think it sometimes does. I have talked to people that had no prior problem with tearstain until the puppy was about 5 months of age. This is usually when a Maltese will start to cut their adult teeth. There really isn't much you can do other than to keep the facial hair of your Maltese as dry as possible during this time. After the teeth are in, the problem should subside.

Question: Could the food I'm feeding my Maltese have anything to do with her tearstaining?
Don't ever feed any food that has color added as this will cause the area around the mouth to stain. Better quality foods such as Iams, Eukanuba, Innova and Sensible Choice, just to name a few, usually don't have color added. Also, be sure to check your treats (biscuits & cookies) have no added color. Find ones that are white or pale colored. Biscuits made by Iams would be one good choice. I don't believe diet has anything to do with eye or tearstain.

Question:I heard that Tetracycline works wonders for eyestain problems. True?
Some people have found this antibiotic to be quite helpful and claim that there was a definite improvement. The bad news is that Tetracycline can cause seriously upset stomachs and has to be eliminated through the kidneys. Tetracycline will also cause the teeth to stain. I personally would never use it even as a last resort for a tearstain problem. If you find yourself in wanting to give it a try, then you should only use it very short term and only after consulting with your veterinarian first.

Question:I don't want to have my Maltese drink from a water bottle. Could certain bowls cause staining?
Yes, some plastic bowls will cause discoloring of the face. A stainless steel bowl is best. Stainless steel is bacteriostatic, it doesn't chip or crack and is easy to keep clean.

Question:I was told that giving my Maltese a half-a-Tum a day will help in controlling tearstain. Does it really work?
The main ingredient in a Tum is calcium. An argument that Tums could help is that it will change the pH of the tears. We personally tried Tums on two of our Maltese for a six month period by giving them a-half-a-Tum-a-day. We saw no improvement whatsover.

Question:The stain around my Maltese eyes started looking real bad so I just cut off the redish-brown ones and he looks great now.
That great look is only very temporary. In a day or two, those short hairs will begin to stain and you will be back to square one, except nothing to trim this time. Cutting off the discolored hair is not a good solution. I would recommend keeping the long hair out of the eyes by proper grooming and a topknot. This will help as the long hairs will have less chance of irritating the eyes and causing them to tear.

Question:I use Collyrium in my eyes as I wear contacts and I find it soothing. Could this help my Maltese with her eyestain?
I have never tried it but have heard that some people have had some excellent results with it in controlling eyestain. Collyrium is a very mild, soothing eye wash that has some boric acid and buffers in it. It is available through most drug stores and doesn't require a prescription.

Question:Is there a genetic predisposition toward tear staining?
Common sense would tell you that the actual structure around the eye area would play a significant role in excessive tearing. It is my opinion there is a genetic predisposition toward tear staining.

Question:Do products such as "Diamond Eye" or "Pretty Eyes" work well for eliminating eyestain?
I have not heard real good reports on either of these two products or several others like them. They are inexpensive enough though to give them a try. They can't work if you don't try them. Once again, don't expect any miracles for a crispy clean white face if your problem is any more than minimal.

Question:I'm looking at a product now that contains an antibiotic. It has good reviews for controlling tear stain. Is this safe to use on my Maltese?
  Any antibiotic used continually is not good for your dog including Tylosin which some products (Angel Eyes) or similar contain. As previously mentioned, red yeast stains are most common and caused by bacteria. Antibiotic use kills both the good and harmful bacteria in the digestive tract which will lead to other illnesses and infections. Also, antibiotic use promotes development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There is an alternative to using products containing antibiotics.

Question:Would you recommend any type of bleaching to remove face and tear stains?
No, not for most people. If your mind is made up and bleaching is what you want to do, first talk to someone you can trust and is experienced with all aspects, preparation and risks prior to attempting it yourself.

Question:Do you know of anything I might try for tearstain. I'm getting desperate?
Try Maltese Secret Stay White Tear Stain Remover. The reviews on it show it is a solution that really does work for most.

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