Why Do Cocker Spaniels Get Tear Stains?

Why Do Cocker Spaniels Get Tear Stains

I was recently playing with my Cocker Spaniel in our back garden, enjoying the sun and throwing his toy when I noticed he had considerable tear stains under both eyes

Please Note: It was proving quite difficult to get a decent picture of my Cocker Spaniels tear stains because he’s all black so he had to use a different dog picture as a reference.

So why do Cocker Spaniels get tear stains? There can be numerous things that cause tear stains in Cocker Spaniels but usually, the main reason is perfectly natural and very common. Tear staining is much more prominent in beige Cockers than in brown and black Spaniels.

My boy Guinness is an all-black Cocker, well apart from his grey beard, so his tear stains are very minimal.

What Causes Tear Stains In Cocker Spaniels?

The technical term is called Epiphora but I will try and explain things in plain old English. I hate using the technical terms but at least on this occasion, I can actually pronounce Epiphora.

So basically, tear stains are caused by the overproduction of tears in your Cockers eye which then fail to drain the tears away efficiently…..this is what Epiphora is.

So let’s have a look at some of the things that can cause the overproduction of tears in Cocker Spaniels.

Shallow Eye Sockets

Many dogs experience problems with tear stains, especially as puppies and one of the most common reasons are because they have shallow eye sockets. A high percentage of puppies are born with shallow eye sockets.

This causes problems in the drainage of the tears that are produced. Basically there’s nowhere for the tears to go so they end up streaming down the puppy’s face.

If this is a problem with your dog, please don’t be alarmed. There’s a very good chance that your puppy will grow out of this phase because as your dog gets older and their facial features develop, their eye sockets tend to grow deeper and the problem of tear staining is solved or at least reduced to some extent.

Hair Growth

I know what you’re thinking, dogs are very hairy, right?

Well yes, they are, but their hair can also be the sole cause of their tear stains. What can happen is that their hair can grow slightly too close to their eyes, often causing at the minimum, mild irritation or at worst, blockage of the tiny drainage holes for tears……these tiny drainage holes are called the ‘Puncta’.

Inward Turned Eyelids / Eyelashes

This doesn’t really need much explaining I guess.

If you have ever experienced a stray eyelash in your eye you will know how painful or at least, very irritating it can be. Your eye will stream with tears training to remove the foreign object.

Well, dogs who have inward-turned eyelids or eyelashes face a constant battle with irritated eyes that will stream with tears.

This can also lead to blockage of the puncta.

There is a technical name for inward-turned eyelids and eyelashes but I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. I will add it here when I remember.

EDIT: OK so I couldn’t remember the medical term so I had to Google it. It’s called an ‘Entropion’.

Scar Tissue

If your dog has experienced any sort of scarring of the tissue along with the eye socket where the puncta are then this can cause the puncta to not work properly or to even become blocked.

Scar tissue is one of the least common causes of tear stains in Cocker Spaniels.

Overactive Tear Glands

Self-explanatory this one.

Dogs, just like humans can be born with overactive tear glands which cause excessive production of tears which inevitably end in tear staining.

It’s worth noting that a puppy born with normal eye glands can develop overactive tear glands as they get older due to various things such as infections.

Bacterial And / Or Fungal Infections

A simple bacterial or fungal infection can cause all sorts of tearing problems with Cocker spaniel’s eyes. Again, these infections can cause the puncta to become blocked or for the overproduction of tears.

The end result is excessive tears.

Allergies And allergic Reactions

This is widely becoming recognized as one of the leading causes of tear staining.

Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to many many things. I’m talking about food allergies, pollen, dust, etc. If you think your dog’s tear staining is down to some sort of allergy then be sure to take him to your vets where you can get some tests done.

EDIT: I read this on a forum after I wrote this post. A dog owner and his wife, I think they said they had a Boxer Dog, said that all of a sudden they noticed that their pooch no longer seemed to suffer from tear staining. They started to rack their brains trying to think of things they had changed.

They hadn’t changed their dog’s food, the washing powder, nothing, then they realized that the tearing had stopped around about the same time that they had both quit smoking.

Quite a few other people put their comments on that their dog also suffered from tear stains due to their smoking.

Can You Stop Cocker Spaniels Getting Tear Stains

The short answer is no. I’m yet to see a Cocker Spaniel that doesn’t suffer from even a mild dose of tear staining. However, it’s certainly less noticeable in darker haired Spaniels like my all black boy Guinness.

Many dark-haired Cocker owners won’t even realize that their pooch has tear staining if it’s very mild.

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You can, however, greatly reduce the amount of tear staining by investigating all the problems I have mentioned earlier to see if any of them are the cause of the excessive tearing.

For many Cocker Spaniels, their Epiphora is is much worse during their puppy days. It’s thought that like humans, as the puppy develops, any initial problems with their eyes (shallow sockets) will correct themselves as they develop. It’s also thought that again, like humans, your puppy will outgrow many of its initial allergies as it turns into an adult.

It may also very well be that once you have identified the problem, you will be able to either control it to some degree or even have it repaired.

Repaired You Say?

Yes, repaired.

If your Cocker Spaniel does indeed have some sort of scar tissue that is causing the problem then you can have it surgically removed.

The same applies if your puppy has blocked, very narrow or was born with no puncta. Those are the tiny drainage holes I was talking about.

So the next question is how do we go about caring for our Cocker Spaniel when they are suffering from tear staining? Let’s take a look at some of the things that can be done to keep your gorgeous Cocker Spaniel’s eyes looking as good as they should be.

How To Clean A Cocker Spaniels Eyes

Regardless of what problem is causing your Cocker to suffer from tear staining, you will certainly want to keep your pooches eyes clean so let’s have a look at some of the best ways to do that.

For the best results, you should be cleaning your Cocker Spaniels tear stains once per week at a minimum. If your dog has a tendency to get hard or crusty tear stains then you may need to clean your dog’s eyes daily.

The best way to clean your Cocker’s eyes is to use a cotton ball although a cloth will do. If you have a sterile saline solution then perfect, if not, plain old warm water will also do the job.

First things first though, once you have all the cleaning materials you need, you probably want to have a suitable area to do the cleaning. If your dog is anything like my Cocker Spaniel, then as soon as you try and do any sort of grooming, especially any grooming that involves the ears or eyes, then he gets very unsettled and tries’s to squirm away.

I’ve found my dog much easier to handle when I have him up on a table, much like you would at the veterinary clinic. Yes, he still moves around but when he realizes he hasn’t really got anywhere to go then he does settle down…..eventually haha.

It’s worth pointing out here that napkins or paper towels are an absolute no when it comes to cleaning any dog’s eyes. They are very rough and can most certainly damage, irritate and scratch a dog’s eye.

Make sure you do one eye at a time and always use a new cotton ball or cloth/wipe for each eye. Never ever use the same cotton ball or wipe on both eyes.

Start by wiping the eye from the inner towards the outer making sure to be very careful and use a soft touch. You don’t want to aggravate your Cocker’s already watery eyes. Make sure you thoroughly clean the tear staining area.

If your dog’s tear stains are rather crusty and dry and the wet cotton ball or wipes isn’t doing the job, I’ve seen videos of people using a special comb that combs out the dried crusty tear stains. Then you just proceed as I described with the cleaning.

EDIT: If you do need to use the comb, it may be worth your while checking to see if your Spaniel has any long hairs that need trimming. Remember how I said earlier that long hair can often be the cause of excessive tears. Always use blunt-tipped scissors when cutting your Cocker spaniels hair.

There are special eye wipes available that include ingredients like Boruc acid but depending on the severity of your dog’s staining, then I’ve found these to be very unnecessary. I personally think these are kind of a marketing ploy but then again, others swear by them so feel free to test out the results for yourself.

You can go to almost any pet store around and come out fully armed with all the natural ingredients and utensils you need to clean your Cocker Spaniel’s eyes.

If this is your first Cocker then, by all means, buy all the gear from a pet store as they most certainly will work but I can almost guarantee that as time goes by, you will see that all the regular household stuff works just as good.

I liken this to having your first child. You do everything by the book the first time round but then if you have another child or another 2 children in my case, you realize that you don’t need to follow everything to a T.

Dangers Of Eye Cleaning.

It would be rather irresponsible of me if I didn’t discuss the potential dangers of cleaning eyes and what could potentially happen.

I have already mentioned that you must use a separate cotton ball or cloth for each eye. The reason behind this is to avoid the risk of spreading an infection from one eye to another.

Another danger is that you run the risk of further aggravating the problem that is causing the tears in the first place. Obviously this won’t apply if your dog tearing is caused by overproduction of tears etc but if your dog has an underlying problem causing the tears, then cleaning may well further aggravate the problem.

Before you undertake any sort of eye cleaning please take your little on to your local vets and have him checked over. Once you get the go-ahead from the vets you will be free to get into a regular cleaning routine which should help keep you Cocker Spaniels tear stains to a minimum.

It’s also highly recommended that you regularly visit your local veterinary clinic for periodic eye checks as Cocker Spaniels are a breed that is known for having eye issues.

Now, get cleaning you Cocker Spaniels tear stains as there’s not a finer looking face than a clean well groomed Cocker Spaniel.

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