French Bulldogs Tear Stains: How To Get Rid of Them


Very few people would argue that French bulldogs are some of the cutest pups in the dog world. Those big angel eyes squished in faces and precious little ears are very hard to resist.

One thing that isn’t so cute, however, are the tear stains that often appear under their eyes and stain their fur. French bulldogs are prone to this staining and require regular care and attention to make sure they don’t get gross.

You can use one, or multiple, of the following ways to get rid of tear stains in French Bulldogs:

  • Change your dog’s food
  • Use purified, distilled water
  • Wash your dog’s face daily with a saline solution or dog shampoo
  • Keep the area around your dog’s eyes dry
  • Add a teaspoon of organic vinegar to your dog’s food

The method that will work best will depend on the cause behind the tear stains, so you might have to experiment with a few before you find one that does the job.

In this article, we’ll explain why those tear stains occur and how to take care of them. Also, what underlying causes and problems those stains might indicate. The good news is that, in most cases, they aren’t a critical problem and won’t hurt your pup (they just look kinda’ ugly). Enjoy.

Photo by The Bulldog Blog

What Are Tear Stains?

Tear stains are dark brown or red stain streaks that start at the inner corners of a dog’s eyes and runs down their cheeks. Tear stains on lighter colored dogs are more noticeable than darker. Some dogs may experience eye discharge accompanying the staining.

In brachycephalic dog’s tear stains are a common occurrence and that goes double for French bulldogs because most Frenchies have protruding eyes. Brachycephalic means that they have flat muzzles and their eyes sit a bit further forward in their skull.

Although many people love their cute, pushed in faces, this feature tends to negatively affect their eyelids and tear ducts, causing them to be more narrow and crooked. This, in turn, causes their eyes to tear more often and also get infected occasionally, causing even more tears. Further complicating the problem is that their protruding eyes get dry more often and thus need more tears. In short, brachycephalic dogs like French bulldogs tend to make more tears than any other dog breed.

What Causes Tear Stains in French Bulldogs?

Now, usually, all this tearing wouldn’t be a problem and wouldn’t make many stains. But, there’s something in the tears that does. It’s an organic chemical called porphyrin and you’ll find it in dogs’ tears, saliva, and their pee. Porphyrin causes the stains and, If your pup tends to lick other areas of their fur, it will make stains there too. (Other parts of their face, their legs, their paws, etc.)

How to Tell if your French Bulldog Has Tear Stains?

Oh, that’s easy. Tear stains will be yellowish, brownish, or a combination of the two and usually don’t look very attractive. It will almost look as if they have mascara on and it ran down their silly flat face. Depending on the color of your Frenchie’s face and muzzle the stains can be more pronounced or less. No matter what color they are for, however, tear stains are usually quite noticeable.

How Common are Tear Stains in French Bulldogs and Should You be Worried?

As we discussed, French bulldogs are brachiocephalic dogs, and, because of this, their eyes tend to tear a lot more than other breeds. Tear stains are thus very common in French bulldogs and other brachycephalic dogs. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about except that it doesn’t look very attractive.

That being said, if you’re Frenchie is producing a lot of tears (or stains) it could be due to a blocked tear duct, an eye infection, or something being trapped in their eye (dirt, dust, a small insect, etc.). A malformed eyelash could also be the problem as well as allergies, all of which should prompt you to take them to your local veterinarian and have them examined. If you notice that their eyes are excessively moist for days on end, or they seem to be in discomfort, don’t let it persist for too long before taking them to get checked.

Do All Dogs Have Tear Stains or are Some Breeds More Susceptible To Them?

As we mentioned earlier, porphyrin is the natural chemical that is in all dog’s tears, and that chemical causes the staining on their fur. Porphyrin Is a molecule that contains iron and when their doggie body breaks down iron it’s excreted through the tear ducts of their eyes. (Also through their G.I. tract, saliva, and urine.)

Every single dog has porphyrin in their tears, Frenchies included, but some have more than others. Brachiocephalic dog breeds seem to have more porphyrin than others, however. One common fallacy is that dogs who have excessive tear staining have it because their eyes are tearing too much. That is untrue though and, in most cases, it’s their eyelid(s) and tear ducts that are malformed. This causes the tear duct to be positioned incorrectly, causing the tears to drain down their face. and onto their fur.

3 Eyelid Variations that can Cause Tear Stains.

  1. Tight medial canthal ligament- This causes a portion of their eyelids to roll in word slightly.
  2. Haired lacrimal caruncle- This can act like a wick that draws the tears onto their face
  3. Medial canthal troughing- This causes a sort of trough that, again, draws the tears onto their face

As we mentioned above, in most cases there’s no need for alarm. However, if your Frenchie has excessive tearing and staining, they should likely be evaluated by your Vet to make sure that there isn’t an underlying problem that needs some sort of medical treatment.

Photo by Ya Ge

How to Get Rid of Tear Stains?

There are several things that you can do yourself at home to reduce the staining on your French bulldog’s face. There are a couple of products that you can purchase that might help also. Let’s take a look first at what you can do to remove the stains without purchasing anything.

1- The simplest thing that you can do is to make sure that the hair around your Frenchy’s nose and eyes is kept very short. The shorter the hair, the less staining you will see. Also, always do your best to keep their face clean and dry.

2- To remove tear stains, a washcloth with warm water and a tiny amount of baby shampoo is easy and safe.

3- You can also use contact lens solution to reduce the discoloration of the stains if they don’t come out completely. Make sure not to get any in their eyes. Contact lens solution contains boric acid which oxidizes iron. Porphyrin, as we mentioned above, contains iron and so this usually works quite well.

4- To prevent ulcerative dermatitis, an inflammation of their skin, you should always dry their face very well after washing.

Products Recommendations To Reduce Tear Stains in French Bulldogs

There is some controversy about one product that is given to dogs who have tear stain problems. It’s called tylosin and it’s an antibiotic. Some say that it works while others say that it’s efficacy isn’t reliable. Also, since it’s an antibiotic, some veterinarians worry that dogs will develop drug resistance to it and, if they get sick from something else, will have issues recovering. For those reasons, we don’t recommend using products with tylosin.

Here are some very good products that we do recommend, however:

  • Angel’s Eyes
  • NaturVet – Tear Stain Plus Lutein
  • Tearplex Tear Stain Supplement
  • Vet Classics Tear Stain
  • Burt’s Bees for Dogs
  • Miracle Eyes
  • Petlab Co. Clear Eyes

Diet Recommendations To Reduce Tear Stains in French Bulldogs

Everything that comes out of your French bulldog is usually attached in some way to what goes into them, usually in the form of kibble. The truth is, you can give your French bulldog the best kibble on the market and they might still have tear stains. You could also give them the worst and they might have less. It’s kind of a crapshoot.

One thing that most French bulldog owners agree on, however, is that probiotics can help minimize tear stains and, in some cases, even eliminate them altogether. Not only can probiotics help reduce tear stains, but they will also help increase your pup’s overall health and well-being. There is a wide range of probiotic supplements on the market, to be sure. We’ve listed some that we recommend below:

  • Barkbiotics Probiotic Powder for Dogs
  • PetHonesty Probiotics for Dogs
  • Probiotics plus Digestive Enzymes
  • Fur Belly Probiotic

Get Rid of Plastic Bowls to Reduce the Chance of Eye Infections

If you feed your French fur baby using a plastic bowl, you’re not doing them any favors. The problem with plastic is that over time, it can develop cracks and, in those cracks, nasty bacteria will begin to grow. This bacteria can obviously hurt your pup and, for that reason, using a stainless steel or ceramic bowl is highly recommended. The same thing goes for their water bowl.

Speaking of water, you should avoid giving your Frenchie water straight from the sink as, in many areas, the iron levels are much higher in tap water. As you now know, porphyrin contains iron and the last thing you want to do is give your pup more, especially if they are getting sufficient iron in their kibble.

Closing Toughts

Tear staining is usually not a problem that should concern you except for keeping your French bulldog’s face clean. However, if it becomes excessive you might want to take them to your local vet to make sure that there’s not an underlying problem. Hopefully, some of the products we suggested will help.

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