Tear stains spoil the faces of far too many white Boxers.
Many owners of dogs afflicted with this unsightly problem jump straight to cleaning products, supplements and home remedies and overlook the importance of basic diet in stopping tear staining at its source.
Often the right question is not “What can I add?” but “What can I take away?” Removal of cause is key. Otherwise you are just tinkering with the problem (and possibly creating new problems), rather than resolving it.
Tear stains, which can occur in any dog but are more obvious on white fur, are most often suggestive of poor quality food.
If your white Boxer has tear stains, the first thing to do is reevaluate what you are putting in his bowl. Is it a fresh, natural canine diet?
How Your Boxer’s Food Might Be Causing Tear Stains
To understand the role of food in causing tear stains, let’s take a step back.
In a properly functioning body, toxins are filtered by the liver and kidneys and excreted in urine and faeces.
However, when the body is overburdened, it enlists the help of an additional organ: the skin. It uses the skin as a sort of pressure-release valve, to excrete excess wastes. It’s because of its role in detoxification that the skin gets called “the third kidney”. You can observe this effect in your own body too. Think of the way you break out in pimples when you eat too much candy. Garbage in, garbage out.
In dogs this secondary avenue of elimination frequently encompasses not just the skin but the ears, paws and eyes. If your Boxer is using ad hoc measures to get rid of waste/toxins in order to preserve a clean internal environment, you might typically see things like itchy skin, paw gnawing, ear gunk, goopy eyes, red eyes … and tear stains. Many of these symptoms get labelled as “infections” and blamed on yeast.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
But it’s worth asking: what has caused the yeast?
Yeast (and bacteria) is ordinarily present on healthy skin. Overgrowth can only occur when there is an excess of metabolic waste. After all, these wastes are what the fungus feeds on. No waste, no yeast. So you can see, the yeast is only a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Sort of like firefighters. You see them at house fires, but they’re not the bad guys. They didn’t start the blaze. In fact, they came to help put it out. In a similar way, the yeast will consume the waste that’s excreted through the skin, removing it.
So why is the body overburdened and releasing excess waste through the skin, ears, paws and eyes?
This is where diet comes in.
Kibble or canned dog food is highly processed. It contains fillers, artificial additives and preservatives. None of these ingredients are part of the natural canine diet. When consumed, they must be excreted, creating an additional load on the eliminatory organs.
If a Boxer is eating junky foods like kibble or canned dog food every day, this can amount to a lot of toxic accumulation. Not all of it can be gotten rid of by the usual route of pee and poop. A backlog builds up. To get rid of it, the body calls upon those secondary avenues: skin, paws, ears and eyes, resulting in the tear stains — often accompanied by other symptoms.
Tear stains, just like ear “infections” and itchy paws ought serve as warning lights, alerting you to an imbalance in your dog’s system. It’s time to optimize the inputs, particularly the food. What we put in our Boxers’ bowls on a daily basis is a powerful determinant of their health outcomes. Every bite is either contributing to health, or laying the foundation for disease. It’s that simple and that profound.
If a kibble-fed dog is ingesting chemical dewormers or other internal pesticides like flea and tick preventatives, or wearing a flea collar, the toxic exposures are even higher, resulting in a bigger toxic load on your dog’s body and more chance of symptoms like tear stains.
Tap Water Can Cause Tear Stains In Boxers
Water with high mineral content or high iron levels is known to cause tear stains.
Many owners find tear staining resolves when their dogs stop drinking tap water, which contains a lot of impurities or “regulated contaminants”. The EPA’s website, documenting more than 90 contaminants in tap water ranging from pesticides and industrial chemicals to disinfectants, makes mind-boggling reading.
Suffice to say, a healthy diet must extend to the water a Boxer consumes. Your Boxer should drink only pure, fresh water, whether that’s spring water or water that’s had the toxins removed via a proper filtration system. (Popular jug-style filters are not enough.)
Learn more about Why Boxers Should Not Drink Tap Water.
Other Causes Of Tear Stains In Dogs
Medical, structural or other underlying health issues that can be associated with tear staining include:
- shallow eye sockets, characteristic of the Boxer’s brachycephalic or “squashed” head structure
- epiphora (excessive tear production, which has many causes including a simple flushing reaction in response to pollen or other irritants)
- clogged tear ducts not allowing the tears to drain properly into the nasal cavity
- abnormally narrow and crooked tear ducts, created as a side effect of the selective breeding process in some breeds
- entropion (condition where eyelids fold inward)
However, before you resign yourself to tear stains as inevitable in your dog because of one of the above reasons… fix the diet!
Is Your Boxer Living His Best Life?
Supercanine is your how-to guide for understanding why your dog has the health niggles he does, and how to heal them before they progress into a full-blown crisis.
If you want to know how to raise a healthy, long-lived wigglebutt free of allergies, itch, acne, “yeasty” ears, paw gnawing, stomach problems and all the other afflictions chalked up to “just part of the breed”, this is the book for you. No more vets, potions or complicated regimes. Just simple yet powerful tweaks you can make to your dog’s care to transform his health.
Red Or Brown Tear Stains?
If your white Boxer’s tear stains are dark red in color, they are the result of porphyrins. These are iron-containing molecules produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. This waste product is excreted primarily through bile and the gut (as faeces) but is also found in tears, saliva and urine.
Incidentally, the presence of porphyrins in saliva is why white paw hair will turn iron-brown when a dog licks or chews at his feet.
Brown tear stains, on the other hand, indicate the presence of yeast. Yeast loves a moist environment, so it’s not surprising that the chronic dampness created by constant tearing can lead to yeast overgrowth, as a secondary effect. Your dog may well have a combination of these two types of staining going on.
Tear stains can also look worse after your Boxer’s been outside. This is because porphyrins darken when exposed to sunlight.
RECOMMENDED READING Game-Changing Gear For Boxer Owners
How Not To Treat Tear Stains In Your Boxer
Be aware that many of the products claiming to remove tear stains are ineffective. At best, they won’t work. At worst, they can be downright harmful to your dog.
The available products and home remedies that get bandied about when someone says “My Boxer has tear stains” include:
- Angels’ Eyes, a product that used to contain the low-dose, broad-spectrum antibiotic Tylosin but has now switched to different ingredients after warnings from the FDA
- Visine eye drops applied to the fur (not the eyes!) is said to lighten the color of the stains (This approach is ruled out since you’re never supposed to use human eye drops on your Boxer.)
- contact lens cleaning solution containing dilute boric acid (the idea is the acid oxidizes the iron in the porphyrins and fades the stains)
- liquid vitamin C (citric acid) lightens the tear stains
- hydrogen peroxide (you do not want this anywhere near your dog’s eyes)
- makeup remover (also not something you want to risk getting in your dog’s eyes)
- baby wipes (many contain alcohol, which should never go near the eye)
- supplements (supplements are poorly regulated and nutrients are best consumed in whole foods not as isolated chemistry)
- milk of magnesia
- gold bond
- corn syrup
- apple cider vinegar added to drinking water
While some of these ideas are clearly more potentially harmful than others, there is no need to risk any of them. Remember: remove cause, don’t add experimental potions. Your best shot of permanently eliminating tear stains remains the same: a fresh, raw meaty bone-based diet.
While you give the food time to work its magic, it’s far better is to simply wipe your Boxer’s face with a warm damp cloth to dilute and clean away tears. Be sure to dry the face afterwards so that you’re not contributing to the moisture and making the environment even more inviting to yeast.
If you must put anything on the tear stains, colloidal silver is perhaps the product least likely to do harm if it gets in the eye. Those who swear by colloidal silver for its anti-microbial properties say it is safe to put in the eye, and even to drink.
Trying to clean tear stains, of course, does nothing to prevent more depositing. For that, you need to address the actual cause of the staining. There is no getting around the critical role of diet.
What If A Fresh Food Diet Doesn’t Fix Tear Stains?
Veterinarian Dr Karen Becker says there are occasions where tear stains don’t resolve, even with proper feeding.
“I have seen excessive porphyrin production in incredibly healthy animals eating a clean diet of organic, fresh food with no environmental toxin exposure (including vaccines). And I have seen the same amount of porphyrins in very unhealthy animals that I know are eating toxic food and living in toxic environments.”
It sure is worth a good try though. In the process you’ll be opening your dog up to a whole range of health benefits that come with raw meaty bone-based diets.
See also: Can Boxers Eat Bones?
Final Thoughts On Tear Stains In Boxer Dogs
You will find no shortage of products and remedies for tear stains. But each comes with its own risks and possible unintended side effects. Before you open that can of worms, get the basics right. Feed a fresh, natural, species-appropriate diet. Chances are, that will be your fix.
Keep in mind that it took time for the tear stains to develop in your dog and it will take time for them to resolve.
Even once you’re feeding an optimal diet and your dog’s body stops using tears to release excess waste, it can take several months for the stained fur to grow out.
When it does, though, it will be replaced by snowy white fur.