What exactly are they due to and how can their formation be avoided?

Brown streaks under the dog’s eyes: what exactly are they?

The brownish traces that can form at the inner corner of some dogs’ eyes are due to an epiphora, i.e. an excessive, sometimes pathological, flow of tears containing a pigment called porphyrin.

This pigment, which is a constituent of the haem, is actually a product of the degradation of red blood cells. It is found naturally in many other biological fluids such as urine or saliva. In fact, it is not uncommon for dogs with light-colored coats to also show brownish traces on their chops or penises that show traces of these body fluids.

In any case, some dogs may show reddish to rusty marks in front of their eyes. They tend to become brownish-brown over time under the action of the commensal flora of the dog’s skin, those bacteria and yeasts that naturally populate the surface of the dog’s skin. Of course, these traces are much more visible in dogs with light coats.

My dog has brown marks under his eyes: is that normal?

Excessive and chronic tear flow can occur quite benignly in breeds of dogs with short snouts and shallow eye cavities. The morphology of their skull prevents effective drainage of tears and they are more prone to develop the “famous” brown, unsightly tears. Brachycephalic breeds are particularly affected by this inconvenience. This is the case of the Shih Tzu, Pug, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apso, Cavalier King Charles or Pekingese. Other small breeds such as Poodles, Bichons or Spaniels also suffer from this problem quite commonly.

But it also happens that an excessive flow of tears – and the resulting brownish traces – are caused by a real ophthalmological problem of the dog among the presence of a foreign body in the eye, the rubbing of hairs or eyelashes on the cornea, an ectropion, an imperforation of the lacrimal point etc. The complete list of other possible pathological causes is also listed in our article entitled “my dog has runny eyes” which we invite you to consult.

For the latter reasons, it is therefore essential to always consult your veterinarian as a first-line doctor when your dog suffers from watery eyes, which causes brown marks under his eyes. Only your veterinarian will be able to determine if these marks are related to the conformation of your dog’s skull or some other reason. If the latter is the case, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe treatment to relieve your pet’s discomfort and to remove the brown marks.

How to avoid brown streaks?

If your veterinarian has confirmed that your pet does not suffer from any ophthalmological problems and your dog has mild chronic tearing, there are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid the formation of brown streaks under the eyes.
These include :

Regular grooming of the area around your dog’s eyes in order to cut the hairs that grow at the level of his caruncle (the inner corner of the eye) and prevent them from rubbing against his cornea and accentuating your dog’s chronic lacrimation. This operation is very delicate and should be performed by a professional.
by daily cleansing of the dog’s eyes, their contour and eyelids with saline solution or, better still, with an eye lotion containing boric acid specially formulated for dogs’ eyes.
The natural option

It is also possible to cleanse your pet’s eye contour (and only the contour) on a daily basis using a small sterile compress impregnated with cornflower, chamomile or green myrtle hydrosol.

If the brown spots are already there, there are cleaning products that can remove them, such as Diamond Eye by Vitacoat. However, these should only be applied to the eye contour area, only to the hair that has turned brown and never to the eye or the mucous membranes of the eye.

It is also possible to soften the brown traces that have formed under your pet’s eyes naturally with cornstarch. To do this, mix a little cornstarch with water to form a paste that you apply to the hair that has turned brown. Leave on for a few hours and then rinse thoroughly, always taking care not to get cornstarch in your dog’s eyes.

Mistakes to avoid

The Internet is full of “grandmother’s recipes” for dealing with the brown spots that sometimes form under a dog’s eyes. While some are completely ineffective, others can be very dangerous to the health of your dog’s eyes. So, despite what you may have read on forums or unsavoury sites, NEVER apply whitening toothpaste, hydrogen peroxide, or bleach to your dog’s hair, let alone the hair near his eyes. These products are irritating and corrosive and therefore very dangerous for your pet!

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