Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated February 17, 2009)
It is normal for pets with light-colored fur to, over time, develop dark-colored stains under their eyes. These stains are caused by the iron content in the animal's tears, which causes a "rusting" effect as the tears dry. Even those animals with darker fur get these stains; it is just simply easier to see the stains on the lighter-colored fur. This purely cosmetic problem has a very easy solution, though it does require a little work on your part.
First, you need to ensure that your pet does not actually have an eye infection. There are a number of signs that may indicate that your pet may have an eye infection. The main ones that you want to keep an eye out for (no pun intended) are if there is a thick, cloudy discharge, eyes that are frequently bloodshot, a growth on the eyelid, or a strong odor being emitted from the area of the stains. If you notice any of these warning signs, be sure to take your pet in for a check up as quickly as possible. Once any medical condition has been ruled out as a cause for the stains, you may proceed to the next step in removing the stains.
Removing the stains simply requires that there be a little haircut given to your pet. Trim around the eyes to remove the stained hair. Unless you are a very skilled pet groomer, you may want to take your pet into a trained professional. Working near Fluffy's eyes with sharp objects can be dangerous; one slip and your next stop would be to purchase a poochie pirate patch.
Once the hair has been trimmed, there are a couple of options you can use to keep the stains from returning. The first option is that you can keep the hair trimmed from that point on. This would allow time for the tears to dry without getting into the fur surrounding the eyes and thus staining them. The second option is that you can simply wipe around the eyes of your pet with a wash cloth that has been moistened with clean water. While this makes the fur wet, it does remove the tears and their iron content before they can dry and stain the fur.
One method that you may hear suggested is to apply antibiotic ointments around the eyes to avoid the stains. This really isn't a good idea and should be avoided. The reason is simple: As with most medicines, those ointments are problem-specific. If used incorrectly they could lead to eye damage for your pet.
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