Porphyrins are iron-containing molecules, produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. When porphyrin containing tears or saliva sits on white fur for any length of time, stains result. All dogs produce porphyrin, but of course porphyrin staining is most noticeable on light colored dogs. If you have ever noticed a white dog who has been licking or chewing on his leg, the hair in that area will turn iron-brown in color as well.
Primarily, then, most tear stains in most dogs can be simply prevented by keeping the face meticulously free of porphyrin-containing tears. That means keeping the face hair trimmed, and wiping the face at least twice daily with a slightly damp wash cloth, to dilute out and wash away the tears. In 1889, a different fellow named Baillon included this group of yeasts under the genus Malassezia, named after the first guy. In the following years, there was controversy regarding the generic name of the fungus, and in 1984, Malassezia finally gained priority over Pityrosporum and was accepted as the generic name for the fungus. BEFORE the internet was even invented LOL! Malassezia that causes ear infections and skin infections and all kinds of other routine grossness in dogs. This finding was a shock to me, as a tiny little misspelling propagated over thousands of websites has led to a massive misunderstanding of what causes tear stains.
Who cares what it’s called, Dr. How do you treat it? Well, I care, and here’s why. If your dog develops a YEAST INFECTION aside her nose as the result of the fur under her eyes being chronically wet with tears, because you’re not cleaning her face and keeping her fur trimmed, that’s a medical condition easily treated with proper grooming and upkeep. BROWN staining from yucky yeast infection secondary to poor grooming maintenance, and RED staining from porphyrins, are two different problems, which is why oral supplements aimed at reducing porphyrin production will not work in all dogs. Now that’s cleared up, why do some dogs make more porphyrin than others? The answer, of course, is not a yeast problem but rather a bacterial problem.
Which bacteria, exactly, contribute to excessive porphyrin production? We don’t know for sure. The mechanism of this bacterial porphyrin production is unclear. Tylosin, the antibiotic in Angels’ Eyes, is often effective in these bacterial cases. Wait, did you just say that Angels Eyes and Angels Glow are effective because they contain ANTIBIOTICS? Why isn’t the FDA more concerned about the OTC use of an antibiotic? Tylosin have managed to fly under the radar.
As with any antibiotic, Tylosin is usually harmless in small doses, but may be harmful to some dogs. ARE THERE ORAL MEDICATIONS THAT REDUCE PORPHYRIN PRODUCTION AND DO NOT CONTAIN TYLOSIN? I’m so glad you asked! Naturally, now that we’re getting into the fuzzy realm of nutraceuticals, probiotics and other poorly-studied supplements with little to no oversight or regulation, I can’t really vouch for any of these products. Testimonials abound, you’re mostly on your own when choosing one over the other, but as with any product, you’ll find someone who swears by each of them, and someone else who says it’s voodoo nonsense and doesn’t work. Every drug, supplement, and herb has some type of side effect.
To say otherwise is negligent and irresponsible. So buyer beware, and always consult with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any supplement please. FDA for breaking the law, so if you want to try one, that’s your prerogative. Here’s a couple I’ve found that some people like and some people don’t. STEP 1: Meticulously maintain your dog’s clean face. Wipe face with a damp cloth twice a day to remove excessive tears, and keep regular appointments with the groomer.
STEP 2: Throw away your plastic food bowls. Use stainless steel, porcelain or glass. Plastic food bowls often develop tiny cracks that harbor bacteria and cause facial irritation. STEP 3: Consider a mild boric acid containing solution as found in some contact lens cleaners, or use liquid vitamin C, on a cotton ball, to wipe the dog’s face and lighten the tear stains that have already formed. STEP 4: If porphyria remains despite your best grooming efforts, consider a NON-Tylosin containing oral supplement like the ones listed above. STEP 5: If your tap water happens to be high in mineral content or iron, consider giving the dog bottled water, or use a filter to create cleaner water. STEP 6: If you insist on using antibiotics, under veterinary supervision, drugs like doxycycline, metronidazole and enrofloxacin have all been used with some success. STEP 7: Tums or Apple Cider Vinegar? STEP 8: Does a higher quality diet reduce porphyrin production in some dogs? Veterinarians always recommend feeding your dog the highest quality balanced diet you can afford. Some folks swear by homemade or raw diets, others are concerned about nutrient balance issues with homemade diets, most veterinarians prefer you feed a well-studied commercial diet of some kind, from a major manufacturer. No clear right or wrong here, do what works for you and your family. ANY of these things INSIDE the eye is likely to make your dog really unhappy. Hopefully, you’ve learned that PROPER GROOMING AND MAINTENANCE of your dog’s face is the primary treatment for tear stains, and do please see your veterinarian to rule out medical causes of excessive tears, before starting your dog on any supplements!