We all know how difficult it is to keep those beautiful faces white and when the dreaded tear stains strike, it often feels like you are fighting a losing battle. Its even more frustrating when other owners seem to have effortlessly beautiful snow white Bichons yet everytime you take your pooch for a walk, you get asked the age old question “whats wrong with his eyes?”
Well I have to admit the tear stain battle is not something I had ever encountered until recently, so for me it was a huge learning curve. After owning Bichons for the best part of 15-years, my two scruff balls have always been relatively stain free. However, being a trainer and behaviourist, often the foster dogs that have come into my care have been in terrible conditions. This is where I hold my hands up and say yes, I did shamedley judge them. I thought what awful owners to allow thier dogs to get into such a mess; that was until I rescued two new beautiful babies, one of them who had by far the worst tear stains I have ever encountered.
World meet the lovely Milo and Theo!
Now being passionate about Bichons, I have always taken a keen interest in literature surrounding the breed and when it comes to tear stains, there is an abundance of material available. I read up on everything, with solutions ranging from dietary supplements to filtered bottle water and whilst both of those solutions work in theory, it fails to get to the root of the problem.
Tear stains are caused by an over production or over stimulation of the tear glands – IE watery eyes. All bodily fluids such as tears, saliva, urine and so on, contain waste products including porphyrins. Porphyrins are naturally occurring molecules containing iron, resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells These are mostly removed from the body via faeces, however various issues such as allergy, bad diet and so on, can result in an increase in tear and saliva porphyrins. The Iron which is found in these bodily fluids is primarily what causes the reddish/brown staining and is found at varying levels between dogs thus consequently, could be part of the reason why some dogs have staining and others dont. However, even dogs who have high levels of iron in thier tears dont always get staining because thier tear ducts are not over stimulated so they never cause a problem. Therefore, the key is to stop the eyes watering in the first place.
Being pretty clued up on Bichons, I knew that blocked tear ducts and fungal infections from constantly damp skin, could also cause staining issues but after getting them ruled out by my vet, I knew that the issue – as with 9/10 Bichons – was allergy related. So in other words, find the trigger, stop the watering and you have conquered the problem!
The first thing I did was start them on 1/2 a Piraton per day. Piraton is safe for dogs and 1/2 a tablet a day is enough for dogs up to 10k, however it is always worthwhile consulting your own vet before giving your dog any form of medication. I opted for the non-drowsy version – but I have known some owners to use the drowsy option – especially before long car journeys! The Piraton which is an anti-hystamine would stop the eye itchyness and irritation in the short-term and thus break the watering cycle until the trigger could be determined and removed.
It is also important to note that sometimes, breaking the watering cycle alone can stop the problem in its tracks.
A dog can get grass seeds or dirt or debris in thier eye which causes the initial irritation. The eyes swell and water to remove the debris, but then the tear ducts sometimes go into overdrive creating damp skin and infections, which thus leads to irritation and more swelling; so its a vicious circle. Therefore sometimes giving Piraton alone for a few weeks to give the eyes an opportunity to dry up and heal, can clear up the issue by itself.
I then cleaned the area 2x daily – morning and night. I wanted to use an antibacterial cleaner so that if any fungal type infection was starting, I could nip it in the bud so I opted for Hibiscrub which is used in the hospitals and is available from any chemist or pharmaecy. I then cut all of the hair around the eyes and mouth and took the hair around the infected areas as short as I possible could to allow the air to get at it and dry out the skin.
After just a few short days there was a noticable difference.
Next I changed over thier diet. As we all know, Bichons are prone to food allergies with most owners opting for grain free, wheat free and various other methods however what most owners do not consider is the minerals that are contained within the dry food. As mentioned earlier, the excess of minerals can lead or at least promote staining therefore putting your dog on a completely natural diet with no additives is a sure fast way of removing the problem. I changed the dogs diet over to RAW (or BARF). Now anyone who knows me, knows I am a HUGE advocate of Raw feeding. Of course you do not have to put your dog on a raw diet to prevent staining, you can opt instead to check ingredients and use elimination but this will inevitably take much longer. If you want to find out more about raw feeding look under the diet section.
This was the results after 1-week
I was certain that I had broken the cycle and that the staining was now getting under control.
However, its not just food that triggers allergies in Bichons. Dogs can be allergic to certain plastics which is why most sites recommend you change to metal bowls. It is for this reason I chose not to give my dogs bottled water. Bottled water is filtered and contains less minerals and chemicals such as flouride, than tap water. These are said to be irritants for Bichons which is why many advocate the use of filtered and bottled (MINERAL – note the irony!) water. It is a known fact that plastic particles are found in drinking water that is packaged in plastic bottled items. In fact, there is now strong evidence to suggest that this could be a cause of cancer in humans – although whether they will ever broadcast the findings are another matter of debate! Carrying around glass bottled water was just not a practical nor viable option for me. In addition, as my other two other dogs were given tap water and had no reaction and I had dramatically decreased thier mineral content with the food change alone, I decided to leave the water option and instead, just proceeded with the metal bowls.
This is the results after week 2
Finally I looked at introducing Apple Cider vinegar. The ides is that the Apple cider vinegar will change the acidity of the tears, thus reducing the stains. Now, whilst I didnt believe this was a neccessity for their tear staining, the advantages of adding this to their diet as a supplement, far succeded just the external benefits, so that is exactly what I did. Apple cider vinegar is an antioxident and along with tumeric (or golden paste) has anti-inflamatory properties and as my pooches are 15, 12, 7 and 7 years, anything to assist thier immune system and support their joints is a plus for me.
MY NEXT STEPS:
Now my next step is to continue with the Piraton for the next two weeks until they are well established on thier new diet and then stop the tablets to see if I have truely found the trigger. If thier eyes start to water and the tear stains come back then I know that their allergies are caused by something external and I will have to take an expensive trip to the vets for some allergy testing. If however there are no issues, then I will have 4 beautiful stain-free Bichons and no more embarrassing comments!
…TO BE CONTINUED!!
…AS YOU CAN SEE, WE HAVE TAKEN A STEP BACKWARDS!!
The change of food and the daily face washing was going well, I stopped the piraton and it still seemed to be doing the trick, then all of a sudden I noticed brown staining coming back. Although there had been an increase in sunshine which causes the tear stains (iron molecules) to darken, it wasnt enough to justify the amount and moreover, new ones were appearing. I was almost pulling my hair out until one evening I watched intently as both dogs sat for over 40-minutes licking each others eyes! …Well there was the cause of the eye stains! So that drove me to do a little more reaseach on the subject of Water and PH levels.
After a little reading up on the subject of water treatment, it turns out that the North-west has the highest concentration of chlorine in the UK. So, it would seem that there was a reason for the change over to mineral water afterall! However that did not explain why my other two bichons did not suffer with any staining yet the two newbies did. I put it down to guesswork and the fact that my two who had always drank the water simply didnt react to it as they had built up a tolerance. So off out I went to purchase 5x cases of mineral water (In glass bottles!!). Within 3-days I noticed that the staining wasnt neccessarily any better, but it certainly hadn’t gone any worse, however I did find something else which was a shock!
Both of my Bichons used to have solid black noses. Over the years they have gradually faded to a light brown colour – I put this down to snow nose (lack of sunlight) and old age (reduction in pigmentation). Now, when my two newbies came to me, they too had pure black noses and within the space of 3-weeks their noses faded from jet black to brown! What was I doing wrong?! I used metal bowls, I fed raw food, I couldnt work it out! Now, since the change from tap water to mineral water, all FOUR have begun to develop dark black spots of pigmentation back on thier noses! Well who would have guessed that I had actually bleaching thier noses through thier drinking water?! My new shopping (to-do) list – go buy a large 2lts britta filter jug from town! I will report back soon!
….TO BE CONTINUED!!!