Removing Tear Stains From Bichon Frise
1. Examine the quality of your food
It is generally agreed among Bichon Frise breeders that although there are numerous and passionate opinions about brands (and further passion about kibble versus raw), a high-quality, grain-free diet works best for our breed. The corn, wheat, and meals that are used as fillers in inferior-quality foods just don’t ensure long-term good health and can cause allergic reactions, resulting in excess tearing and other problems.
2. Examine the quality of your water.
After traveling a couple of times with my own dogs without their normal water and pouring for them from my own bottled water, I’ve noticed that they will develop staining pretty quickly in response to excess minerals. Use purified, distilled, or reverse-osmosis water sources.
Add white vinegar to the Bichon’s drinking water. Tear stain production in Bichons is largely due to a pH imbalance that allows yeast to grow, creating the red tint. By adding approximately one teaspoon of white vinegar to the dog’s drinking water, you alter the pH slightly, limiting the production and severity of tear stains. Start with a very tiny amount, and slowly work your way up to a teaspoon, as the smell and taste of the vinegar can put dogs off.
3. Daily eye- and mouth-hair hygiene.
A quick daily “face grooming” will go a long way in keeping those stains at bay. Some tips:
• Flush eyes with an appropriate canine eye-wash, such as saline eye-wash solutions or Terra Septic eye drops.
• Moisten a cotton ball with the same eye wash or a contact lens solution, and rub underneath and around the eye area. Opti-Clear and Bio True are two pre-made options; a do-it-yourself option is to mix one tablespoon boric acid powder boiled in one cup distilled water. (Be sure to keep refrigerated, and remake a fresh batch weekly.)
• Wash the muzzle hair with dry shampoo or waterless shampoo and a wet washcloth. You may also try 3% hydrogen peroxide on a paper towel. Comb and blow-dry afterwards.
• Keep the hair around the eyes trimmed to avoid it irritating the eye and causing tearing.
4. Keep those moist or “rusty” areas dry!
Try using glass water bottles (such as made for birds) instead of water bowls, or use paper towels to absorb the excess water around your dog’s mouth after he drinks from a bowl. Cornstarch can also be dusted underneath the eye, around the muzzle, and in between toes.
5. Food additives can help.
Two things that have worked for me are adding one teaspoon of either organic apple-cider vinegar or buttermilk powder to meals. I-Stain, a probiotic enzyme, is another product with reportedly good results.
Mild antibiotics can be used for short periods of time, naturally, after consulting with your vet. Those commonly prescribed include Lincosin, Tylosin, and/or neomycin-polymyxin or chloramphenicol eye drops. Vetericyn opthalmic gel is available over the counter and may be enough without a vet trip.
Clean the existing stains on the Bichon’s face. Bichon fur responds especially well to baking soda pastes to clean tear stains. Add a few drops of water to baking soda until you have a thick paste. Apply the paste and let it sit for an hour or so. Gently rinse the paste away, making sure none of it gets into the dog’s eyes.
Apply peroxide to bleach difficult stains. Using a cotton swab, dab a very small amount of peroxide on the stains. Be very careful not to get too close to the dog’s eyes as this can damage them. Leave the peroxide in place for approximately 4 hours then rinse the area well. Limit your peroxide treatments to only once a week as it can be very taxing to the dog’s skin.
Give the dog half of an antacid tablet each day. Consult with your vet before taking this course of action. Consumption of an antacid tablet changes the pH of your dog’s system, making it more difficult for the yeast to grow. This helps prevent stains and decreases the pigment of the stains.
Stain removal is another chapter to itself, but it’s important to mention that neither I nor anyone I spoke with have had much success with the expensive products advertised for this purpose. A little mild hydrogen peroxide dried into the muzzle (be sure to avoid the eyes) or Visine (applied to the fur, not the eyes) can lighten the color enough to live with it until it grows out.
The short of the story is that unfortunately there isn’t just one foolproof preventative, and each dog responds a little differently, so it often takes a little experimenting and patience—but it is worth the effort to have that precious little white face smiling at you again!