Poodle Eye

The poodle eye problem, in which brown stains appear at the corner of the eye, is common to several toy breeds, including Toy Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Maltese, Pomeranians, Pekingese, and others.

The exact cause of tear overflow in these breeds is unknown. One theory is that susceptible breeds have a pooling space that is too small to collect a lake of tears. Tears contain chemicals that react with light to produce reddish- brown stains. The staining will be more apparent in dogs whose haircoat is light colored or white. This is primarily a cosmetic problem.

Treatment: Poodle eye often improves when the dog is given a course of tetracycline, which is secreted in the tears and binds the photochemicals that cause the staining. The face remains wet but is not discolored. Tetracycline is given orally for three weeks. If the staining returns after the antibiotic is stopped, long-term antibiotics can be considered. One option is to add low- dose tetracycline to the dog’s daily food.

Surgery is another alternative. The operation involves removing part of the tear gland of the third eyelid. While this reduces tear volume and makes a better tear lake, it does carry the risk of producing a dry eye, as discussed in Cherry Eye. Removal of the tear gland should be considered only if the Schirmer tear test shows that the strip wets more than 15mm per minute (see Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca). After the surgery, dogs may still develop keratoconjunctivitis sicca later in life.

The dog’s appearance can be improved for cosmetic purposes by plucking the stained hairs or clipping them close to the face. Daily cleaning alone will decrease, but not eliminate, the discoloration. Stains can be removed by bathing the area with a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide (1:10). Be sure peroxide does not get into the eyes. A minor problem can be improved with a piece of white chalk. Do not get chalk dust in the eye itself. If you are planning to show the dog, note that all powder or chalk must be removed from the hair before the dog is brought into the conformation ring for judging.

Do not use chlorine bleach for eye stains! The fumes are painful and may cause chemical conjunctivitis. Commercial grooming wipes are also available to help with tear stains.