What Are Tear Stains in Maltese? (And How to Prevent or Remove Them)

Maltese have a beautiful white coat. However, it sometimes happens that reddish-brown discolorations appear under their eyes. These discolorations are called tear stains. But what are these tear stains in Maltese? And can they be prevented or removed?

Tear stains in Maltese are caused by excessive tear production in the eye. These tears run into the hair under the eye and make it wet. With excessive tear production, the hair is permanently wet, which then leads to discoloration. Tear stains also occur in other dog breeds, but they are easy to see in Maltese because of the white coat color. Tear stains can also have health-related causes. So you should always have a vet rule them out.

Do not take tear stains lightly. The tear stains themselves are not a problem for your Maltese, but the reason for them could be problematic.

A visit to the veterinarian is definitely recommended if you notice tear stains or heavy tearing in your Maltese.

In this article, we will explain what tear stains are, how they occur, and what the causes can be. We also highlight the medical aspects and tell you if tear stains are dangerous for your Maltese.

We will also discuss how to prevent tear stains in your Maltese or remove them if they are already present. We will also go over various home remedies that are often recommended to help with tear stains.

What Are Tear Stains in Maltese?

Tear stains are the effect of excessive tear production, also called epiphora. However, epiphora is not a disease, but a symptom that occurs in a variety of conditions.

However, there are also non-medical reasons for excessive tearing in Maltese. So there is not necessarily a disease behind it. Nevertheless, it makes sense to have this clarified by your veterinarian.

Tear flow in the eyes is first of all completely normal. The tears serve to moisten the eyes. The excess tears normally flow through the lacrimal ducts or tear ducts back into the nose and throat.

If this reflux of tears does not work properly or if too many tears are produced, the tears run down from the eye into the underlying hair of the Maltese. This causes the hair under the eye to become wet.

If this flow of tears from the eye occurs permanently, the hair will also remain permanently wet. Over time, the typical discoloration that we know as tear stains then occurs.

What Are the Reasons for Excessive Lacrimation in Maltese?

There are a number of reasons that can cause excessive tearing in Maltese. Some of these are harmless, but others can be quite dangerous to your Maltese’s health.

The most common reasons for excessive tearing of the eyes in Maltese are:

  • Stress
  • Strong wind
  • Higher humidity
  • Smog
  • Irritants
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Allergies
  • Diseases
  • Hormonal changes or disorders
  • Wrong diet
  • Teething
  • Water too rich in minerals
  • Plastic food and water bowls
  • Hair in the eyes
  • Dust in the eyes
  • Foreign bodies in the eyes

As you can see, excessive tearing can have many different causes. And while most are actually harmless, it’s still recommended that you have your Maltese examined by a vet if he’s suffering from epiphora.

Why Do the Tears Discolor the Maltese Hair?

The tears in the hair alone do not explain the discoloration. Liquids do not normally discolor hair unless it is hair dye.

The fact that the hair turns reddish-brown is usually due to the ingredients in the tears. Tears not only serve to moisten the eyes but are also used to transport certain substances out of the body.

When red blood cells are broken down, iron-containing molecules called porphyrins are formed. Porphyrins are found in chlorophyll and hemoglobin, among other things. Humans and other animals also carry it.

Since porphyrin is a type of iron, it causes the hair to eventually turn reddish-brown when it is continuously shed into the hair.

Another possible cause of discoloration sounds very similar to porphyrin but is something completely different. Pityrosporum is a red yeast. Yeast prefers moist places to settle, so the moist hairs under the eyes come in handy.

So it is also possible that your Maltese has tear stains because red yeast has settled under the eyes. The good news is that you would probably smell it. Yeast infections have an easily detectable odor.

There is also speculation that bacteria may play a role in the development of tear stains. But this is not yet sufficiently studied and understood. However, it is the case that antibiotics stop tear stains in some dogs.

Are Tear Stains Dangerous for My Maltese?

Tear stains in themselves are not dangerous to your Maltese. However, the reason for the excessive tear production that ends up causing the tear stains may well have a serious medical reason.

That is why we have pointed out that in case of tear stains on your Maltese, you should definitely consult a veterinarian. He will be able to find out if there is a medical cause for it.

If your vet does not find a medical cause, you should try to exclude the other possible causes one by one.

Once you find the reason, you may be able to reduce or even avoid tear stains in the future.

In the next section, we will go over what you can do to prevent tear stains from developing.

How Can I Prevent Tear Stains on My Maltese?

After your veterinarian has ruled out medical causes for the tear stains, it’s up to you to rule out the non-medical causes one by one.

In the end, with any luck, you should have found the cause of the tear stains. By then eliminating that cause or avoiding it in the future, you can also avoid the tear stains in your Maltese.

It is best to go through the following steps to identify the cause of tear stains:

  • Keep the hair under the eyes clean and dry: Pat the hair under the eyes dry if you notice it is wet. Regular facial cleansing is also important. This will not fix the cause of excessive tearing, but it can prevent tear stains.
  • Cut the hair around the eyes short: This will help reduce the permanent moisture in the area. It also makes it easier for you to keep the area dry. Since the hair in Maltese always grows back, you need to trim it regularly.
  • Use metal or glass water and food bowls: even better plastic bowls without BPA can easily harbor bacteria and other germs. These can trigger reactions like excessive tearing. So with this simple and inexpensive change, you can already eliminate a potential cause.
  • Use filtered water instead of tap water: high levels of minerals in water can also trigger excessive tearing. By filtering the water or buying water low in minerals, you can eliminate this possible cause.
  • Change the diet: By doing this, you are actually addressing two possible causes, strictly speaking. Poor food is one possible cause, food allergies are another. By using high quality food for your Maltese and trying to discover possible intolerances, you can address both of these causes at once by changing the diet.
  • Use air filters and air purifiers: If the excessive tearing is due to irritants or allergens from the environment, you can reduce them with air filters or air purifiers.
  • Dietary supplements: There are dietary supplements that are supposed to prevent tear stains. These contain various natural ingredients that strengthen the immune system and lubricate the mucous membranes. This NaturVet Tear Stain Plus Lutein* has many very good reviews, but I have not tested it myself yet.

How Can I Remove Tear Stains on My Maltese?

There are a number of different remedies that can be used to remove tear stains. Some are wet wipes, others are in the form of powder or liquid. There are also combs with which you can remove tear stains.

Here we present a few proven products:

  • Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes*: These are moist wipes with a special texture. It does not contain harsh chemicals, antibiotics, or bleach, so it is safe to use on your Maltese. You should use the wipes daily, but it may take up to a few weeks before you see the results.
  • PawPurity Tear Stain Remover Powder*: As the name implies, this is a powder. The powder is made of natural ingredients so it won’t irritate your Maltese’s skin. It also soothes the irritated areas around the eyes and dries them so that the tear stains do not form again.
  • Petpost Tear Stain Remover Wipes*: These cotton pads are soaked with natural ingredients based on juniper berry and coconut. They gently dissolve the tear stains from the hair around the eyes.
  • Mindful Pets Tear Stain Remover Combs*: You can use this set of soft combs to brush tear stains out of your Maltese’s hair. The bristles are made of stainless steel. You can use them to gently brush out the excess tears that are stuck in the hair.
  • Burt’s Bees for Dogs Tear Stain Remover*: This tear stain remover is a liquid made from natural chamomile-based ingredients. It is accordingly gentle to use. Use this product in your Maltese’s daily grooming routine to reduce tear stains.
  • TropiClean SPA Tear Stain Remover*: This is a facial cleanser based on blueberry and coconut. You can use this cleanser for daily care of your Maltese. It brightens the coat and gently removes tear stains.

All these products will help you reduce or even completely remove tear stains from your Maltese. However, do not expect miracles.

You usually need to use these products daily for an extended period of time to see results. And it is also not certain that you will be able to remove the tear stains completely.

But you will be able to reduce them significantly so that your Maltese will have his beautiful white coat around the eyes again.

It’s best to test different products to find out which one your Maltese does best with. Therefore, we have listed various products from different categories.

While one Maltese gets along better with cotton pads, the next Maltese may find the solution with a comb more pleasant. It always depends on your Maltese.

In case the tear stains on your Maltese are due to allergies, you should of course first try to eliminate or avoid the allergens as much as possible.

However, this is not always possible. Some Maltese owners have had good experiences with Zyrtec Allergy Relief Pills* in such cases.

It may be worth a try if you suspect allergies are involved. But you should not use medical products on your Maltese without first consulting your vet.

Do Home Remedies Help Against Tear Stains in Maltese?

You will come across various home remedies if you search the internet for tear stain removal in Maltese. Probably almost every Maltese owner has his secret recipe against tear stains that works one hundred percent. At least, that’s what you hear every now and then.

However, do not let yourself be blinded. Not every one of these home remedies really works, and some can be harmful. Let’s take a closer look at some of these home remedies.

Does Vinegar Help Against Tear Stains in Maltese?

Many Maltese owners swear by white vinegar or apple cider vinegar as the remedy of choice for tear stains. But be careful, it’s not meant to be used to wipe away tear stains with vinegar!

Instead, you should add a teaspoon of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to your Maltese’s food or water daily. This should change the pH of the tears so that tear stains no longer occur.

There is no scientific evidence that this works. However, many Maltese owners swear by this method and have had good results with it. For others, it has shown no effect.

However, you can safely try this method. The vinegar will not harm your Maltese, but it may happen that he does not like it and refuses food or water. Maltese can be picky about food.

Does Yogurt Help Against Tear Stains in Maltese?

With yogurt, it is the same as with vinegar. It is not intended for external use on your Maltese but as a food supplement.

Give your Maltese a teaspoon of yogurt twice a day in his food. However, start with a little less, perhaps half a teaspoon. First, test to see if your Maltese will accept the yogurt in his food.

Several Maltese owners report that this has helped their Maltese reduce tear stains. In some cases, even though other methods have failed before.

However, as with vinegar, there is no scientific evidence of the effect. It is the case, however, that if a Maltese has tear stains, you actually have to do a little trial and error.

Yogurt is a healthy product and will not harm your Maltese. Therefore, you can safely try this method.

Does Buttermilk Help Against Tear Stains in Maltese?

What is true for yogurt is also true for buttermilk. In principle, these are quite similar foods. Mix a teaspoon of buttermilk into your Maltese’s food twice a day at a time to reduce tear stains.

You can simply try buttermilk as an alternative to yogurt if your Maltese does not accept yogurt. Buttermilk is a little more liquid and may dissolve a little better in the food.

The effect should be the same as with yogurt. However, there is no guarantee and no studies that prove that this method works.

Does Coconut Oil Help Against Tear Stains in Maltese?

Coconut oil is a home remedy for external use against tear stains in Maltese. Use it to wipe away the tear stains.

To do this, soak a soft cloth with coconut oil and rub the tear stains out of your Maltese’s hair. It is best to use a white linen cloth for this purpose. You should also make sure that you use pure coconut oil without additives, preferably organic.

Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil* is one such product that I highly recommend. It also soothes the skin and gives it extra moisture.

This is a good alternative to the products listed above. Coconut oil is a natural ingredient that is also found in some of these products.

You may not see results right after the first application. Be patient and repeat the application daily for a few weeks.


Tear stains are unfortunately quite common in Maltese. They occur because excess tears run into the hair under the eyes and keep it permanently wet.

The hair turns reddish-brown over time. There are several reasons for the coloring. It can be caused by the iron in the tears, but also by red yeast.

In any case, you should first consult a veterinarian if you notice tear stains on your Maltese. The cause could be health-related.

If health causes have been ruled out by your veterinarian, you should try to rule out other possible causes. Once you have found the actual cause, you can avoid it.

There are several remedies to eliminate tear stains. It is best to test different remedies to find the right one for your Maltese. Not every Maltese likes every one of the remedies, nor does every remedy work for every Maltese.

You will need a little patience though, the tear stains will not disappear immediately. It is worth working on though, as it will increase your Maltese’s well-being.