Tear stains in Shih Tzus are one of the most common issues owners that Shih Tzu owners face when it comes to keeping their pet looking spruced up. When we talk about tear stains, we are talking about the discolored fur around a Shih Tzu’s eyes and it can happen to them no matter what the color of their coat is. Though it’s very visible in Shih Tzus with lighter coats.

Tear stains can appear at any time and there are several things that cause them. The main issue owners face is getting rid of them and keeping the face clean. It can feel like a lot of effort but removing the tear stains and then maintaining it does not have to be too hard.  

The most important thing is to remove all possible causes of staining. Afterward treat them with a product that works effectively. If the causes are not eliminated, the tear stains will come back so regular grooming and maintenance of your Shih Tzu’s face is important.

In this article, we’ll be discussing exactly what tear stains are and how you can remove them from your Shih Tzus effectively.


Tear stains in Shih Tzus can produce a pinkish, rusty, red, or brownish color on the fur around their eyes. The color will depend on the exact cause of the tear stains and also on the actual coat color of the Shih Tzu. Since Shih Tzus can be found in a wide variety of colors, it can be hard to distinguish between natural coloring and tear stains.

If the color on the hair around the eyes of your Shih Tzu matches the color found on the other parts of their coat, then most likely it’s their natural coloring and not tear stains. You’ll know if they are tear stains when you see the following:

  • If there is any visible watery and runny eye discharge
  • If the hair color around their eyes spread out as they grow older
  • The color around their eyes is not present when they were still a puppy and it only developed when they are 6 months old or older
  • If the hair usually becomes damp
  • If the hair around their eyes becomes hardened when it’s supposed to be silky and soft
  • In rare instances, there can be stains might also be found around the chin or mouth.


Tear stains are usually caused by runny eyes, hence the name “tear” stains. Like us humans, there can be natural causes for tears and these in some dogs are barely noticeable. But in some Tzu’s the discharge is obvious and this leads to discoloration around the dog’s eyes.

Fur and hair discoloration is always caused by tears running down from their eyes as is where the hair comes in contact with saline and it is this which is the main reason for the staining. Also, if a Shih Tzu’s hair is often left damp, an infection called red yeast can set in and this can cause more stains.

So when we look at the main reasons for tear stains, we are actually looking at the main reasons for runny eyes which can be any of the following:

  • Reaction to medications
  • Allergies anything from around the dog’s environment
  • Unfiltered drinking water
  • Eye infections and diseases
  • Eye irritation from products used in the house and second-hand smoke
  • Chemical reactions from food being fed to them
  • The materials used in their food and water bowl
  • Tear duct glands malformations
  • For puppies: teething between 4-5 months old


tear stains

If you want to permanently get rid of the tear stains around your Shih Tzu’s eyes, it’s important to first remove as many causes as possible or in the end, there will be limited results. Below is a guide for you to follow to successfully and permanently remove your Shih Tzu’s tear stains:


Eye infections including eyelash and eyelid infections and they have the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Frequent blinking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Frequent pawing in the eye area
  • Excessive water discharge from the eyes
  • Eye tics
  • Discharge with a foul odor

If your Shih Tzu displays any of these symptoms, then you may want to take them to the vets for examination.


If you think that your Shih Tzu has an allergy then you may want to do further investigation. This can be as simple as changing feeding bowls, trying alternative foods in their diet and moving to unfiltered water. There are some cases where your veterinarian can help – if you need to check as much as you can then ask them to do an intradermal skin test as that should help identify what might be causing an allergic reaction.

The most common signs of allergies include the following:

  • Skin rash
  • Poor coat health
  • Coat thinning
  • Nasal discharge
  • Reddish eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Frequent coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • Recurrent ear infections

If you think that your Shih Tzu might have an allergy, take some precautionary steps in order to reduce it and if possible, ask your veterinarian to perform allergy tests like the above. Often you can narrow down what the issue is with some trial and error.


tear stains

One of the most common causes of tear stains in Shih Tzus is their food. Any type of dog food can contain the following and can be a possible tear stain trigger:

  • Chemical preservative, coloring, and flavoring
  • Wheat, high corn content, and other fillers

If you are not certain that your Shih Tzu is eating healthy food then it’s best to do an assessment on them and make a few changes to their diet. There are times that the tear stains are minimized when you give your Shih Tzu a high-quality diet. This diet can be either raw or homemade. Veterinarians can also recommend some products available in the market if you’re not sure what the best options are.

Some owners have noticed rapid changes with their Shih Tzu’s tear stains when they fed them with kibble that contains no filler, preservative, or additives. This boosts the Shih Tzu’s resistance to inflammatory reactions and the result is reduced staining.


Tap water contains a lot of substances that are known to be harmful to dogs. These substances include pesticides, factory run-off (toxicity), and a lot more! While tear stains are most of the time considered not dangerous to dogs, if they drink unfiltered water, you should immediately stop or do something to improve the tap waters quality. Tzu’s as a breed are sensitive to anything ingested that can upset their tummy, water from the faucet can cause issues so try them on filtered water to see if that helps.


Stainless steel is the best and safest material to have for your Shih Tzu’s food and water bowl. You want it to be small enough that your Shih Tzu won’t need to reach too deep to get the food or water. Also, as much as possible, stay away from plastic bowls as they can easily pick up germs from the surroundings.


tear stains

After you have removed all the possible causes of tear stains in your Shih Tzu, it’s going to be an easier road for you. Next, it’s just a case of maintenance. What you want to do next is to use an effective product to clean the stains on their hair. You should be very careful about the products that you choose.

It’s also important to take note that most home remedies do not work and can be very dangerous to your Shih Tzu so it is recommended to only use products specifically created to remove tear stains.

Here are some products that we recommend for you to use:

If you prefer wipes, then these are some suggestions that might work better for you:

Once you’ve purchased the product for your Shih Tzu’s tear stains, you’ll need to do the following:


You need to wipe the area around your Shih Tzu’s eyes 2-3 times daily. Make sure to do it every day and if possible, set some reminders. You should also wipe the cheeks, beard, chin, and other areas that are affected by the tear stains.

If you are able to maintain this routine, you will see results in as early as 2 weeks and an immense improvement within 6 weeks.


tear stains

Red yeast is one of the most common causes of tear stains in Shih Tzus. Due to a lack of metabolism, these organisms start to produce red or brown pigments in your Shih Tzu’s fur, especially in the damp areas which are mostly around their eyes.

The Tear stains that are caused by this red yeast are easy to spot as they are usually rusty or reddish in color. For cleaning this you’ll need to use a tear stain solution that’s stronger to fight off the infection. Just make sure that the product has no peroxide, bleach, or other harsh chemicals.

Here are some products that we recommend:


tear stains

Tear stains in Shih Tzu’s can be reduced and even stopped, it just takes a little time to work out what is causing it and then to gently clean and treat the eyes as part of their normal grooming. Wiping the eyes daily day and night will help keep tear stains at bay and ensure your dog is comfortable and happy.

Since the main reason for tear stains in Shih Tzus is runny eyes, then that is something that you need to address first and foremost. There are a couple of eye drops available in the market that can treat the condition and immensely help improve your Shih Tzu’s appearance and health by removing tear stains.

Tear stains can be upsetting sometimes but the good news is that there’s always a cure! It’s not something that your Shih Tzu needs to live with for a long time as long as you can do something about it. The cleaning and maintenance routine might be difficult at first for you but the process gets easier especially when you see the improvements in just a few weeks.