Your Dog's Tear Stains and Gut Health

Your Dog's Tear Stains and Gut Health

Tear staining in dogs, characterised by reddish-brown streaks below their eyes, is a common concern among many dog owners. Whilst often attributed to superficial causes, there is more likely a link between your dog’s tear staining and their gut health. Are you surprised? Let’s explore this complex link in a little more detail. 

What is Tear Staining?

Tear staining occurs when tears overflow onto a dog’s face, leading to discoloration. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in breeds with light-coloured fur, like the Maltese, Poodles, and Shih Tzus. The stains result from porphyrins, which are iron-containing molecules found in tears. When exposed to air, these molecules oxidise, causing the reddish-brown colour.

Common causes of tear staining include genetic predisposition, shallow eye sockets, or blocked tear ducts. But in many cases these factors do not fully explain the problem.  This prompts a look into potential underlying health issues, particularly in your dog’s gut.

The Gut-Tear Stain Connection

Microbiome Imbalance or Dysbiosis

The gut microbiome, composed of trillions of microorganisms, plays a crucial role in your dog’s overall health. An imbalance in this microbiome, known as dysbiosis, can lead to inflammation and an over-reactive immune system which can cause tear staining.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are common culprits behind many issues in dogs. These sensitivities can manifest as diarrhoea, vomiting, skin problems and, you guessed it, tear staining. Inflammatory responses triggered by problematic compounds can increase tear production and worsen staining. Common sensitivities in dogs include beef, chicken, dairy, and wheat. Running an elimination diet can often help you pinpoint the underlying sensitivity.  

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the intestinal lining thins and allows undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. It can be caused by various factors including stress, poor nutritional choices, low fibre diets or an imbalance between the good and bacteria found in your dog's gut.  This leaky gut can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation throughout the body.  This inflammatory response can increase tear production and contribute to staining. It would be worthwhile carrying out a gut healing protocol to support the gut barrier; this includes using supportive ingredients like slippery elm, deglycyrrhized licorice and often marshmallow root.  In addition, chamomile can be soothing for the digestive system and thyme can support healthy tight junctions in the gut barrier.  Probiotics can also module inflammatory responses.  

Diet and Nutrition

A poor quality diet can directly impact a dog’s gut health and contribute to tear staining. Diets lacking in essential nutrients or high in fillers and artificial ingredients can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome. In addition, fillers and artificial ingredients can cause inflammation in the gut.  Providing a nutrient-rich diet that is easy to digest helps maintain a healthy gut and reduces inflammation, potentially minimising tear staining.

Addressing Tear Staining Through Gut Health

To tackle tear staining effectively, a holistic approach focusing on gut health is essential. 

Here are some strategies:

Probiotics and Prebiotics: Incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into a dog’s diet may help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics nourish these bacteria, promoting a healthy gut ecosystem.

Elimination Diet: Conducting an elimination diet can identify potential food sensitivities that may be contributing to tear staining. Gradually removing and reintroducing specific food items can help to pinpoint those which are problematic.

Quality Nutrition: Feeding a fresh food diet rich in essential nutrients supports overall health and reduces the likelihood of gut-related issues. Offer your dog a diet free from artificial additives, preservatives, fillers, and common sensitivities.

Whilst tear staining in dogs can be a cosmetic concern, it often signals underlying health issues, particularly in your dog’s gut. The bottom line?  More often than not, if you’re struggling to get a handle on your dog’s tear stains, there is something funky going on with their immune system. As 80% of the immune system is in the gut, that is exactly where you need to start.  Prioritising gut health through a fresh, nutrient-dense diet, the addition of prebiotic foods and probiotics and gut supportive ingredients can support a healthy gut microbiome and support healthy immune responses in the body.  

- Cam, The Dog Nutritionist  

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