Watery Eyes in Poodles: Possible Causes and How to fix it


When you’re a dog owner, there are many things that you need to keep in mind. Of course, your dog’s health is always of the utmost importance. This is why you should pay attention to any issues that go on with your dog, such as watery eyes in a poodle.

So, how can you take care of your poodle’s watery eyes? Watery eyes can be caused by hereditary conditions, such as shallow eye sockets, small tear duct openings, or glaucoma.  Infections, poor diet, or allergies can also lead to watery eyes. Addressing the problem might include changing your dog’s diet, trimming the hair around the eyes, or using a pet-safe cleaning product.   

If you want to address the issue of watery eyes in your poodle, you should first know the possible causes of the problem, as well as why you should pay attention to it. This will determine how you take care of your poodle’s eyes.

Causes of Watery Eyes and Tear Stains in Poodles

It’s not a bad thing that your dog’s eyes are able to produce tears. The tears are useful. When anything gets into your dog’s eyes, tears are generated in order to flush away unnecessary or harmful substances. However, this can become a problem if the eyes are continuously irritated.

In the eyes of a healthy dog, there are tiny holes that will help drain the tears out of the eye and down the throat. However, there are many eye problems that can exist to interfere with this drainage. In these cases, the tears go the other way, staining your dog’s face.

When the hairs around your dog’s eyes remain moist, discoloration will occur. This is because of the saline and pigments within the tears, as well as chemical reactions with your dog’s fur. The tears also contain elements, such as magnesium and iron, which oxidize when they make contact with the air.

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Watery eyes in Poodles

Before there are tear stains, there are generally excessive tears. There are a few specific conditions that can cause this to happen.

  • Shallow eye sockets – the eye sockets simply aren’t deep enough to hold a large number of tears, so they spill onto the face.
  • Hair that grows too close to your dog’s eyes – it can move tears away from the eye sockets and onto the dog’s face.
  • Blocked tear drainage ducts, also known as puncta – this can be caused by previous eye infections or eye damage that has led to scar tissue that impedes drainage passages for your dog’s tears.
  • Inverted eyelids, or entropion – this condition causes eyelashes to rub against the eyeball, causing irritation and damage. It can also lead to blockage of tear drainage passages.
  • Glaucoma – this causes damage to the optic nerve and fluid buildup in the eye.
  • Conjunctivitis or eye infections – these can be caused by irritants.  Conjunctivitis is an inflammation in the lining of the eye, which leads to discharge.
  • Small tear duct openings or large tear glands – if your dog has abnormalities in eye construction, this can lead to excessive tearing.
  • Lifestyle – poor diet and stress can affect excessive tearing.
  • Allergies – your dog’s eyes can respond to irritants by producing an excessive amount of tears.
  • Other conditions – the tearing can be a symptom of another condition. For example, teething puppies tend to have more tears. Ear infection in one ear can also cause the eye on the same side of the head to produce excessive tears.

Your Poodle’s watery eyes could be one, or a combination of any of the above factors. If you see excessive tearing in your dog, don’t try to figure out the cause yourself. Consult your veterinarian, and he or she will be able to tell you what the likely cause is and how you should proceed.

How Can You Recognize Tear Stains in Poodles?

If you don’t know what a tear stain would look like on a poodle or another dog, you might not be able to recognize whether or not your dog has them. If your dog has them, you will see a reddish or brownish tint around or under his eyes.

Often, tear stains will spread out and become bigger with time, especially if you do nothing to take care of them. Sometimes, they can start out very small and end up covering a large portion of your dog’s face.

In addition to the discolorations, the hairs in that area might feel brittle and difficult for you to comb. This is because of the residue that builds up from the dried tears and associated pigments.

Why Are Watery Eyes a Problem in Poodles?

Watery eyes are a problem because they can lead to tearing stains. The pigments in their tears can easily cause tear stains on light-colored hair. Since poodles are often white, tear stains are commonly visible in this breed of dog. However, this doesn’t mean the dogs with dark fur are any less susceptible; the tear stains are just less visible on them. This is why you should pay attention to signs of tear stains on any dog.

What Causes Tear Stains in Poodles?

Tear stains usually appear as reddish or brown marks on the fur underneath your dog’s eyes. The cause of these stains is typically epiphora or excessive tear production. Epiphora can be caused by a variety of different factors, and the condition can be either acute or chronic.

You might wonder why tears can even create stains. After all, tears should be just like clear water, right? Actually, tears contain a reddish pigment called porphyrin. When your dog produces excessive tears or isn’t able to drain the tears properly, this pigment will build up under his eyes. This can explain red tear stains under your dog’s eyes.

If the tear stains are darker or brown, this could be due to a yeast infection that builds up under your dog’s eyes because of the constant moisture in the area.

Are There Other Dog Breeds That Tend to Have Tear Stains?

Certain breeds are more susceptible to tearing. The Shih-Tzu, Maltese, Pug, and Pekingese are some of the breeds that are prone to this problem since they are short-nosed, or brachycephalic, dog breeds and are more likely to have shallow eye sockets.

The shallow eye sockets of brachycephalic dogs also cause the eyes to bulge out. In some dogs, this is true to the point where the dog can’t fully close his eyes. In addition to the excessive tears that result from the shallow eye sockets alone, then, is exposure to all sorts of irritants and dryness because the dog can’t close his eyes properly.

Cocker spaniels and poodles are likely to have blocked tear ducts, which is the reason why they tend to have this problem. Also, the hypoallergenic hair of poodles is very prone to picking up and holding onto external colorants, such as porphyrin.

Toy and miniature poodles are more likely to have tear stains and watery eyes. Larger standard poodles generally won’t have these issues, as they tend to be more of a problem with smaller breeds. In some cases, the excessive tearing will increase in the summer, most likely due to some sort of environmental allergy.

Why Are Tear Stains Such a Problem?

You might wonder why this is even a problem. If you’re not planning on entering your dog in any shows anytime soon, this is just a cosmetic issue anyway, right? The truth is that it’s not just a cosmetic issue. It can lead to discoloration of your dog’s coat, as well as skin irritation.

Skin irritation can be particularly problematic, especially if your dog starts scratching the area. Your dog can end up accidentally scratching himself in the eye, and irritated skin is also more likely to become inflamed and infected. As we already mentioned, yeast infections are another possibility that you want to try to avoid.

In the stained hairs around the eyes, bacteria and fungi can grow and thrive. This can lead to different types of infections over time, which can become serious, especially if they are left untreated.

How to Take Care of Your Poodle’s Watery Eyes

In order to take care of your poodle’s watery eyes, you will need to figure out the underlying cause and treat the issues themselves. If you just try to treat the stains, you may not experience permanent results, and you might also be ignoring a significant health issue that your dog has.  Since there are many underlying causes for this condition, numerous treatments exist.

Address Underlying Causes of Watery Eyes

Of course, if you can take care of the underlying cause leading to excessive tearing, that’s what you should do.

Eye Issues

You can start by figuring out if your dog has any health or anatomical issues that are causing excessive tearing. For example, you can check to see if your dog has blocked tear ducts, any abnormalities in the eyelashes or eyelids, or any ear infections. Of course, you won’t be able to figure this out on your own; you will need to go to a veterinarian and have them examine your dog.

Treating Allergies and Related Health Problems

There are some situations where you can help minimize tearing in your poodle:

  • If the tearing is caused by irritation, you might be able to eliminate the source of irritation. For instance, if your dog has glaucoma or some sort of eye infection, you can make sure that that is treated.
  • If it’s allergies, you can remove the source of allergens. You can also make sure to keep the hair near your dog’s eyes as short as possible.

Many different types of allergies can lead to excessive tearing. Your vet can test for these allergies, and in some cases, allergy medicine can be helpful. Other ideas you can try to help curb allergies include:

  • Altering the environment in your home.
  • You can purify the air with a HEPA filter and make sure to vacuum your house with a HEPA vacuum since it’ll pick up allergen particles that could be irritating your dog.
  • You can have everyone in your home take off their shoes when they come in, and wash off your poodle’s paws every time he comes back in from outside.

Food Allergies

Another major source of allergens for dogs is their food. As a result, it would also be a good idea, with your vet’s recommendation, to switch to dog food that is grain-free and all-natural. Food that is high in grain content and chemical additives can be very aggravating to dogs who have allergies, and in some cases, it can cause or exacerbate excessive tearing problems. 

Another suggestion that works in some cases is adding apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food, although it’s important to get your vet’s input as to whether this is okay and how much you should add if it is.

This is theorized to work because it will make your poodle’s tears more acidic so that they don’t provide a suitable environment for fungi and bacteria to grow.

TIP: Using stainless steel bowls for food and water will slow down the growth of fungi and bacteria.

However, it might be a good idea to talk to your vet before making significant changes to your pet’s diet. Switching to a grain-free diet might be a good option, but it could also exacerbate certain heart conditions. This is not something that you should do without first making sure that it is the best thing for your dog’s health.

As long as you have your vet’s approval, you can also try giving your poodle some food supplements, such as probiotics. If you’re going to be giving your dog probiotics, this can generally be done two or three times weekly. This will give your dog some good bacteria, which will create a bad environment for harmful bacteria and fungi and allow him to absorb his nutrients more efficiently as well.

Tap Water and Allergies

It might also help to stop giving your poodle unfiltered tap water, especially if your water has high mineral content.  If you also notice stains around your pooch’s mouth, this will be something to investigate. 

Another way of thinking about it is this:  if you don’t drink your tap water, don’t let your poodle drink it either.  Fluoride, for example, is toxic to dogs if taken in large amounts (one reason to avoid fluoride toothpaste).  There isn’t enough fluoride in tap water for it to be toxic. However, dogs that are sensitive to fluoride should drink distilled or bottled water.

TIP: If you want to make sure that your poodle is drinking safe and clean water, you can use a water filter or just give him spring water.

Sometimes, all these measures don’t work to reduce allergic reactions. If this is the case for your dog, consult with your veterinarian to explore other options. Your vet may be able to recommend different types of dog food or prescribe an antihistamine for your dog.

Surgery in the Worst-Case Scenario

In severe cases, there are also surgical options that you can consider. However, this can only apply to certain eyelid and eyelash issues. These surgical options can, in some cases, restore normal tear drainage in your dog’s eyes, so that he doesn’t have tear stains on his face.

Managing Tear Stains

However, it’s not always possible to stop the excessive tearing itself. For example, if your dog has shallow eye sockets, there’s no way to stop the excessive discharging. In this case, the goal would be to manage the tear stains themselves.

It’s important that in the short and long term, you prevent tear droplets from staying on your dog’s face for too long. A little bit of natural tearing is normal, but you shouldn’t let large amounts of tears remain around your dog’s eyes long enough to become absorbed into the hairs.

The substances in your dog’s tears can have adverse reactions to his skin. These substances in your dog’s tears include:

  • immunoglobulins
  • glucose
  • lipids
  • lactoferrin
  • lysozyme
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • urea

You will want to wipe the area around your poodle’s eyes on a regular basis. You should do this two or three times a day as long as the problem persists.

How to Minimize or Eliminate Tears stains on Your Poodle

There are a few ways in which you can minimize the tear stains:

  1. Use tear stain remover wipes made specifically for this purpose. The wipes are the best choice for a dog who has mild to moderate tear stains and are very easy to use. However, for more severe tear stains that might even involve yeast infections, you may need to use tear stain remover liquids and powders.

2. You should trim the hairs around your poodle’s eyes to minimize staining.  No dog is going to want to have you stick a pair of scissors near their eyes, so your dog needs to be relaxed and tired. 

Here are six simple tips for trimming near your Poodle’s eyes:

  • Find someone to help you
  • Use scissors intended for cutting hair
  • Have treats handy
  • Angle the scissors so the tips are pointing away from the eyes
  • The center of the scissors should go over the area you are trimming
  • Stay relaxed and give treats as necessary

This video can show you what the process looks like:

Keep in mind that if there is a lot of hair buildup around the eyes, not only can the tearing get worse, but it can increase the risk for eye infections as well. If the hair holds onto the tears, this area can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

3. You can also clean your dog’s fur around the eyes using colloidal silver, which is generally safe in this area. Chamomile tea or a physiological saline solution can also be a good option.

4. Alternatively, you can mix a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, using one part hydrogen peroxide for ten parts of water. Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent bactericide and has bleaching power, which can effectively remove the appearance of tear stains. When you use it, you’ll see a mild foam in the area, which will indicate that the hydrogen peroxide is doing its job.

5. One product that has shown to be very effective against tear stains in dogs is rosehip seed oil. This is expensive, but it works very well. What you should do is put a couple of drops onto a sterile piece of cloth or gauze and gently rub it over the tear stains. Then, use another piece of gauze for the other eye. You can repeat this process for several days until you see that the stains are starting to improve.

Rosehip seed oil (Link to Amazon) is a strong bactericide and can make the tear stains go away with consistent use. It can also be helpful when you apply it to scratches and bites on other areas of your dog’s skin. If the stains are very deep or severe, you can use the hydrogen peroxide for a few days and then start treating it with rosehip seed oil after that.

When you’re dabbing around your dog’s eyes with the liquid that you have chosen, make sure that you don’t get the solution in your dog’s eyes. This could be very painful and potentially cause damage.

Also, be sure that you remove any sticky hair, eyelashes, or clumps that may be stuck in your poodle’s eyes. Use gauze or cloth, not cotton buds or cotton swabs; it’s much easier to get pieces of cotton into your dog’s eye or even leave little strands in your dog’s eye, which could cause irritation and damage.

With any product that you’re using topically on your dog, make sure that your vet says it’s okay first. Your vet may also recommend a medication, such as tetracycline; this won’t stop the excessive tearing, but it will likely stop the tears from creating stains on your dog’s face.

You can wipe beneath your dog’s eyes with a soft towel or handkerchief a few times a day. You will probably not see reductions in tear stains right away; in fact, it will probably take a few weeks. However, if you do this on a regular basis, there is a good chance that it will help.

What Other Measures Should You Take for Your Dog’s Eye Problems?

Another thing that you should do is to check your dog’s eyes every day. Tears are a common problem, but there are other issues that can arise in a poodle’s eyes as well. You should regularly check the conjunctiva or the white part of his eye.

  • Make sure that it is white, rather than pink or yellow. Watch out for cherry eye.  This is a common issue in many breeds of dog, and it’s a redness of the membrane in the corner of your dog’s eyes.
  • Your poodle’s eyes should be bright and clear, rather than foggy or cloudy at all.
  • If you are looking at the tears themselves, you should make sure that they are nothing but clear fluid. You don’t want to see any yellow or green discharges. Of course, if you let the tear stains stay on your dog’s face, they can easily solidify into brown, hard residue. Ideally, you will be cleaning your dog’s face often enough so that it doesn’t get to this point.

What Not to Do to Your Dog’s Tear Stains

There are many possible things that can help your dog’s watery eyes and tear stains. However, there are things that you should definitely not try.

With any product that you are going to use on your dog, make sure that it is safe first. You might want to talk to your veterinarian. There are certain products that can cause harm to your dog, such as:

  • Topical vinegar
  • Non-dulled Hydrogen peroxide
  • Make-up remover

do not use these on your dog in any situation.

Final Thoughts

If you have a dog, it’s very likely that you see him as a member of your family. As such, you probably don’t want him to suffer or deal with any unnecessary discomfort. This is why it’s a good idea to figure out how to take care of your poodle’s watery eyes when it becomes a problem.

Even though you might think that the tear stains are not a big deal, since your dog doesn’t care how he looks, the truth is that they can cause him a significant amount of discomfort.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. It really depends on what is causing the excessive tearing in the first place. Once you find this out, you can find out exactly how to attack the problem.

In some cases, you won’t be able to stop the excessive tearing and will have to manage the tear stains instead. If you are  stumped as to how to deal with this problem, or if none of the above suggestions have worked, you can consult your veterinarian for further advice.

Poodles and other dogs can be extremely intelligent, but the one thing they can’t do is tell you when they are dealing with consistent discomfort. This is why, as a pet owner, you need to use the resources at your disposal to be able to figure out what is going on with your dog and address his needs as they come up. This way, you will be able to give your beloved dog the happiest and healthiest life possible.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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