Best Dog Food for Tear Stains

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dog tear stains

Your dog may be cute and fluffy, but tear stains can easily frustrate you and drive both you and your dog crazy. These protein deposits aren’t just ugly to look at — they could be a sign of larger health issues.

But, is there a diet that can help treat and avoid them? Luckily, we have some of the best dog food for tear stains options on this list. 

Our favorite pick is ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet Beef dry dog food

This limited ingredient diet avoids common allergens that can cause tear stains. And it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients that can aid in a healthier dog overall. 

But that isn’t the only option on our list. We have a puppy-friendly formula and wet food option, too — just to name a few! Here are the best dog foods for tear stains. 

Our Best Dog Food for Tear Stains

10 Best Dog Food for Tear Stains Reviewed 

The formulas on this list meet the AAFCO’s nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your dog to new dog food, please consult with your veterinarian.

Best for Adults

ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet Beef & Pumpkin Dry Dog Food

ACANA Singles Beef Pumpkin Grain Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Beef, Beef Meal, Beef Liver, Sweet Potato, Whole Chickpeas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 31% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 371 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein dog food with limited ingredients for sensitive stomachs

For many dogs with tear stains, their diet is to blame. Inflammation-causing ingredients like chicken, wheat, and corn can cause allergic reactions like extra protein secretion. This is a common cause of tear stains. 

If your dog has been clear of all other medical issues that could cause this problem, the next step is to switch their dog food formula. Luckily, ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet is a great first choice. 

Its real animal protein — deboned beef and beef liver — comes from a curated group of farmers and ranchers in the US. It offers high-quality protein and nutrients like taurine and l-carnitine for heart health and a muscle boost. 

Sweet potatoes, whole chickpeas, and lentils offer a grain-free source of complex carbohydrates. These provide fiber and vitamins like vitamin A for eye health. And pollock oil, vitamin E, and beef tripe add a boost of essential amino acids for supple and flexible joints. 

Whole pumpkin aids in digestion and is a perfect way to keep your dog regular and happy. 

This high-quality dog food is free of peas, corn, and plant-protein isolates. It also doesn’t include any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. 

Dog parents are so happy to find a dog food formula that doesn’t make their canines sick. And, many note a significant difference in their skin, coat health, and even eyes.

Best for Puppies

Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Holistic Select Adult Puppy Grain-Free Salmon
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Anchovy and Sardine Meal, Potatoes, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 29% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 5.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 448 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Chicken-free and grain-free dog food with probiotics for gut support 

For many puppies, tear stains are common. However, if your young dog has allergies or problems with certain proteins, it’s helpful to choose a food that will help keep excess fluid — and discoloration — away. 

Holistic Select Natural Grain-Free dry dog food is a perfect choice. It’s chicken and beef-free and doesn’t include any grains. These are usually the biggest culprits for allergies and tear stains, so it’s great to see food without any of them. 

Another perk to this formula is it’s safe for both puppies and adult dogs. So if it works for your dog, you can feed them this food for years. 

It starts with deboned salmon and anchovy and sardine meals. These novel proteins are safe for most dogs. And they contain DHA for cognitive function and fatty acids for joint growth and support. 

Your pup will get their complex carbs sfrom potatoes and peas. These high-fiber vegetables also have prebiotic fiber for sensitive stomachs. And, the food contains probiotics for extra digestive support. 

Puppy parents love that this food contains over 8 different live probiotics. Many note that they noticed an immediate difference in their dog’s energy levels, digestion, and more.

Best for Seniors

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Senior Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Turkey
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Potatoes, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 18% Crude Protein, 10% Crude Fat, 7% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 348 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Limited ingredient dog food with antioxidants and DHA for seniors 

Even though their not puppies anymore, senior dogs still need plenty of support, love, and a good diet to help them live their best golden years. 

If you’ve noticed that your senior furry friend has started getting more “eye boogers” or tear stains, it may or may not be allergy-related. It could be that their body is trying to keep up with the extra protein and getting rid of the extra wherever it can. 

If that’s the case, switch to a lower calorie and fat food, and get a limited ingredient diet to avoid potential intolerances. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Senior dry dog food is a great option. 

With just 12 ingredients, it is still packed full of protein and fiber, but in a lower calorie and fat diet to keep your older dog feeling perky and healthy. 

It starts with real deboned turkey. It’s packed full of chondroitin and glucosamine, which can aid joint health and mobility. And Blue Buffalo supplements taurine, perfect for a healthy and strong heart.  

This is another grain-free formula, which can be great for more sensitive dogs. Instead, pureed pumpkin and potatoes have plenty of complex carbs and natural prebiotics for digestive and metabolism support. 

This formula is free from chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, and eggs. It does include chelated vitamins and probiotics for a boost to your dog’s immune system and digestive system. 

Senior dog owners say their dogs love Blue Buffalo, even when they’re picky around other formulas. And they note that it doesn’t cause any allergic reactions or skin issues.

Best for Small Breeds

Zignature Lamb Formula Small Bites Dry Dog Food

Zignature Lamb Formula Small Bites
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Pea Flour
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 393 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-protein dry dog food with novel proteins and compact kibble for small breeds

Some small breeds are prone to tear stains, especially when they’re white dogs with fluffy fur. Think about how common Maltese tear stains are! 

This isn’t because of their color. But, their genetic disposition, and their fur color, make tear stains easier to notice. If your pup is in that boat, switch to Zignatue Lamb Small Bites dry dog food. 

This limited ingredient kibble is completely free of potatoes, grains, corn, soy, eggs, and chicken. Instead, it features real lamb as the first ingredient. This provides the same high-quality protein with a smaller chance of causing an allergic reaction.

Chickpeas and dehydrated alfalfa meal are nutrient-rich carbohydrates. They include plenty of fiber for your dog’s digestive system and offer vitamin C and selenium for brain health and immune system support. 

Sunflower oil and flaxseeds provide healthy omega fatty acids. These keep your small pup’s joints healthy and flexible and aid in heart health. 

Since this formula is free of grains and chicken, it’s a great hypoallergenic option to help prevent tear stains. And, the smaller kibble size is specially designed for smaller dogs.

Pet parents are happy with the bite-sized kibble. Even those with small dogs without teeth say it’s easy for their dogs to eat.

Best for Large Breeds

Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Large Breed Lamb & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

Nutro LID Grain-Free Adult Large Breed Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Lamb Meal, Chickpeas, Dried Potatoes, Dried Sweet Potato
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 20% Crude Protein, 13% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 475 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Non-GMO and limited ingredient dry dog food with antioxidants for immune support in large dogs

Does your dog have food related tear stains or allergies? These include chicken, beef, and wheat. If so, a limited ingredient diet without grains can be helpful.

For larger pups, Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Large Breed formula provides the extra nutrients they need, with the perfect kibble size. 

This formula starts with real deboned lamb and lamb meal. These provide a healthy dose of amino acids to support your dog’s bigger joints and aid in cartilage health to keep their muscles strong. And lamb is full of iron and zinc for energy and metabolism support. Plus, it’s perfect for sensitive pups. 

This recipe only contains 8 other ingredients. Instead of grains, chickpeas and sweet potatoes provide soluble fiber and prebiotics for healthier digestion. And they contain nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants for immune support. 

Sunflower oil and vitamin E are perfect additions and contain essential fatty acids for healthy brain function. And vitamin E can support healthy skin and a shiny coat. And, they can help prevent dog tear stains. 

This formula is made with non-GMO ingredients. It doesn’t include any artificial additives like colors, flavors, or preservatives.

Large breed owners love that this is a chicken-free and grain-free option for sensitive dogs. And, many notice a difference in their dogs’ energy levels while seeing a reduction in allergy symptoms.

Best Wet Food

Ziwi Peak Mackerel & Lamb Recipe Canned Dog Food

Ziwi Peak Mackerel Lamb Canned
  • First 5 Ingredients: Mackerel, Lamb, Lamb Lung, Chickpeas, Lamb Tripe
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 10.5% Crude Protein, 4% Crude Fat, 2% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 468 kcal/can
  • Key Feature: High-protein wet dog food with whole-prey ingredients for total body support

Some dogs just prefer wet food. If your dog is in that boat, but you want to give them food that fits their needs and prevent tear stains, choose a limited ingredient diet. Also, make sure it’s free of proteins that can cause allergy symptoms like tear stains. 

Ziwi Peak Mackerel & Lamb Recipe canned food is a simple solution for dogs that need wet food and allergen-free ingredients. 

It follows a whole-prey and nutrient-dense diet by using deboned meat, organs, and bone.

This formula starts with whole mackerel, deboned lamb, and New Zealand green-lipped mussels. All of the proteins are free-range or wild-caught. And they provide a natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine for healthy joints. 

The only other natural ingredients besides the animal proteins are chickpeas and dried kelp. These provide gentle fiber for regular digestion and antioxidants to boost your dog’s immune system. 

The can that this food is in is free of TSPP and BPA, and the canning process is gentle and slow to avoid degradation of ingredients. This recipe is made without potatoes, soy, or other fillers like wheat and corn. 

Dog moms and dads say this food makes it easy to feed their dogs their medications. Many also note that even the pickiest pups gobble this food up.

Best Budget Food

CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 Ingredients: Bison, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Lentils
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27.5% Crude Protein, 13% Crude Fat, 5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 445 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: Grain-free dog food with novel proteins and probiotics for dog owners on a budget

It can seem difficult to find a limited ingredient diet full of high-quality ingredients on a budget. If you’re looking to avoid common allergens but don’t want to break the bank, try out CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient dog food. 

This formula is perfect for dogs with sensitivities. It only includes 10 ingredients, not including probiotics and chelated vitamins. 

It starts with a novel protein that’s fairly rare in dog food — real deboned bison. And it also has lamb meal for added protein. These animal ingredients contain chondroitin and l-carnitine for muscle support and growth and B vitamins for energy. 

Sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots are grain-free additions for healthy carbohydrates. They provide prebiotic fiber to keep your pup regular. And they also have vitamin A and beta-carotene for eye health and support — like keeping your dog tear-free. 

CANIDAE fortifies its formula with its “HealthPLUS” probiotic and vitamin blend. It’s also packed with antioxidants for immune support, digestion, and cognitive function. 

This formula is free of corn, wheat, soy, and chicken. It doesn’t include any artificial preservatives or artificial flavors. 

Canine owners say this food is perfect for sensitive dogs with tummies that can’t handle certain ingredients. 

Best Premium Food

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach Skin Grain Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Yellow Peas, Potatoes, Potato Starch, Chicken Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 20.5% Crude Protein, 13% Crude Fat, 4% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 405 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: Grain-free dry dog food with prebiotic fiber and beta-carotene for eye health

If your dog can handle chicken, but can’t deal with grains, a grain-free formula like Hill’s Science Sensitive Stomach dry dog food can be a great premium option. 

It has prebiotic fiber for easier digestion, and added beta-carotene for eye health and support. These nutrients can help ease your dog’s allergy symptoms like tear stains. 

Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient. It offers glucosamine and chondroitin for mobility and joint support. And chicken meal and chicken fat provide high-quality protein, too, as well as omega fatty acids for cognitive health. 

Just like other grain-free recipes, this formula offers complex carbohydrates in place of wheat.  Yellow peas and potatoes are easy to digest and contain prebiotic fiber for digestive health. 

Apples and cranberries not only add flavor to entice your dog to eat, but they also have antioxidants to boost your dog’s immune system. And carrots and green peas provide more vitamin C and vitamin A for eye support. 

Pet owners admit that this food is gentle and supports healthy skin, a shiny coat, and eye health.

Best Grain-Free Food

American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

American Journey Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 6% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 327 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and high-protein dog food with limited ingredients for sensitive dogs 

While there are many grain-free options on this list for dogs with tear stains, one of our favorites is American Journey. This formula is affordable, has the same essential nutrients your dog needs, and starts with real animal proteins. 

It starts with a single animal protein source — real deboned salmon and salmon meal. These provide a higher protein formula, perfect for maintaining lean muscles. Plus, salmon is a novel protein — great for dogs that may be allergic to other options like beef or chicken. 

Fish oil, canola oil, and flaxseeds supply essential amino acids to keep a healthy coat and give them itch-free skin. And, because they’re anti-inflammatory, they may also help decrease tear stains. 

Peas, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes help keep this formula grain-free. But they provide plenty of prebiotic fiber and nutrients like vitamin A and selenium for digestion and metabolism support. 

This formula is free of corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meals. And it doesn’t include any artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.  

Pet parents love that this food contains real salmon and doesn’t cause allergic reactions. But some do admit that their picky eaters tend to fuss about it. However, many note that they gobble it up when they add a topper or some broth. 

Best Fresh Food

Ollie Lamb Dog Food

Ollie Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Butternut Squash, Lamb Liver, Kale, Rice
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 10% Crude Protein, 7% Crude Fat, 2% Crude Fiber, 74% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 225 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: Human-grade dog food with novel proteins and gentle grains for delicate stomachs 
Get 50% OFF your first Ollie order!

Want to make sure your dog only eats wholesome and nutritious food? And, want to avoid ingredients that can cause a spike in food sensitivities or your dog’s tear stains? Why not try a fresh and human-grade dog food like Ollie. 

This minimally processed dog food is shipped directly to your door. And it’s made with high-quality and natural ingredients that focus on your dog’s overall health. 

Getting started with Ollie is easy. First, you’ll take their 5-minute online quiz. They will ask questions about your dog’s height, weight, activity level, and potential food allergies. Then, they’ll calculate a balanced diet for your pup. 

They offer four dog food recipes — lamb, beef, chicken, and turkey. The lamb is most likely the best option for sensitive dogs who need novel proteins. It contains deboned lamb and lamb liver as the only protein sources. 

Each shipment of Ollie food comes with a feeding guide, storage container, and scoop for balanced nutrition. And, you can choose your delivery schedule. 

Dog owners agree this is the easiest customizable food. And many love that they can switch out options for their pooches as needed. 

dog with tear stains

Our Guide to Buying the Best Dog Food for Tear Stains

When you’re ready to buy new dog food, you’re most likely looking for one that helps dogs with tear stains. Here’s what to look for. 

What causes tear stains in dogs?

A chemical called porphyrin causes tear stains. The stains happen when the porphyrin is in tears and saliva. When a dog sheds excessive tears or has protruding eyes or food allergies, this can cause the porphyrin to stain their coat and skin. 

There are a few dog breeds that are more likely to have tear stains. Malteses, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, and Pugs are prone to tear stains and should have their faces cleaned regularly.

And, white dogs (no matter the breed) show tear stains on their coats easier than other colors. 

Ingredients That Can Cause Tear Stains

There are a few ingredients that can cause excessive tearing in dogs. Usually, these components are allergens that dogs can’t eat anyway.

Since tear stains can be caused as a symptom of allergies or intolerances, or by a poor diet, it’s important to know what your dog can and can’t have. 

A few ingredients that can cause tear stains are chicken, beef, and grains like wheat. Corn, soy, and artificial preservatives and colors can negatively affect dogs and cause tear stains. 

What to Look for When Buying Dog Food for Tear Stains 

Preventing tear stains may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If your’ dog’s tear stains aren’t caused by a major health issue, it’s time to switch dog food brands and get a new option. 

Limited Ingredient Diet 

First, a limited ingredient diet can be helpful at preventing your dog’s tear stains.

Since it usually includes a novel protein and is grain-free (or gluten-free), it’s less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Thus, tear stains may be minimized. 


A grain-free diet will be beneficial if your dog doesn’t have any protein issues but can’t have grains. There are many options on this list, but just about any grain-free recipe can work. 


Along with a grain-free or limited ingredient diet, antioxidants can help keep tear stains at bay. This is because antioxidants boost the immune system

This, in turn, helps your dog fight off reactions and minor sickness. When their immune system is robust, they’re less likely to have symptoms like tear stains. 

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega fatty acids are another great way to help your dog avoid tear stains with their diet. These acids help fight inflammation in the body and can help boost the immune system.

While they aren’t a cure for tear stains, they can keep your dog healthy. 

How to Reduce Tear Stains

There are other ways to reduce and treat tear stains on your dog as well. Let’s talk about them! 

Regular Cleaning

By keeping your dog’s eyes cleaned, you can remove tear stains and prevent future stains. But, it is super important to clean their eyes the right way. 

Only use a water-moistened washcloth or sponge. And, be sure to wipe the area around the eye gently. Your pup’s eyes are sensitive, so don’t use wash wipes with chemicals or ingredients that can burn or harm them. Water should work just fine. 

You can also offer your dog antibiotics if your vet prescribes it to keep the eyes clean. But washing with a rag is effective and wallet-friendly. 

Check For Environmental Irritants

Does your dog have allergies to outside irritants, like leaves or grass? Or, are they allergic to dust and dander? Or maybe you clean the home with heavy chemical mixtures, which can also cause harm to a more sensitive case. 

If this is the case, try to avoid these irritants when you can. Invest in an air purifier to remove items like dust in your home. And, talk to your vet about giving your dog an allergy pill to help them when they’re outside. 

Regular Vet Visits

While allergies are a common cause for tear stains, they aren’t the only reason. Your dog could be suffering from glaucoma, conjunctivitis, or even an eye injury that you may not see right away. 

This is why it’s crucial to have regular vet visits. And, if you suspect something is wrong with your pup, don’t be afraid to take them to the emergency vet. These visits can rule out potential health problems and, in extreme cases, save your dog’s eyes. 

Our Verdict

If your dog’s tear stains aren’t a cause of other health problems, you’ll most likely be ready to change their diet. And when that time comes, we have a list of the best options for you. 

Our number one choice is ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet Beef dry dog food

It contains all of the “good” ingredients and nutrients that your pup needs, without anything they don’t. 

But of course, all of the options on our list can be swaps as well. The key is to find the best dog food that that can prevent tear stains in your pup. 


Want to know more about tear stains and if your dog’s food is the cause? Here are the answers to your common questions! 

Does grain in dog food cause tear stains?

They can if your dog is allergic to them. While most dogs can handle grains and don’t have any symptoms, some cant and will develop tear stains. 

If your dog has tear stains but is cleared by a vet, try eliminating grains in their diet to see if they clear up. 

Do puppies grow out of tear stains?

Sometimes, but not always. Some dogs are prone to develop tear stains, like Shih Tzus and Bichon Frises. So they will most likely deal with them for their entire life. 

Are tear stains bad for my dog?

Usually, tear stains are harmless, but they can signify a more significant health issue. They are often the symptoms of problems like allergies, an eye infection, dermatitis, or even conjunctivitis. 

If your dog has tear stains, and they’re getting worse, check-in with your vet. 

Can diet cause tear stains in dogs?

Yes, diet can cause tear stains. If your dog is allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients, one of the symptoms they could show is tear stains. 

What ingredient in dog food causes tear stains?

No one ingredient causes tear stains in every single dog. But, common ingredients include chicken, beef, and grains. Since some dogs are allergic to these components, they may have allergic reactions, like tears, because of them. 

Does chicken cause tear stains in dogs? 

Possibly. Animal proteins like chicken and beef are among the most common allergens in dogs. And tear stains are usually an allergen reaction. However, not all dogs are allergic to chicken. It may be worth it to eliminate it from their diet if yours is.

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Kim Studdard is a freelance writer for many websites in the pet universe. When she isn't spending time with her family and pets, or saying "Look a dog" everytime she sees one, you'll find her reading a book or traveling the U.S.

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