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
- ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diet Beef & Pumpkin Dry Dog Food (Best Overall)
- CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Food)
- Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Premium Food)
- Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Puppies)
- Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Senior Dry Dog Food (Best for Seniors)
- Zignature Lamb Formula Small Bites Dry Dog Food (Best for Small Breeds)
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Large Breed Lamb Dry Dog Food (Best for Large Breeds)
- Ziwi Peak Mackerel & Lamb Recipe Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Food)
- American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Grain-Free Food)
- Ollie Lamb Dog Food (Best Fresh Food)
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.
- 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
- Diet: Natural, Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain-Free, Chicken-Free, Pea-Free, Sensitive Digestion, High-Protein, Gluten-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Key Feature: High-protein dog food with limited ingredients for sensitive stomachs
Acana avoids inflammation-causing ingredients like chicken, wheat, and corn. Because tear stains are extra protein secretion caused by allergic reactions, this recipe makes it easy to avoid these components.
But it’s still high in protein, boasting 31% Crude Protein for dogs that need plenty of energy.
And with 17% fat — from sources like beef liver and pollock oil — this food also fights inflammation with omega fatty acids. Pollock oil also contains DHA, which can boost cognitive function.
Pumpkin and dried kelp provide micronutrients like vitamins A, C, and E. These aid a healthy immune system and help prevent tear stains by focusing on inner eye health.
Dog owners praise the food for being yummy and say their dog loves to eat during meal time. But some note that it does make their pup gassy from time to time.
High-protein for muscle maintenance
Chicken-free to avoid allergic reactions
Beef is a common allergy
High-calorie can cause weight gain
- 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
- Diet: Sensitive Digestion, Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Gluten-Free, Chicken-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Key Feature: Grain-free dog food with novel proteins and probiotics for dog owners on a budget
This formula is an excellent choice for dogs that need to avoid both beef and chicken. It starts with deboned bison and a high-quality lamb meal.
It’s lower on healthy fats, containing 13% fat, so it’s a decent option for dogs who need to maintain a healthy weight. But it still holds 27.5% protein and has 445 kcal/cup, so it’s highly nutritious.
As with the other foods on this list, this recipe is high in omega fatty acids and DHA. These have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties, which can keep tear stains at bay. And DHA also boosts eye development.
This food is grain-free and also free of corn, soy, and other fillers. So it’s great for dogs that are allergic to multiple ingredients.
Dog moms and dads love that this food is free of ingredients that cause allergic reactions in their dogs’. But those with smaller dogs say their kibble size is large, so it’s not great for tiny breeds.
Free of poultry and beef (common allergens)
Lower in fat for overweight dogs
Large kibble size
- 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
- Diet: Sensitive Digestion, Grain-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Key Feature: Grain-free dry dog food with prebiotic fiber and beta-carotene for eye health
For many dogs with tear stains, too much protein and food allergies are to blame. If this is the case for your dog, you’ll want a formula that focuses on skin health and contains lower protein.
This recipe only contains 20.5% protein, which can be a terrific option for dogs that need eye or gut support.
Even though it’s lower in fat, it contains more omega-3 fatty acids — a whopping 3% out of the 13% fat content. This is great for anti-inflammatory properties and boosts eye function.
This formula has apples, cranberries, and carrots along with fatty acids. These ingredients contain antioxidants for a healthy immune system and vitamin A for strong eyes.
Pet owners note that this food is well balanced and helps nourish their pups’ skin. But they also admit it’s relatively expensive — especially for large breeds that need more food.
Grain-free for dogs with allergies
High in antioxidants for immune boost
Contains prebiotics for gut health
- 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
- Diet: Sensitive Digestion, Grain-Free
- Life Stage: Puppy, Adult
- Key Feature: Chicken-free and grain-free dog food with probiotics for gut support
Choosing food that offers balanced nutrition for steady growth in puppies and avoids top allergens is essential if your pup has tear stains. This formula contains 14% fat to reduce inflammation and nourish your pup’s body from the inside out.
It’s high in calories — a whopping 448 kcal/cup — to support growing puppies and active adult dogs. But it may not be suitable for canines who need to lose weight.
This recipe also contains supplemented probiotics and prebiotic fiber from pea fiber and pumpkin. These aid in easier digestion and support gut health, breaking down extra protein to avoid tear stains.
Dog owners with small puppies love how the kibble is medium-sized, so their dog doesn’t choke. And those with more giant breeds still can’t wolf it down. Plus, many parents love that they can feed their dogs the same food from puppyhood to adulthood.
But it does have a strong fishy smell and tends to make their dog’s breath smell after eating.
High-protein for growing muscles
Contains DHA & ARA for cognitive development in puppies
High-fiber for gut health
- 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
- Diet: Sensitive Digestion, Limited Ingredient Diet, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Chicken-Free, With Grain
- Life Stage: Senior
- Key Feature: Limited ingredient dog food with antioxidants and DHA for seniors
As dogs age, they need fewer calories and more immune support, especially when battling tear stains.
This formula is lower in calories, offers 348 kcal/cup, and contains vitamin C-packed ingredients.
Fish oil, dried kelp, and oatmeal provide vitamins E and C to boost immune responses and keep fur soft and tear stain free. Turmeric also adds inflammation-fighting benefits and keeps joints and skin supple.
While this food is chicken-free and offers turkey, it can still cause allergic reactions if your dog can’t handle poultry. Otherwise, this limited-ingredient recipe works well with dogs sensitive to specific proteins.
Dog parents love that this food is budget-friendly and recommend it if you have a picky eater. But they note that the peas and potatoes can make pups gassy or burp more often.
Low-calorie for weight maintenance
Contains poultry, a common allergen
Low-protein and can lower muscle mass
- 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
- Diet: Natural, Limited Ingredient Diet, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Low-Glycemic, Chicken-Free
- Life Stage: Puppy, Adult
- Key Feature: High-protein dry dog food with novel proteins and compact kibble for small breeds
Small breed dogs have a genetic disposition that makes tear stains easier to notice. And, since many are also prone to allergies, choosing a limited-ingredient formula like this can be beneficial.
It’s a hypoallergenic option and features real lamb as the first ingredient. It’s free of grains and chicken but offers 28% protein for active small breeds.
Chickpeas come in place of grains and offer nutrient-rich carbohydrates, vitamin C, and magnesium.
These vitamins and minerals boost immune health. And magnesium helps reduce the build of porphyrins — or tear stain-causing compounds.
The small kibble size makes this food the perfect option for small dogs with tear stain issues.
Dog moms and dads say this food is perfect for dogs with skin and food allergies. But some state that fussy small breeds turn their noses up at it.
Poultry-free for dogs with allergies
Grain-free for dogs with allergies
Contains cranberries for eye health
Small kibble size
High-calorie and can cause weight gain
Food can go untouched
- 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
- Diet: Natural, Human-Grade, Sensitive Digestion, Limited Ingredient Diet, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Grain-Free, Chicken-Free, Non-GMO
- Life Stage: Adult
- Key Feature: Non-GMO and limited ingredient dry dog food with antioxidants for immune support in large dogs
Big dogs are less likely to have tear stains, but it does happen. This formula supports large breed’s nutritional needs and can help prevent tear stains.
It is important to note that this food has less protein than the average formula. With just 20% protein, it still meets AAFCO requirements, but some large breed owners may prefer more.
This recipe is a limited ingredient diet and only contains 8 other ingredients. Chickpeas and sweet potatoes provide grain-free fiber.
They also contain vitamins A and K, which promote cellular metabolism and anti-inflammatory properties. These help keep eyes bright and the skin around them from getting dark and matted.
Large breed owners love that this is a chicken-free and grain-free option for sensitive pups. But some complain that it gives their dog gas and tends to clump.
Non-GMO and avoids fillers
Contains probiotics for gut health
Can cause gas
- 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
- Diet: Natural, Limited Ingredient Diet, High-Protein, Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Non-GMO, Low Glycemic, Chicken-Free, Pea-Free
- Life Stage: Senior, Puppy, Adult
- Key Feature: High-protein wet dog food with whole-prey ingredients for total body support
This formula is the perfect option for dogs that prefer wet food.
First, the moisture-rich pate contains two protein sources in whole-prey ratios of 91% meat, organs, and bone. When measured on a dry matter basis, it offers a whopping 42% protein and 16% fat.
While this recipe is grain-free for sensitive pups, it does contain chickpeas, the only other ingredient besides the animal proteins. These offer gentle prebiotics and probiotics to maintain digestive health.
This food contains omega fatty acids from New Zealand green mussels for eye health and to reduce possible tears. They also contain zinc for immune and eye support.
Pet parents enjoy this food, and some use it exclusively to keep their pups healthy and happy. But some admit they only use it as a topper because it’s more expensive food.
Limited-ingredient diet for dogs with allergies
High-protein for weight, muscle, and joint maintenance
Great for picky eaters
- 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
- Diet: Sensitive Digestion, Limited Ingredient Diet, High-Protein, Grain-Free, No Corn, No Wheat, No Soy, Chicken-Free
- Life Stage: Puppy, Adult, Senior
- Key Feature: Grain-free and high-protein dog food with limited ingredients for sensitive dogs
Beef, chicken, and lamb are dogs’ top three protein allergens. So finding a food that doesn’t contain anything of these can be beneficial for dogs with skin issues like tear stains.
Luckily, this formula offers salmon as the primary and only protein source. So it’s perfect for pups who can’t handle many proteins. And it’s still packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and eye health.
This food is also higher in fiber and prebiotics from ingredients like chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and plain beet pulp.
Prebiotics do more than support gut health. They also boost immunity, which can increase the functioning of your dog’s eyes, brain, and heart.
At 327 kcal/cup, this is also a low-calorie food option for overweight dogs or those that need to maintain slender frames.
Dog owners say this food is excellent for dogs who tend to be picky about limited ingredient diets. They also note that it smells fishy and can make the whole house smell.
High-protein recipe for energy
Grain-free for dogs who are allergic
Contains prebiotics and probiotics for gut support
Smells like fish
- 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
- Diet: Human-Grade,
- Life Stage: Puppy, Adult, Senior
- Key Feature: Human-grade dog food with novel proteins and gentle grains for delicate stomachs
One of the easiest ways to help mend health issues like tear stains is to ensure your dog has customized and nutritious food. That’s where this recipe comes in.
While it offers high-quality and human-grade lamb protein, it’s also available with other proteins. And, it’s easy to add or exclude ingredients that your pup can’t have due to allergies or intolerances.
This fresh recipe also includes fresh vegetables and fruit — including superfoods kale and cranberries. They provide high concentrations of vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants for strong and clear eyes.
While calorie count will depend on what your dog needs specifically, this formula starts at 10% protein and 7% fat when measured on a wet matter basis. The dry content means about 40% protein and 28% fat.
Pet parents exclaim that this is the only food their sensitive pups can handle. But some say the high cost and shipping wait times can be tedious.
High-protein for lean muscles
Customizable for picky pups
Long shipping wait times
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!
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.
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 swapped as well. The key is to find the best dog food 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 are 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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