You're woken from your sleep by the adorable nuzzling of your pooch's wet nose. You open your eyes with a smile and ... yuck! There are brown stains and goo dripping down your dog's face.
Those ugly brown marks are tear stains (sometimes called "poodle eye") and are among the most common dog fur stains. Smaller dogs -- such as poodles and pugs with bulging eyes -- will have this more often, but all dog breeds are susceptible. Usually, the stains are more unsightly than serious, caused by tearing from the eyes; however, they could also indicate more serious health concerns. Excessive tearing can be an effect of allergies, blocked ducts, eye irritants or other chronic conditions that may necessitate a veterinarian visit. Call the vet immediately if the fur is very matted or bloody.
Most tear stains can be cleaned using simple home remedies. A popular method is dipping a cotton ball in a mild solution of 10 percent hydrogen peroxide and water and gently dabbing the fur. It is very important to avoid getting any of the solution in your pup's eyes as it may cause irritation and more staining. Working from the inside out and away from the eyes can reduce the chances of this. Some over-the-counter brands are very effective at eliminating poodle eye also. Look for brands that do not contain the chemical Tylosin (suspected to be harmful for some breeds) and use natural ingredients. If the hair around the eyes is long, ask your groomer to trim it. For a quick and temporary fix, some owners will dab cornstarch onto their pet's face, but be careful that the light color blends with your dog's fur.
Reddish-brown stained beards on dogs can result from a combination of dog food and the pup's own saliva and are especially common for long-haired dogs that lick themselves after eating. Changing your dog's diet may help. Adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to your canine's drinking water will change the PH-level of your dog's saliva. And wiping the pooch's mouth after eating with a damp paper towel or baby wipe will help keep the fur cleaner. Chewing difficulties, which can cause excess saliva to drip around the mouth, may mean dental problems and should be brought to a veterinarian's attention. Have a groomer clip long hair around the mouth as well.
If your playful pup likes to romp in dirt or mud, chances are you'll see telltale signs around their feet, underbelly and tail. Brushing the dog's fur after a walk, or using a damp paper towel or baby wipe will likely take care of any immediate problems. More pronounced staining will benefit from a bath. Use a shampoo created for dogs and rinse thoroughly as leftover soap can become a skin irritation. Once the rinse water is clear, use a mixed solution of water and apple cider vinegar, which will soften the fur and make it more stain resistant. Rinse thoroughly once again.
Sometimes your pet will get into things they shouldn't -- paint, tar, glue, oil. Paint, if it hasn't dried yet, can usually be removed in bath water using a mild dish detergent. Use vegetable oil, baby oil or peanut butter to remove tar or glue by wiping the substances with a damp washcloth. After removal, bathe the dog in warm sudsy water and rinse. If the matter is still stuck in the fur, your dog may need to be shaved.
Finally, if your dog does get into a toxic substance which he can lick or may be absorbed through the skin, call 888-426-4435; this is a 24-hour poison control hotline from the ASPCA (there is a $65 consultation fee) for invaluable guidance to walk you through the emergency.