What are tear-stain remover products?

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The way a cat’s eyes are structured, the tears that lubricate and protect the surface of the eye normally drain away through small holes on the inner portion of the lower lids. Sometimes, however, there is an overproduction of tears, a blockage or abnormality in the ducts, or physical characteristics that lead to spillage (short nose or prominent eyes). Then, when the tears leak from the corners of the eyes the liquid is exposed to air, turns reddish brown, and stains the fur.

When a cat’s eyes are staining excessively, it’s always important to first visit the veterinarian and to make sure no serious medical issue is present. In long-haired cats, professional help to keep the fur clipped around the eyes will also help, but many pet owners opt to use tear-stain remover products.

Some of these products are liquid solutions that are used to moisten gauze squares to wipe out the corner of your pet’s eyes. There are several problems with this approach unless the product is specifically recommended by your vet. The eye can be damaged if it is exposed to the chemical in the solution, especially if the cat has a sensitivity to the product. If the cat struggles, accidental injury is also a possibility. A cat’s eyes are very sensitive, and at most, a warm, damp washcloth should be used to gently clean away dried matter and improve staining.

Other tear-stain removers are oral supplements that contain a type of antibiotic called tylosin. Although generally regarded as safe for long-term use, there are no studies supporting this assertion. These products should only be used with this full knowledge of your veterinarian and on a case-by-case basis, monitoring the cat closely for gastrointestinal or other reactions.

Never use any tear-stain remover product, topical or a supplement, without first consulting with your vet and thoroughly researching the ingredients.

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