Q. I have a beautiful eight-month-old female maltese. We're not having much trouble with her in terms of the usual puppy issues. However, the thing that we cannot seem to get right is the stains under her eyes. They are spoiling the look of her and making her face look dirty. Any suggestions about how to get rid of them? Nikki, via e-mail
A. 'Sleep' in the eyes is very natural for dogs. And, as with humans, it generally doesn't cause any problems. But in some breeds it can be more apparent, and cause staining. Dogs with bulging eyes, such as pugs and Pekingeses, can be very susceptible to these types of problems and staining around this area will be much more obvious on white dogs, as you have discovered.
If there is a high frequency of discharge, or it changes colour, you need to see your vet immediately. Eye problems can start with something simple like conjunctivitis, and if untreated can lead to blindness.
Once you have ruled out any underlying medical problems with your pooch, you can try to get on top of the situation. Start with grooming. This should be part of your daily routine anyway – and it strengthens the bond between you and her. Make sure that the hair around her eyes is trimmed and for that I would recommend a groomer. If she has any excess hair, you could tie it up so that it doesn't fall into her eyes.
Next, get some tepid water and gently wipe away the gunk from around her eyes with some cotton wool. If there are hard lumps, just hold the cotton wool over them for a few seconds to loosen them. Then wipe with some dry cotton wool so that the area is not too damp.
Try this for a week and see how you go. If this process doesn't work, there are various products to treat the problem internally. Camomile is very good and one my clients uses Angels' Eyes Tear-Stain Eliminator for Dogs, a supplement you sprinkle on her food (you may want to do your own research on this). Good luck!
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended