Ask a vet online – “What can cause staining around mouth and on dogs paws?….”

Question from Ann Hutton

What can cause staining around mouth and on dogs paws? No change in diet and its come on in just a few weeks? Cavalier male aged 9.

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

Hi Ann,

Thanks for your interesting question about the recent staining you have noticed around your dog’s mouth and paws.

The staining you are referring to is most likely caused by a substance called Porphyrin. Porphyrin is a naturally occurring substance in the tears and saliva and tends to show up as a pink/brown colour where your pet has licked, dribbled or produced lots of tears. The discolouration from the Porphyrin is most obvious on light coloured fur.

The staining of the fur itself is of no actual harm to your pet however it is important to get to the bottom of why it is happening and I would definitely advise that you discuss this further with your vet.

There are many possible causes for the staining you have noticed which include:  dental disease, other conditions of the mouth, allergies and stress.

Dental disease is a very common finding in both dogs and cats of around 3 years of age and over, a build-up of plaque and bacteria can lead to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and loosening of the teeth ( periodontal disease) which can result in dribbling ( excessive salivation). Treatment for dental disease may include a course of antibiotics to treat any infection present, the use of pain relief plus or minus dental surgery to clean and remove any loose/infected teeth. Your pet will receive follow up checks and advice regarding a dental health care plan to reduce the need for further dental treatment in a hurry. Dental health care includes special diets to reduce plaque build- up, use of tooth brushing where appropriate and or dental chews to keep your pets mouth as clean and healthy as possible.

Other mouth related conditions that may lead to saliva staining include: inflamed and or infected fold in the gum flaps which are common in breed such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is thought to be related to the fact that the nose of the dog is shortened, and the soft tissues including the skin are not, which can lead to folds of skin which collect saliva and food particles. The skin folds can become very painful and infected this can usually be treated with antibiotics, pain relief and or regular cleansing of the affected areas. In very extreme cases surgery may be needed.

Polyps, growth or cysts in the mouth can also cause irritation that may lead to excess saliva production and therefore staining. These can best be treated once identified and the exact type of growth determined.

Stress and or allergies can cause dogs to dribble and or chew their paws; this is another common cause of Porphyrin staining around the mouth and feet.

So as you can see there are many possible causes for the staining of the fur around your dog’s mouth and on his paws, a visit to your vet would be the best way to find out what the cause is and how best it can be treated. I Hope that my answer has been helpful for you and that your dog responds well to the treatment plan that is best for him.

Shanika Winters MRCVS


51 thoughts on “Ask a vet online – “What can cause staining around mouth and on dogs paws?….”

    1. Hi, have a read of the blog, there are many potential causes including dental disease, stress and allergies. It is best to take your dog to the vet to determine which is bothering them so that any necessary treatment can be employed.

    1. There are products such as Diamond Eyes (which I’m unsure if available in the US). I would suggest chatting to your vet or dog groomer for ideas as well. Please be careful of irritation of the skin though!

      1. You can buy diamond eyes in any pet shop here in England. I find its great to clean my maltese’s eyes and face. Come up super white. It is safe to use.

  1. Hi, My husky started with the staining around her butt hole about an inch distance. It than appeared on her left eye only 1/8 from the corner and her left muzzle covering the whisker area and not under her chin. When she was the sickest it also appeared on her left wrist, but that is gone. The Vet checked for parasites there were none. she was treated for pancietitis. At the time i brought her in she suffered from water colored diarrhea, clear vomit and no appetite and she became aggressive.
    I am sure that the first symptom was the rear end staining, but wasn’t sure it was a problem. Her intestines seemed hard before the meds our vet gave.

    1. Hi Marie. These symptoms can be caused by many different things. We hope your Husky is better now, but if you’re still worried about her, we’d recommend popping her back in to see your vet. They have all of her history, and will be best placed to advise you on next steps.

  2. My 7 year old white bichon has skin allergies and is on Apoquel 8mg each evening to keep him from itching. Since mid-June (3 months) his fur has slowly turned orange/brown around his mouth, paws and annual area. His teeth are fine. Could it be too much protein in his diet? I have had 2 prior Bichons and never had this happen. Also,his nose was black and has turned brown! Poor guy looks awful! The vet says it’s allergies….I am embarrassed by his appearance. Otherwise, he is a happy guy!

    1. We’d agree with your vet that this sort of staining can be common with allergies, but if you’re still concerned, it would be worth popping him back in to see your vet for another check-up. The main thing is he’s happy and on treatment to help, and the staining itself isn’t a problem.

    2. Embarrased by your dog’s appearance? My god, it’s a dog, not an accessory. Dogs get dirty – a happy dog does anyway, and any owner who tries to keep their dog looking pristine and perfect in order to keep up with appearances isn’t allowing their dog to be a dog and is therefore depriving it of doing what dogs do naturally.
      So what if your dog has fur stains? It clearly isn’t bothering your dog …. it’s your issue. Get over it.
      Keep your dog healthy and happy. Give him lots of love and allow him to enjoy his life. He’s not there to accessorise your wardrobe and he’s not there to make you look good. If his fur stains bother you let it be for the right reasons, which SHOULD be that you’re concerned about his health and comfort and NOT because he’s an embarrassment to you.

      1. I think she means embarrassed that people may thing she is neglecting her dog not because her dog is making her look bad lol.

        1. That is the right response to the situation. I hope that Sarah gets understanding responses from others instead of making her feel worse. I have had similar problems and I understand fully how it feels in concern to address the problem.
          Because you care for your dog and want to highlight any conditions that need treatment

  3. Hi have a maltease who is 3 and has staining on the sides of her mouth. Other than that she seems ok . I brush her teeth everyday she won’t eat any the chews .

    1. Hello. It’s probably just saliva staining and nothing to worry about if she’s fit and well. You can get your vet to look at it next time you’re in, and they may be able to recommend some wipes to help with the staining. Keeping the area clean and continuing with regular tooth brushing will also help.

  4. Hi my dog a mini Golden retriever has this dark purple almost brown around the left corner of her mouth and I am very worried can you reply as soon as possible please and thank you

    1. Hello, it could be something simple like a rash, or even a flare-up if you dog has chewed something a bit toxic. Without examination it is impossible to say I’m afraid. Please get your dog checked out with a veterinarian, it may be nothing to worry about, but it will give you peace of mind.

  5. The fur around my dog mouth and genital area is turning red. Any idea why. It started when we got a cat and he start eating cat food. We change the cat food to one with no red pigment but the dog mouth is still the same. Please help

    1. Hi Dona. It could still be saliva staining that we talk about in this article – around the mouth can be quite common and also could be found around the genital area if he’s been cleaning himself a lot. It would be worth a quick check-up with your vet just to make sure there’s no underlying cause for this. If he gets the all clear, the staining itself isn’t a problem but your vet may recommend some ways of cleaning the areas to reduce the staining.

  6. Just notice for the first time that my Maltipoo was starring off and drooling excessively. Than after a shirt while he was back to his old self. Can you tell me what can cause this for Rio to act this way. He is 1 1/2 yrs old.

    1. Hi Barbara. It’s hard to say as anything could cause this kind of reaction – he could have been feeling nauseous, or have eaten/licked at something that was quite irritating or bitter tasting, as a couple of examples. If he seems fine and isn’t unwell in himself at all, hopefully it was just a one-off reaction to something, but if he shows any signs of this again, pop him along to your vet for a check-up.

    1. Like humans, dogs express different amounts of pigment in different parts of their bodies. A change in pigment may be a sign of aging, of inflammation of the skin, some hormonal disorders, or skin disease such as cancer. While it may be harmless, if your dog’s skin is changing colour, we would advise getting them checked out by your vet to make sure there’s nothing unpleasant going on.

  7. My dog is in Chf and has recently started drooling so much his fur on his neck and chest is wet and changing colour I’m afraid he has gum disease can anything be done he obviously can’t go under antithetic is the gum disease dangerous for his heart

  8. We have a Bedlington Terrier. We have paid a small fortune to vets to discover why she keeps at back bum and tail area and scooting her bum on the ground. Because of this she also has a lot of discoloration (reddish/ brown)around that area and her feet and mouth. We were told its allergies but after medication and hypoallergenic diet there isn’t a big improvement.

    1. Deidre Stewart, my maltese/shih tzu ( 11 1/2) was doing this. It worked out that his anal glands needed emptying. After this was done a couple of times, he had to have an operation to flush them out, and he has been fine since. Hope this helps, maybe google anal glands ….

  9. My beagle is 7 months old. And alot of redness is there around his mouth. There is no kind of itching. And it’s there from 3-4 months. I am really scared.

    1. OK, I think you need to see a veterinarian – there are lots of possibilities, and they will be able to tell you exactly what is going on.

  10. I have a yorkie poo and he has this Harden crossed underneath his chin and around his lips but on the hair. I assumed it was food buildup but I keep trying to trim the hair and clean the area but it doesn’t seem to go away. Not sure if this is some type of disease and looking for answers. Please help!

    1. There are lots of possibilities, so it’s always best to get it checked out by your vet, just to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues!

  11. Ellen, thank you very much Ian watching
    My dogie teeth he is 9yr old, it not easy take care of there month care.
    Some of his teeth came ,iam doing month every night.
    Iam getting ready for month cleaning of his teeth next!
    But my dogie peanut have a heartmarmer
    So iam getting his heart check !
    Then teeth clean
    Thank God for, my baby is in good
    Iam prays on,my friends dogies
    Mouth care mount are very dark around
    There mounts, it doesn’t look healthily
    At all,That way iam reading ,and asking on
    Iam grateful for this information
    To help over dogie@ cats
    Blessings all times????❣

    1. Staining from tears especially is more common in older dogs anyway; however, it might also suggest an underlying health problem. In particular, poor dental health can lead to increased salivation, and thus more staining. I think it’s worth having a chat with your vet and seeing if there are any issues especially in the mouth – sadly, Lurchers and greyhounds do tend to be prone to dental problems.

  12. Hi
    We have an 8 year old Lhasa Apso and it seemed like over night that his white fur all around his mouth and under his eyes turned a reddish brown and his lovely white paws and are going a browny reddish colour after licking and biting at them.

    His penis looks a bit bigger to me as well and his tummy is redder than what it used to be, but like I said, it seemed to have over night or a couple of days.

    The vet said there was nothing wrong with him though, just tear staining, but I am not too sure.

    This problem happened to our dog a couple of years agon but nowhere near as bad and it cleared up on its own.

    Can this problem correct itself ?

    Thank you


    1. Unfortunately, it depends exactly what’s caused it! It might just be that he’s been licking and grooming himself more for some reason. However, the symptoms you’ve described are commonly associated with skin allergies – especially with the underside and feet being most affected – and are often caused by licking, nibbling or scratching, especially at night when you can’t see them doing it. I would suggest another check up and a discussion about possible allergic skin disease or (the other common possibility) skin parasites e.g. fleas or mites.

      1. Thank you David.
        We will defiantly take him back to the vets and tell them what you said.
        But I feel a bit cheeky questioning them if they have already checked him out.

    1. The most likely explanation, I’m afraid, is skin allergies. West Highland White Terriers are predisposed, and the common symptoms include increased licking and scratching, especially around the mouth and feet. I think you need to make an appointment with your vet to get her checked out! The underlying cause in most cases is a disease called Atopic Dermatitis; this is a complex condition with no single “cure”, but with modern medication it can usually be managed really effectively.

      1. Thank you so much I have tried everything so off to the vets I go I’ll keep you informed what they diagnosed she is such a sweetheart and I don’t want her suffering unnecessarily thank you once again ?

  13. We went on holiday for a week without our cocker spaniel, when we came back her mouth looked as though she had eaten a strawberry chocolate ice cream and over the weeks the fur around her mouth has darkened. I keep it clean but obviously licking her paws is now turning the fur pinky brown there. She was very stressed by all accounts that we left her as before the holiday we noticed her hearing was becoming poorer and her eyes looked a bit bluey as well. I think having one of us always near her gave her confidence with her failing hearing and sight so to have both of us leave even though my son looked after her was I think too much for her to cope with. She would not leave us when we returned and even refused to wander around the home for the first few days we were back. She is fine now and is happy and playful, eats well and drinks well but still has the brown around her eyes and mouth . She is 13 years old so will this browning ever go?

    1. The staining is probably from pigments in saliva and, possibly, tears – if she had a cloudy or “gunky” eye then it’s likely she had some degree of conjunctivitis. If so, it will probably clear up when she moults, but if she’s still licking or crying a lot, I’d strongly advise a vet check to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues causing it.

  14. Hi my 12 year old jack Russel bitch has long pink patches on her outer back legs,it doesn’t have a rash in the area and doesn’t bother her but looks a bit unsightly.i have tried to wash it off but it makes no difference,her bed is always dry and washed regularly,any ideas what it could be?

    1. There are a range of possibilities, but two common explanations are that either it’s an allergic reaction to something (especially contact dermatitis, caused by a reaction to something like fabric softener) – or, more likely, it’s from licking (especially at night). In a 12 year old dog, I’d want to rule out arthritis in the back legs, as this is a common cause of licking overnight.
      I would advise getting her checked out by your vet – allergies can be hard to control, and if she’s developing arthritis, there’s an awful lot we can do nowadays if we catch it early enough. If you want, you can also try changing your washing powder/liquid to see if that makes a difference.

  15. hie , my puppy ha dry skin close to his anus and has a pink color that can be seen from behind down from the tail to the belly is it something l should worry about ?

    1. It’s difficult to say over the internet, but this might just be the parting in the hair over the perineum? In which case it’s very normal in a growing pup!
      If in doubt, get your vet or vet nurse to check.

      1. My dog gave birth few days ago and now her mouth has lost hair turning her lips pink. She is obviously licking the pups alot but is it normal for her lips to change colour/lose hair

        1. Going a little pink is really common, but hair loss, not so much! I’d suggest mentioning it to your vet when you get the chance – they know your dog’s medical history and can give more specific individual advice.

  16. Hello my dogs mouth and for both front amd back paws and on the whole body pink colour spots appearing may i kindly know the reason why it is appearing like that.

    1. Most likely this is skin inflammation – typically due to parasites, allergies, bacterial infections or yeast infections. A vet will need to examine him to determine the exact cause.

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