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


15 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. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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