What Causes Brown on White Fur on Dogs?

by Mary Helen Berg
    Brown stains may be more than just a cosmetic concern.

    Brown stains may be more than just a cosmetic concern.

    Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    Your dog's white fur will dull naturally over time, taking on dusty, brown or yellowed overtones. However, brown spots in isolated areas, such as around the eyes, mouth or paws may indicate health problems that require a visit to your vet. Whatever the cause of the brownish color on her light coat, special care will help it stay sparkling white.

    Excessive Tearing

    Excessive tearing can cause rusty brown marks under your pet's eyes. Canine tears contain porphyrin, a pigment that colors fur a brownish-red. If your dog's eyes are teary, they may not be draining properly or may be irritated by an eyelash or other debris. Weepy eyes can also be a sign of eye disease, such as glaucoma, or an eye infection. Teary eyes are a common problem among many breeds, but discoloration is most noticeable on light-colored coats.

    Saliva

    Your dog's saliva can also give her white fur a brownish hue. If she obsessively licks particular body parts, you may notice the fur in that area turn reddish-brown. Be aware that excessive licking can be a sign of allergy or other health concerns. For example, if your pup's snowy muzzle has become a reddish brown, she may be licking her lips too much and need a dental exam. If she licks her paws or pads so often that they turn color, she might be trying to remove a burr or she could be having an allergic reaction. If you notice one spot on her coat is discolored, check her skin; she may be licking a spot that has a wound or is irritated by fleas.

    Injury

    Dried or smeared blood on white fur can take on a rusty hue. If you notice the sudden appearance of a brownish spot on your pet's coat, inspect her mouth and body for any possible wound. She may have a scrape that bled onto her fur or a tooth or gum injury that leaked onto her coat. Always consult your vet about potential treatment for your pup's injuries.

    Maintaining the White

    If you like your white pup's coat to glow, regular grooming can help. Treat brown stains immediately to prevent buildup and bathe her to remove dust and debris from her fur. Try special shampoos designed to eliminate stains and boost the coat's natural color. Color-enhancing shampoos and rinses can temporarily brighten a dull coat and lighten stains caused by excessive licking or tearing. Enhancing shampoos are available for black, blue and silver dogs, too. If your pet suffers from tear stains, try wiping under her eyes with a cloth dipped in hydrogen peroxide twice each day.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Based in Los Angeles, Mary Helen Berg has been writing about pets, travel, families and parenting since 1989. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Los Angeles Times" and "Newsweek." Berg holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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