Why Is My Dog's White Hair Turning Brown?

'A few unsightly stains are no match for my cuteness.'
i Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images

White dogs can suffer from white car syndrome -- every smear of dirt shows glaringly against the coat. A common problem among white dogs is that brownish-red stain that tends to appear on his legs and face. If left too long, these stains can ruin your pooch's otherwise pristine coat.

Tear Stains

Many dog breeds sport dirty tear stain tracks down their muzzles, which are not as glaring or jarring on darker pooches. White dogs with tearing problems tend to develop a rust-colored stain beneath their eyes because the tears wet the hair and encourage the growth of a red-tinted yeast. As the yeast infection grows, the color darkens to a more burgundy or brownish color. Some dogs may suffer from tear duct problems or improperly formed eyelashes, causing them to tear more than normal.

Dirty Mouth

White shows everything, and that includes stains from the various dyes and minerals in your dog's food and water. The food your pooch happily chows down on could be leaving a literal ring around his mouth, as the dyes transfer to his white hair. Minerals found in tap or well water also can stain the hair around his mouth; plastic feeding bowls may harbor tiny cracks that house bacteria and other microscopic nastiness. These little buggers grow in the hair, causing discoloration and stains as they multiply.

Lick Obsession

Dogs lick themselves clean during grooming, but this very act could result in unsightly stains in an otherwise clean coat. Saliva harbors all sorts of bacteria, which happily grow and multiply in your pup's hair after a good licking. The more your dog licks an area, the more saturated with saliva and bacteria it becomes, causing a darker stain over time. The most common problem areas for licking-caused stains are the legs, paws and nether-regions.

White and Bright

Unlike your stained white tablecloth, you cannot simply toss Mr. Twinkletoes into the washer with a heaping cup of bleach. Specially formulated shampoos and cleaners sold specifically for cleaning a white dog's coat are available at most retail stores for this very purpose. Wipe away any tears with cotton balls or a wet washcloth before they have a chance to stain, and switch his food to one with no dyes. Replace his plastic bowls with glass, ceramic or stainless steel ones to prevent bacterial growth, and wash them regularly. Use filtered or bottled water, and wipe his face every day to stay ahead of any staining. Discourage obsessive licking by distracting him with extra playtime when he starts.

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