Secrets to Whitening a Dog's Coat

White dogs coats are at risk of stains and other damage, particularly when dogs live an active lifestyle.
i White Dog image by Stana from

It is sometimes difficult to keep a white dog looking clean and white. In addition to all of the usual dirt hazards of daily living, white dogs’ coats are prone to staining. Fortunately, there are numerous solutions to the many dangers that may assault your dog’s coat.

Preventing Staining Due to Diet

Dogs may sometimes develop red staining, especially on their paws, muzzles and tummies. These areas may be stained due to the quality of your water or due to red dye in their food. In these cases, the staining agent is transferred through the dog’s saliva as he grooms his feet or tummy or as he consumes his food. A small amount of staining may occur in other areas. However, the paws and stomach are the most commonly groomed areas and often take the brunt of the stress grooming that may result when the dog is itchy from food or contact allergies.

Food allergies could also be the culprit for red staining on the paws, which are inclined to itch from allergies. If changing your dog’s food does not reduce or eliminate the staining problem, a visit to the vet to rule out more serious causes is in order.

Antibiotics and Apple Cider Vinegar

According to the American Maltese Association, the red or brown tear staining that occurs on these long-coated white dogs usually results from a low-grade systemic infection that throws off the body’s pH level. Some veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics to help with the infection, which will also correct the staining problem. It is also possible that adding between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a dog’s water daily may help prevent tear staining, among other benefits.

Bluing Shampoo

A bluing shampoo primarily creates an optical illusion of whiteness. This kind of shampoo causes an “optical brightener” in the blue or purple range to remain attached to the coat hairs, more effectively reflecting light. The bluing will remove some light yellow stains from your dog’s coat, as well, such as those caused by saliva or urine. When using bluing shampoo, massage your dog’s coat until the shampoo lather turns white and follow with a thorough rinse or wash the coat a second time with a gentle dog shampoo to ensure the dog’s coat does not turn blue.

Enzymatic and Clarifying Shampoos

Shampoos that contain an enzymatic cleaner actually remove yellow stains from your dog’s coat. These shampoos will also remove stains caused by other proteins, such as those found in blood, tears or saliva. Clarifying shampoos, like enzymatic shampoos, lift organic stains from dogs’ coats. In addition, they can be used to remove stains from red clay soil or black dirt. Clarifying shampoos are very harsh. They actually remove the outer layer of each hair, stripping the stain from it, and should not be used frequently. A bath given with a clarifying shampoo should always be followed with a good conditioner.

Bleaching Shampoo and Paste

A bleaching shampoo contains harsh chemicals, such as a strong solution of hydrogen peroxide. These shampoos raise the pH level of the hair strands, whitening the stains. Commercial bleaching shampoos are available. However, you can make your own bleaching paste, applied to the dog before shampooing, by using equal parts of white, unflavored milk of magnesia and 10 to 20 percent hydrogen peroxide, thickened to a paste using cornstarch. It is possible to find lighteners containing these percentages of hydrogen peroxide at any beauty supply shop.

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