Beard Staining in Dogs | Cosmetic Concerns

Beard Staining in Dogs Based on Veterinary Science

As dog lovers, we cherish every moment with our companions. However, when our adorable pets sport unsightly reddish-brown stains around their mouth and beard, it can be a cause for concern. This common condition, often known as “beard staining,” can be attributed to various factors. Beard staining in dogs may be a common occurrence, but armed with knowledge and a proactive approach, you can help your furry friend look and feel their best.

If your dog has unsightly reddish-brown staining under the mouth, you’re likely wondering what you can do to get rid of these stains. Beard staining in dogs refers to the reddish-brown discoloration that can occur around the mouth. This staining in dogs is often a multifactorial issue, influenced by factors such as genetics, excessive salivation, facial conformation, underlying health conditions, allergies or irritants and grooming practices.

Beard staining itself is typically considered a cosmetic issue and may not necessarily indicate a serious health problem but can be a concern for pet owners. Veterinary science provides several explanations and potential remedies for the fur staining.

It’s important to address any underlying causes contributing to the staining, as they may require treatment or management to improve the dog’s overall well-being. Individual cases vary, and it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

What are beard stains?

Beard staining, scientifically referred to as porphyrin staining, is the result of natural pigments found in a dog’s saliva and tears. When these pigments come into contact with the fur around the mouth, they can lead to discoloration over time, resulting in the characteristic reddish-brown color.

molecular structure of a porphyrin
molecular structure of a porphyrin

Porphyrins and their Formation: Porphyrins are naturally occurring molecules that are byproducts of the breakdown of red blood cells. During this process, a waste product known as heme is produced. Heme contains iron, which is responsible for the reddish coloration of porphyrins. Typically, porphyrins are eliminated from the body through the digestive system. Dogs, like humans, have the ability to excrete porphyrins through various routes, including urine, feces, saliva, and tears.

Saliva staining, caused by porphyrins in a dog’s saliva, occurs due to a combination of natural pigments and exposure to light. The mechanism of porphyrins are organic compounds containing four pyrrole rings, with nitrogen atoms. These pigments are found in various bodily fluids, including saliva. In dogs, porphyrins are naturally present in saliva.

When a dog licks itself or comes into contact with its own saliva, the porphyrins in the saliva can bind to the proteins in the fur, particularly around the mouth area, where saliva is most likely to come into contact with the fur.

Porphyrins are light-sensitive compounds. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or artificial light sources, they can undergo a photochemical reaction.

As a result of the photochemical reaction, the porphyrins can darken in color, often taking on a reddish-brown hue. This is what leads to the noticeable staining on the fur.

It’s worth noting that not all dogs exhibit porphyrin staining to the same extent. Factors such as breed, individual genetics, diet, and overall health can influence the production of porphyrins and the susceptibility to staining.

Common Causes of Beard Staining
There are several potential causes of staining in dogs, which may contribute to staining around the mouth. The exact underlying causes can vary and may include:

Excessive Salivation:

Porphyrin Staining:

  • Porphyrins the natural pigments found in tears, saliva, and urine. They can bind to the proteins in the fur, leading to staining.

Allergies and Irritants:

  • Allergies or irritants from the environment
  • Food sensitivities
  • Grooming products


  • Breed predisposition
  • Conformational abnormalities; If your pet can’t properly close their mouth, has skin folds, saliva can exit the mouth and accumulate on the hair around your dog’s mouth.
  • Learn how to locate a responsible breeder.

Lack of Grooming

Artificial coloration in food/treats

beard staining

Preventing Beard Stains: While it’s not always possible to completely eliminate beard staining, there are steps you can take to minimize its occurrence.

Regular Grooming: Establish a grooming routine that includes gentle cleaning of the beard area. Use pet-safe wipes or mild shampoos recommended by your veterinarian. Keep the hair around the eyes and nose as short as possible while keeping the face clean and dry.

Maintain Dental Health: Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can help prevent dental issues that contribute to excessive saliva production.

Probiotics This is thought to be due to positive effects on the dog’s immune system.

Water: Tap water can be high in minerals that cause more staining. It has been recommended to provide bottled spring or filtered water instead of tap water.

Diet: Feed a high-quality, well-balanced diet that meets WSAVA guidelines.

  • Some researchers suggest that porphyrin staining could be influenced by diet and potential food allergies or sensitivities.
  • However, the relationship between diet and staining is still not fully understood, and more research is needed to establish a definitive link.
  • Some studies have investigated the potential role of specific ingredients, such as certain proteins or additives, in exacerbating staining. While more research is needed, dietary modifications, such as switching to a hypoallergenic or low-iron diet, have been suggested as a potential management strategy for some dogs.
    • *Always follow your veterinarian’s dietary recommendations

Food/Water Bowls: Some dogs can develop allergies to plastic bowls.  Plastic can be more likely to harbor bacteria. Stainless steel bowls are recommended. Be sure to clean the bowls regularly.

Treating Beard Stains:
In severe or persistent cases, seeking professional veterinary advice is crucial.

Underlying Condition Treatment:
Address any dental problems, allergies, or infections that may be contributing to excessive tearing or salivation.

Specialized Products:
Your veterinarian may recommend specific products or treatments to target and reduce beard staining.

Dietary Adjustments:
Some specialized diets may help reduce porphyrin production. Consult a veterinarian for guidance on appropriate dietary changes.

Consulting with your veterinarian is key to understanding the specific needs of your pet and finding the most effective solutions for their unique situation. With a little extra care, you can keep those reddish-brown stains at bay and enjoy every moment with your beloved companion.

In case you missed it, read all about Tear Staining.

Sources used and we recommend:

"BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dermatology, 4th Edition"
"BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dermatology, 4th Edition"
Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology 7th Edition
Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology 7th Edition
"Small Animal Clinical Diagnosis by Laboratory Methods, 5th Edition"
"Small Animal Clinical Diagnosis by Laboratory Methods, 5th Edition"
"Small Animal Internal Medicine, 6th Edition"
"Small Animal Internal Medicine, 6th Edition"

Synergistically Yours,


Sheepdog Riggs, Forever in Our hearts

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