Stained fur (saliva staining) in dogs

isolated dog


  • Saliva staining develops when a dog over-grooms (licks, bites or chews) himself / herself.
  • It often indicates a problem i.e. pain, an itch or stress.
  • Saliva staining can be brown, red, orange or pink.
  • It shouldn’t be ignored –contact your vet if you notice staining anywhere on your dog.

Saliva staining explained

Saliva stained fur is usually red, pink, brown or orange. It develops when an area of fur is constantly licked, chewed or nibbled. Over-grooming indicates a problem, for example, pain, an itch or even a behavioural issue such as stress.

Tear staining

Staining can also appear from the corners of the eyes; we call this ‘tear staining’. Tear staining should be checked by a vet.

Photo of saliva staining in dogs

Saliva staining around the mouth and in between the toes.


Overgrooming often indicates a problem, either behavioural or medical:

saliva staining in dogs

This dog has been over grooming due to painful arthritis in his foot.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet if you notice your dog developing saliva stained fur. Most problems are much easier to treat if they are caught early. 

Consider insuring your dog as soon as you get them, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.

Published: January 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst