Can Dogs Skin Color Change? Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Chihuahua lying on stomach shows hyperpigmentation of skin.

We all know that dogs come in various shapes and sizes, but did you know that their skin color can also vary? This is because dogs can develop hyperpigmentation, an increase in the production of melanin - the pigment that gives skin its color. This can cause dogs' skin to become darker or lighter than normal. 

Sometimes, it can even lead to blotching or patches of darker skin. While hyperpigmentation isn't usually a serious condition, it can sometimes signify a deeper problem. So if your dog's skin has suddenly started to look different, it's important to take him to the vet for a check-up.

Light colored Boston dog lying on couch top

Hyperpigmentation And Its Causes In Dogs

Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that increases the pigmentation of the skin. In dogs, it can be caused by several factors, including genetics, hormones, and injuries. 

  • The most common type of hyperpigmentation is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which occurs when the skin is damaged or inflamed. This can result from acne, sunburn, or other forms of irritation. 
  • Genetics can also play a role in hyperpigmentation, as some dogs are born with more pigment in their skin than others. 
  • Hormonal imbalances can also cause hyperpigmentation, particularly during pregnancy or adolescence. In some cases, hyperpigmentation may also be caused by certain medications or medical conditions. 

The environment, while not scientifically proven, also may cause hyperpigmentation.

After a year of living on the golf course, my dog Lola developed a bad case of hyperpigmentation. It didn't seem to bother her, but it was worrisome for me. However, once I relocated, the discolored skin returned to it's normal pink color. I concluded that the pesticidal spray used on the golf course was the cause.

Lisa Porter, dog lover & owner

Treatment for hyperpigmentation will vary depending on the underlying cause. For most dogs, treatment is not necessary, as the condition is not painful or harmful. However, if the hyperpigmentation is severe or cosmetically displeasing, several treatments can help to lessen the pigmentation. These include laser therapy, chemical peels, and topical treatments.

Different Types Of Hyperpigmentation And Symptoms 

  1. Melanism 

The most common type is called melanism, which occurs when there is an overproduction of the pigment melanin. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, this can cause the dog's coat to appear very dark or black. 

  1. Leukoderma 

Another type of hyperpigmentation is called leukoderma, which is characterized by white patches of skin. A lack of pigment or damage to the pigmented cells can cause this. According to BMC Veterinary Research, Leukoderma is a form of auto-immune disease in dogs that has gained a lot of attention lately due to its complicated nature. The disease attacks the melanocytes in the body of your puppy. 

Symptoms of hyperpigmentation can vary depending on the type and severity but may include changes in coat color, patchy hair loss, and excessive scratching or licking. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to contact your veterinarian for further evaluation.

How To Treat Hyperpigmentation In Dogs

Sunlight Exposure: 

One of the simplest and most effective treatments for hyperpigmentation is exposure to sunlight. UV rays help to break down the pigmentation in the skin, so spending some time outdoors each day can gradually lighten the affected areas. 

Topical Treatments: 

You can also try using a natural shampoo or cream, which can help to fade the pigmentation over time. PawPurity Intensive Nourishing Shampoo has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for treating hyperpigmentation issues in dogs and puppies. With ingredients like Yucca root, nettle leaf, aloe vera, and red clover, this shampoo will help a lot with many different skin issues of your pooch from dryness to fungal problems.

Laser Therapy

If your dog's hyperpigmentation is severe or other methods haven't worked, your veterinarian may recommend a course of laser therapy. This treatment uses concentrated beams of light to break down the pigmented cells and can be very effective at lightening the coat. You can help your dog to achieve a healthier, more even-colored coat with the right treatment.

Prevention Tips For Keeping Your Dog's Skin Healthy And Free Of Hyperpigmentation

It's no secret that a dog's skin is sensitive. Like humans, dogs can suffer from various skin conditions, including allergies, fungal infections, and cancer. While it is not harmful, hyperpigmentation can be unsightly. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent it. 

  • First, keep your pet's skin conditioned and healthy. This starts by using a chemical-free nourishing shampoo.
  • Secondly, make sure your dog has access to shade when spending time outdoors.
  • Finally, consult your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog's skin tone. 

Some Common Myths 

  • One common myth is that all hyperpigmented dogs are unhealthy. This simply is not true. While it is true that some health conditions can cause hyperpigmentation, there are many healthy dogs with hyperpigmented coats. 
  • Another common myth is that all hyperpigmented dogs are black. Again, this is not true. Many other coat colors can be affected by hyperpigmentation, including brown, red, and white. 
  • Finally, some people believe that all hyperpigmented dogs have the same level of pigment in their coats. However, this is also not true. The pigment in a dog's coat can vary greatly from one dog to another. 

A word from the wise

Hyperpigmentation can be a cosmetic issue for dogs, but it also may indicate an underlying health problem. If your dog has hyperpigmentation, take it to the veterinarian for a full exam. Early diagnosis and treatment may help resolve the pigmentation issue.

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