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Color Changes in Dogs
Color changes in dog’s skin and coat can occur on occasion where they become either lighter or darker in color, and in some cases, this may just a normal aging process that your dog is going through. However, it may also be the result of something very serious that is affecting your dog’s health and this may be the first sign that you have that something is terribly wrong.
If your dog’s skin or coat color is anything other than white, it is referred to a pigmented. The normal colors of all dogs that are not white include brown, yellow, black, red, as well a slightly purple. If for some reason you dogs skin color is a darker color because of an underlying cause, it is than referred to as hyper-pigmented. There are several diseases as well as conditions that can cause color changes in dogs, and for this reason if their coat or skin color does start to change, you should take it very serious and have them examined.
Color Dilution Alopecia:
The first potential cause of color changes in dogs is from a condition referred to as color dilution or mutant alopecia. This is believed to be an inherited condition that affects dogs with blue or diluted black skin and coats, or with fawn coat colorations. The breeds that are commonly affected by this condition include Greyhounds, Doberman’s, Great Danes, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, as well as Whippets. You can easily recognize this condition if you have one of these breeds when the hair that is located in their blue and fawn colored areas starts to thin.
This will generally occur when a puppy reaches six to eight months old. There is no specific treatment for this condition, but there are some things that you can do to rapidly slow it down. The first is to avoid excessive grooming, as this is usually the first thing an owner will do thinking it will be helpful. You will also need to totally avoid harsh shampoos, and instead use very gentle and mild shampoos. This condition by itself is not considered to be dangerous, but it can lead to folliculitis as well as other bacterial infections.
This potential cause of color changes in dogs is extremely dangerous and can very easily lead to glandular tumors. This disease is caused by an increase in the corticosteroid levels in your dog either by an increased production of corticosteroids by their immune system, or by a side effect. This side effect is the result of high dosages of corticosteroids that have been used in treatments of another condition. It will cause hair loss as well as hyper-pigmentation, and can also cause your dog to bruise very easily. If your dog starts to change colors and at the same time develops a pot-belly, they have Cushing’s disease.
This potential cause of a color change in your dog’s skin is also referred to as nasal depigmentation, and is a condition where a previous black nose turns colors. It can turn either chocolate brown to light pink, as well as most any shade in between these colors. It is most common in Yellow Labs, Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, as well as Poodles. As this condition increases, your dog’s nose will progressively start to change in color. Although it can look very alarming, it is rarely the result of any type of disease.
This cause of color changes in dogs is genetic and generally only affects Dachshunds. It can cause a darkening of their skin and is held to be a secondary condition. It is believed to be the result of friction, a hormonal imbalance or abnormality, or the result of hypersensitivity. Although it is not fully documented, it is believed that Vitamin E supplements can help slow this condition down in most cases.
Castration response dermatosis:
This potential cause is very common in young unneutered dogs as well as certain breeds. These breeds include Pomeranians, Miniature Poodles, Alaskan Malamutes, Chows, Samoyeds, as well as Keeshonden. It will cause a symmetrical hair loss at first that will be located in your dog’s genital area as well as their neck. If it is severe enough, it can affect their entire trunk. However, in either case, your dog’s hair color will suddenly begin to fade back to their puppy coat stage. It can be quite alarming, but is not considered to be dangerous. It is quickly remedied by castration and your dog’s color will gradually return to normal.
Basal cell tumors:
This is extremely dangerous, as it results in a slow growing, but cancerous tumor. It is considered to be quite common in any breed and affects older dogs. It will produce nodules that are fluid filled on your dog’s neck, head and their chest, and all three areas can show very dramatic hyper-pigmentation of both the skin and coat. There is only one way to correct this cause of color changes in dogs; surgically have the tumors removed. However, because it affects older dogs, they may never recover their full pigmentation.
Estrogen response dermatosis:
This potential cause of color changes is also referred to as ovarian imbalance type II. It is most common in young spayed dogs as well as Boxers and Dachshunds. In addition to hair loss, it will also cause a dramatic fading of your dog’s coat that also resembles their original puppy coat. It can be corrected with Estrogen replacement therapy; however, this is something that you should weigh very carefully. Estrogen therapy can have some very severe side effects that may far outweigh your dog’s hair coat changing colors.
This potential cause of color changes in dogs is also referred to as seasonal flank alopecia. To this date, it has absolutely no type of treatment, but it is not considered to be dangerous to your dog. However, it can still be quite traumatic as your dog’s hair will flat out stop growing at certain times during the year, and as a result, their skin will become much darker. Once the hair starts to grow again in a normal pattern, your dog’s skin color will return back to normal.
Growth hormone response alopecia:
This leads to a very sudden darkening of your dog’s skin and is still not fully understood by the medical community. It is believed to be the result of an enzyme deficiency or a decrease of adrenal hormones. Whey your dog’s adrenal hormones are decreased, it allows for other hormones to accumulate in the body which in turn causes the skin to be much darker than normal. It is most common in Pomeranians, Chow chows, Poodles, Samoyeds, as well as Keeshonden breeds. It generally attacks dogs at two years old or younger, but it is not a real threat to their overall health. In can be corrected by neutering or with hormonal supplements.
This disease can not only cause hair loss and dry and brittle hair, in can also cause skin pigmentation in
most all cases. This is a very serious condition and can also cause obesity, a slow heart rate, as well as severe color changes. The only way to correct hypothyroidism is by placing your dog on thyroid supplements for the rest of their life. The color changes that you see may be the first signs that your dog has this condition.
This is by no means all of the reasons for color changes in dogs, but they are considered to be the major causes. If your dog does start to change colors in their skin or their hair coat, it may be aging, something very simple, or it may be something extremely dangerous. Whatever the reason is, it should not be ignored and you should have your dog examined just to be on the safe side.
Greene, CE (ed.) Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 1998.
Griffin, C; Kwochka, K; Macdonald, J. Current Veterinary Dermatology. Mosby Publications. Linn, MO; 1993.
McKeever, PJ; Harvey, RG. Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat. Iowa State University Press. Ames, Iowa; 1998.
Paterson, S. Skin Diseases of the Cat. Blackwell Science Ltd. London, England; 2000.
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