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Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Does your dog have dark patches on its skin? Your dog could have hyperpigmentation. Our Liberty Lake vets discuss hyperpigmentation in dogs, its symptoms and causes, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery in this post.

What is hyperpigmentation in dogs?

Hyperpigmentation is an increase in the dark pigmentation of the skin. If you've noticed dark patches on your dog's skin lately, or that parts of your dog's skin look or feel different compared to the rest of his or her body, you may be seeing hyperpigmentation - a reaction of the body to a certain condition, not a specific disease or diagnosis in itself. Many conditions can result in hyperpigmentation on a dog's belly or elsewhere on its body.

What are the symptoms of hyperpigmentation in dogs?

If you've noticed a color change and are wondering, 'What are these black spots on my dog's skin?' you're not alone. This transformation is visible as light-brown to black areas. While hyperpigmentation may be the only symptom of a skin condition, it can also appear on skin that is rough or velvety to the touch. This could be caused by skin thickening in areas where the skin feels rough or velvety.

This is a secondary change in the skin of a dog. A variety of factors can cause the skin's pigment to change. If darker skin pigment accumulates on the skin, it will become noticeably darker than the rest of his or her body's skin.

Other skin symptoms may include itching, crusting, redness, scaling, and hair loss. The skin may also be excessively sweaty or wet. It may also be dry to the touch and have dandruff. 

 There are two types of hyperpigmentation: primary and secondary. 

Primary Hyperpigmentation

Primary diseases that may cause hyperpigmentation can occur in any breed but especially in Dachshunds. This type of hyperpigmentation is typically evident by the time a dog is one year old.

Secondary Hyperpigmentation 

Secondary hyperpigmentation is a common symptom that can occur in any dog breed and is caused by friction and/or inflammation, which causes additional skin changes such as odor, hair loss, thickened skin, and pain.

Secondary pigmentation is more common in breeds prone to allergies, skin infections, and contact dermatitis (German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Yorkshire Terriers, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dobermans, Great Danes, Border Collies, and Dalmations), hormonal imbalances, and obesity (Irish Setters, Basset Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, Pugs, Golden Retrievers, and Jack Russell Terriers).

Why is my dog's skin turning black?

Have you been growing more concerned as hyperpigmentation develops and asking your vet (and perhaps the internet), 'What causes a dog's skin to turn black?'

Causes of hyperpigmentation in dogs can vary and typically point to larger medical issues your dog is experiencing, including:

  • Allergies - May lead to hyperpigmented areas on the skin
  • Hypothyroidism - Hyperpigmentation appears in some dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism 
  • Pseudo-Cushing's Syndrome - this endocrine disorder is common in middle-aged and older dogs and can result in hyperpigmentation 
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - Some dogs with this chronic, fairly rare immune-mediated disease will also have hyperpigmentation 
  • Malassezia - Hyperpigmentation is one symptom of this type of yeast infection
  • Demodicosis - A lesser-known cause of hyperpigmentation, this condition is due to a parasitic mite

Diagnosis of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Your veterinarian in Liberty Lake will examine your dog for typical hyperpigmentation symptoms and gently scrape the skin for samples to identify any underlying causes such as infections or parasites.

Your dog's medical history and a full physical exam may be performed. Food trials may be conducted if your veterinarian suspects allergies are to blame.

Diagnostic testing may also be done to ensure the underlying cause of your dog's symptoms has been correctly identified. 

Treatment of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

While there is no cure for primary hyperpigmentation, symptoms can be managed with steroid ointments and special shampoos if detected early enough. Other medications may be used if symptoms worsen or intensify. Infections can also be treated by your veterinarian.

Our veterinarians at Legacy Animal Medical Center are experienced in diagnosing and treating dermatological and other health issues in dogs and cats and are dedicated to developing effective treatment plans. 

If your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with secondary hyperpigmentation, his or her skin will return to normal once the underlying cause has been addressed. In addition to hyperpigmentation, any yeast or bacterial infections must be treated.

To treat yeast or bacterial infections on your dog's skin, antifungal or antibiotic medications may be prescribed. Medicated shampoos may also be recommended for use 2-3 times per week - progress will be slow. A relapse of hyperpigmentation is only possible if the underlying cause is not treated properly.

Recovery of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

As previously stated, progress may be slow and may take weeks or months before your dog's skin returns to normal. If any follow-up appointments are required, your veterinarian will notify you. The majority of your dog's follow-up appointments will be devoted to addressing the underlying cause of hyperpigmentation.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog may have a health condition that's causing hyperpigmentation? Contact our Liberty Lake vets today.

New Patients Welcome

At Legacy Animal Medical Center, we are always accepting new patients! Our veterinary team's experience and passion make all the difference to the patients at our animal medical center in Liberty Lake. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

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