Changes in the Skin Pigmentation of a Dog

Shar-Peis are particularly vulnerable to pigment-changing skin disorders.
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Pigments are tiny molecules inside your dog's skin cells that give them their color. Change in pigmentation is usually a temporary symptom, but some cases are associated with chronic disorders. Schedule a vet checkup to make sure your dog's change of color isn't related to a serious health problem.

Benign Pigment Change

Lentigo and vitiligo are two genetic disorders that your pup's parents may have passed on to him. Luckily, neither one is painful or dangerous for your pet. Lentigo is characterized by hyperpigmentation, or an overpopulation of pigment molecules, that turns patches of the dog's skin black. Dogs with vitiligo sport patches of light-colored skin due to hypopigmentation, or lack of pigment. Lentigo can develop anywhere on your dog's torso and legs, but vitiligo usually appears around the face or mouth, according to Dr. Jeff Vidt. Don't be too surprised if your dog's pigmentation starts to change as he gets older. A senior dogs is prone to develop general darkening of the skin during the latter years of life.

Hormones and Internal Health

Your pup's thyroid is part of a network of glands that supply his body with hormones. These biological chemicals are necessary for basic biological functions throughout his body. Hypothyroidism, overactive ovaries and other disorders disrupt the natural balance of hormones, which can alter the concentration of pigment in your pet's skin. Thyroid disorders are more common in big dog breeds like Irish setters and golden retrievers, according to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Any dog can develop gland issues due to a birth defects, injury or disease. If the vet thinks there's a internal health issue impacting your pet's skin, he may run blood tests and recommend medicinal therapy to alleviate the symptoms.

Temporary Pigment Change

If your dog's nose changed color after you replaced his food and water dish, he may simply be allergic them.Some dogs have inflammatory immune system reactions after touching metal, rubber and plastic material. Bring the old dishes back into action and watch your dog's nose for signs of improvement over the next few weeks. Infections of ringworm and bacteria on your pet's skin can also lead to a temporary increase in pigment molecules throughout the affected area. Skin color will return to normal once the inflammation subsides.

Breed-Specific Disorders

Some breeds are prone to unique variants of common pigmentation disorder. Tyrosinase deficiency is a harmless disorder found in Chow Chows. Affected dogs develop pink splotches on their dark-colored tongue and some of their fur may turn white. German shepherds are among several breeds that develop a type of vitiligo called nasal depigmentation, according to DoggedHealth. This inherited abnormality permanently lightens your pet's skin tone, particularly around the nose and lips. Mucocutaneous hypopigmentation has a similar effect on the Shar-Pei among other breeds, although discoloration from this disorder can be temporary.