Boomer has been right by your side for years, so naturally you expect to see a few changes in him as he ages. You might notice that his beard and other patches of fur lose color and turn white or gray during his senior years. Don’t worry about those straggly white hairs, though -- they’re perfectly normal.
As Boomer gets older, he starts losing color pigments in his fur. His once pristine chocolate-colored coat starts showing random white hairs, starting in the area around his muzzle and eyes, although he can have a few grays anywhere on his body. Facial hair, as well as fur around his paw pads, tends to be thinner and loses its natural color before the thicker more coarse body fur. White hairs will be clearly visible right away if your pooch has a darker coat. On the other hand, if his fur is a light color, you might not notice white hairs until he has a cluster of them.
When It Occurs
Whitening or graying is a natural part of aging, but you have no way of knowing exactly when Boomer will get his new glistening beard. Much like people, canines can have premature graying. Your beloved furball can start having changes in his coat when he’s just a few years old, or his solid-brown fur jacket may not show any signs of aging until he reaches double digits. The age that Boomer will start growing random white facial hairs is up to his genetics. If his mom and dad are around, they are good indicators as to when you can expect to see aging signals in Boomer. A gray muzzle on both parents at 7 or 8 years of age means Boomer will most likely follow in their footsteps. But if one of them went gray at a younger age, your pup could go gray early, too.
When to Worry
While patches of white fur aren’t generally anything to worry about, you’ll need to watch for anything out of the ordinary on your furry buddy’s skin. Redness and irritation under the white hairs can indicate that your four-legged companion is suffering from some kind of allergy, bug bite or fungal infection.
Fur whitening should be gradual. If it happens rapidly, you’ll want to let your veterinarian know right away, especially if it’s followed by fur loss. Your vet may want to draw some blood and evaluate your pup for hypothyroidism, liver and kidney functions, or even nutritional deficiencies, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a California-based veterinarian, explains.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.