Skin Discoloration in Dogs

Skin discoloration may often be caused by exposure to sun or treatment with certain drugs or topical ointments, but this may also be a symptom of an underlying condition. The color of skin in dogs may vary according to the breed and age of the dog. As a dog owner, you should be able to recognize skin coloration changes and get help when needed.

Causes of Skin Discoloration in Dogs

Dogs may have various skin colors (i.e. brown, purple, pink, black) and you may be able to see the color of the skin if you look under the dog’s fur. Short haired dogs or hairless breeds have more visible skin and changes are easier to track. Dogs with a skin color different from white are considered pigmented canines.

The color of the skin may change and there may be hyperpigmented or depigmented areas; you need to monitor these changes. Possible causes of skin discoloration may include:

  • Aging; puppies may change their skin color as they become adults; the skin color may be lighter or darker than initially
  • A parasite infection
  • A skin infection
  • Sun exposure, which may cause a discoloration of the skin and hair, but may also lead to hyperpigmentation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Skin cancer
  • A hormonal imbalance
  • Skin lesions
  • Allergic reactions
  • Treatment with certain drugs that cause skin and coat discoloration
  • Topical application of certain ointments, powders or shampoos (i.e. flea repellants)

The discolored skin may be observed on the pet’s body or in many cases, only on his nose.

The change of pigmentation of the nose is specific for certain dog breeds (i.e. Dobermans, Labrador retrievers) and is considered normal. This phenomenon is also known as Dudley nose.

Additional Symptoms along with Skin Discoloration

If your dog displays skin discoloration, he may also have additional symptoms, which may be specific to the underlying condition causing the depigmentation. Watch out for symptoms such as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased thirst and frequency of urination
  • Skin itchiness
  • Visible fleas or other parasites
  • Skin rashes

In some cases, the dog will not present any additional symptoms.

Diagnosing Canine Skin Discoloration

The diagnosis of skin discoloration will be done based on the symptoms of the canine and by running a number of tests.

A skin scraping will be necessary to rule out any possible skin infections.

Allergy testing may also be needed.

A skin biopsy is an advanced testing that may also be performed if the vet suspects skin cancer.

Treating Discolored Skin

In some cases, there will be no need for treatment for depigmented skin, as the lack of pigmentation is normal and there are no underlying conditions.

However, in other cases, the dog will require treatment. The treatment will be established according to the condition affecting the pet.

The dog may get topical treatment (i.e. for skin infections or parasites) or a more ample treatment with medication or even radiation therapy (for skin cancer or hormonal problems).