Is your dog having pigmentation changes making you wonder if all is well? Dogs suffer changes in their skin and coat color for various reasons. While some of these changes involve excessive pigmentation, others will experience diminishing pigmentation. Find out what vitiligo in dogs eyes, nose or mouth is, whether it is hereditary, its symptoms and other conditions you should differentiate it from.
Vitiligo in Dogs
Dogs face various skin pigmentation disorders. While most of these are result in hyperpigmentation, it is also possible for your dog to experience loss of pigmentation or decreased pigment on parts of skin and fur over time. Vitiligo in dogs is a condition that sees the affected dog lose its color.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo occurs due to a loss of pigmentation. It is as a result of the melanocytes losing their ability to produce melanin. Dogs suffering from vitiligo start developing white hairs that are scattered throughout the coat. With time they get large patches of their coats that have to go through the loss of color.
The development of white, grey and depigmented hair may appear suddenly or develop with time. While these blotches may be aesthetically unappealing, they have no negative effect on your dog.
Is Vitiligo in Dogs Hereditary?
Vitiligo in dogs is hereditary and as such, some breeds are predisposed to having it. These include German shepherds, poodles, Dobermans, Irish Setters. Pointes Samoyeds and Afghan hounds.
Vitiligo in Dogs Symptoms
Vitiligo in dogs often sets in as a puppy turns into an adult. It is therefore important to pay attention so as to identify the symptoms of vitiligo as they appear. Of great concern should be color changes on the face and fur. Below are the symptoms to look out for.
- The fading of brown or black pigment on dog skin to adopt lighter shades such as white or greyish coloration.
- Changes in nose color: Before the condition spreads to the rest of the body, it will affect the face first. When vitiligo sets in in a dog, it will affect the skin around the nose making it go white or pink. The area around the eyes could also be affected.
- Formation of white patches: White blotches around the skin and fur of otherwise colored dogs could indicate vitiligo in dogs too.
Vitiligo in Dogs Diagnosis
Once you notice the above symptoms, you should take your pet to the veterinarian to be certain that what you observe is vitiligo in dogs and not another condition. The vet will conduct a physical examination. It is also possible for them to do a simple biopsy, if necessary, whereby the skin is scraped off and tested. This is necessary where other conditions such as uveodermatological syndrome need to be ruled out.
The immune system of a dog produces antibodies to guard against harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses. When the immune system malfunctions and can’t tell apart harmful organisms from healthy body tissues, it ends up destroying those important tissues. The dog is thus said to suffer from an autoimmune disorder.
Uveodermatological syndrome in dogs occurs as a result of an underlying autoimmune disorder in which the immune system forms antibodies to fight against the skin’s pigment cells as well as the light sensing cells located at the back of the eyes. It could lead to vitiligo in dogs and exhibits symptoms such as:
- Inflammation resulting in painful and red eyes in your dog
- Skin depigmentation on the footpads, hard palate, anus, scrotum, eyelids, lips and nose.
- The eyes become sensitive to bright light.
According to vetstreet.com, the condition may be triggered by viruses and worsened by exposure to sunlight. Uveodermatological syndrome is common in Samoyeds, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas, and Siberian Huskies.
To diagnose this condition, a thorough physical and ophthalmological examination will be conducted. Since the loss of pigmentation on the fur and skin is only a cosmetic issue, treatment mainly focuses on dealing with the eyes to help mitigate long-term effects of the condition which could cause permanent blindness in your dog. The dog will be issued with topical eye treatments as well as systematic immunosuppressive drugs.
Vitiligo in Dogs Treatment or Cure
When it comes to how to treat vitiligo in dogs, there is little that can be done to cure it. As discussed above, decreased pigment in dogs occurs as a hereditary condition or as a result of an autoimmune disorder. In cases of general vitiligo in dogs, chances are that they will never regain the pigmentation. However, immune suppressive drugs can be administered to deal with uveodermatological syndrome.
It is also possible to offer medication that can reduce the extent to which the vitiligo manifests.
Conditions Likely to be Confused with Vitiligo in Dogs
There are additional conditions that could see your dog lose their skin color and hair pigmentation. These could easily be mistaken for vitiligo and include:
- Skin Color Change due to Age: Age-associated graying is common in dogs and occurs due to the decline of melanocytes as the dog ages. This is common in Labradors, German Shepherds, Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers.
- Seasonal Coat Color Changes: Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors are prone to what is known as “snow nose.” This involves lightening of the nasal planum during the winter. Their noses are therefore lighter during this time and get darker in the summer.
These two conditions are not diseases and should not bother you. The loss of pigmentation only affects their aesthetics and there is nothing that can be done about it.
In addition to these, contact dermatitis and direct exposure to chemicals can affect melanin production and result in depigmentation. This can be avoided by paying attention to what environmental factors the dog is exposed to and eliminating those affecting it negatively. Trauma and infections on the skin can also result in temporary depigmentation.
In case you have any doubts regarding vitiligo in dogs or any pigmentation changes, consult your veterinarian.
Vitiligo in Dogs Images and Photos
- Vetstreet.com: Uveodermatologic Syndrome in Dogs
- Petmd.com: Skin Infections and Loss of Skin Color Disorders in Dogs
- Gopetsamerica.com: Vitiligo