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Hyperpigmentation & Black Spots On Dogs

Hyperpigmentation & Black Spots On Dogs

If your dog has developed new dark spots on their skin you might be concerned. This could be hyperpigmentation, and our Placentia vets are here to discuss what causes it and how to get rid of it. 

What is Hyperpigmentation in Dogs?

Simply put, hyperpigmentation is an increase in the dark pigmentation on your dog's skin. If you've noticed new dark patches on your dog's skin, or if you've noticed 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 this change in color and are wondering, 'What are these black spots on my dog's skin?', you're not alone. This change appears in light-brown to-black areas. While hyperpigmentation may be the singular symptom of a skin condition, it sometimes appears on areas of the skin that feel rough or velvety to the touch. This may be due to the skin thickening in the areas where the skin feels rough or velvety. 

This issue is a secondary change on a dog's skin. Several factors can cause the skin to change its pigment. If darker skin pigment accumulates on the skin, the skin will grow noticeably darker than the rest of the skin on his or her body. 

You might also notice other skin-related symptoms such as itchiness, crusting, redness, scaling, and hair loss. The skin may also be abnormally sweaty or moist. Conversely, 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 

A common symptom, secondary hyperpigmentation can occur in any dog breed and is triggered by friction and/or inflammation that leads to additional skin changes such as odor, hair loss, thickened skin, and pain.

Secondary hyperpigmentation is commonly seen in dog breeds that are prone to allergies, skin infections, contact dermatitis (German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Yorkshire Terriers, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dobermans, Great Danes, Border Collies, and Dalmations), hormonal abnormalities and obesity (Irish Setters, Lhassa Apsos, 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

To diagnose hyperpigmentation, your veterinarian in Placentia will examine your dog for typical symptoms of this skin issue and gently scrape the skin for samples to identify any underlying causes such as infections or parasites.

.A full physical exam may be performed and your dog's medical history reviewed. If your veterinarian suspects allergies may be the culprit, food trials may be done to isolate the cause of your pet's symptoms. 

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 when detected early enough symptoms can be managed with steroid ointments and special shampoos. Other medications can be used as symptoms intensify or worsen. If any infections occur, your veterinarian can also treat those. 

Our veterinarians at Yolinda Animal Hospital 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 vet has examined your dog and given the diagnosis of hyperpigmentation, the underlying condition needs to be treated before your dog's skin will feel better. It will also be important to treat any yeast or bacterial infections in addition to hyperpigmentation. 

Antifungal medications or antibiotics may be prescribed to treat yeast or bacterial infections on your pooch's skin. There are also medicated shampoos that might be able to help solve the issues slowly and can be applied 2 - 3 times per week. Relapse of hyperpigmentation will only be high if the underlying cause hasn't been correctly treated. 

Recovery of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Progress can be slow, several weeks or even months can go by before your dog starts to feel better. Your vet will discuss whether they need follow-up appointments to continue treating the condition. Most follow-ups will be focused on continuing to treat the underlying cause of hyperpigmentation for your dog. 

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 worried about your dog's health? Contact our Placentia vets today to book an appointment and discuss your dog's condition.

Yolinda Animal Hospital, Placentia

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