If you’ve raised dogs from puppies to adulthood, you’ve probably witnessed some pretty amazing changes in the way your animal develops and grows. One common change that can prove puzzling is when your dog’s fur changes color.
No, we’re not talking about chameleon green or the Skittles rainbow—but several factors can cause noticeable changes to your dog’s fur color. While most color changes are a normal effect of maturation, some can signal an underlying disease process that may require treatment.
Fur Color Change Due to Aging
The most common cause of color change in dogs is simply the natural aging process. Puppies often do not gain their adult coloration until they reach maturity, so if you’re adopting a puppy, you may notice some changes to its coloring as it nears adulthood.
Also, dogs’ coats tend to lighten as they age, so mature and elder dogs tend to have lighter colored coats than they did as young dogs. Also, like people, dogs do go gray as they age. Graying in dogs is most noticeable in the face, particularly the muzzle.
Fur Color Change Due to Injury or Surgery
Another potential cause of color change is traumatic injury or surgery. When dogs heal from a skin wound, often the fur that regrows during healing is darker than the original color. This occurs because melanin surges to the site to heal and repair the lost tissue. The result is hyperpigmented fur in the affected area. Note this type of hyperpigmentation only affects the area affected by trauma, not the animal’s full coat.
Clipping or shaving a dog’s coat can also result in color changes, and groomers often caution their clients that long-term grooming can result in a change in pigmentation affecting your pet’s coat over time.
Fur Color Change Due to Illness
Some illnesses can also cause your dog's coat to change color.
Hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism (where the thyroid gland fails or underperforms) can cause color changes. Hypothyroidism can also cause hair loss, brittle fur, skin infections or irritations, lethargy, reduced appetite, and slowed heart rate. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from thyroid disease, consult your vet. They can check your pet's thyroid hormone levels and prescribe corrective medical treatment if needed.
A skin condition called vitiligo can result in the appearance of white or unpigmented spots on your dog’s fur, particularly noticeable around the head, face, and ears. The causes of vitiligo remain unclear, but the disorder causes the melanin-containing cells to die off, cresting the patches of unpigmented fur.
Some cancers can also result in your dog’s fur changing colors. Skin cancer in dogs is relatively uncommon, but can result in either increased or decreased pigmentation in the fur. If you suspect that your animal may have skin cancer, see your vet for an evaluation.
Fur Color Change due to Staining
Some color changes are not due to changes in the melanin-containing cells but rather are due to staining. Tear staining, for example, can result when tear ducts drain down your pet’s face, alongside the nose, leaving a rust-colored residue.
The red staining is caused by naturally occurring chemicals called porphyrins. These porphyrins are the result of normal red-blood-cell breakdown and are typically excreted in the tears, saliva, and urine. A narrow or crooked duct then spills the porphyrins along your dog's nose, and exposure to light makes the iron particles show as red or rust-colored stains.
We hope you find these tips helpful. At Figo, we care about your pet’s health. That’s why we offer a broad array of pet health insurance packages, to suit every pet and every budget. Get your custom quote and learn how Figo can help protect your pet from the unexpected.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.