Are you noticing dark patches on your dog's skin? Your pup may have hyperpigmentation. In this post, our Los Angeles vets discuss hyperpigmentation in dogs, its symptoms and causes, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. 

What is Hyperpigmentation in Dogs?

Hyperpigmentation is an increase in the dark pigmentation of the skin. If you've noticed dark patches on your dog's skin lately, or 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 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 skin feels rough or velvety. 

This is a secondary change in the skin of a dog. A variety of factors can cause the skin's pigment to change. If darker skin pigment accumulates on the skin, it will become noticeably darker than the rest of his or her body's skin.

You might also note other skin symptoms including 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 more common in breeds 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 imbalances, 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

Your veterinarian in Los Angeles will examine your dog for typical hyperpigmentation symptoms 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 in an effort 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 Washington Dog and Cat 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 veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with secondary hyperpigmentation, your pup's skin will feel normal again once the underlying issue has been treated. It will also be important to treat any yeast or bacterial infections in addition to hyperpigmentation. 

Antifungal or antibiotic medications may be prescribed to treat yeast or bacterial infections on your dog's skin. Medicated shampoos may also be recommended for use 2-3 times per week - expect slow progress. Relapse of hyperpigmentation is only likely if the underlying cause is not properly treated.

Recovery of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

As previously stated, progress may be slow and may take weeks or months before your dog's skin returns to normal. If any follow-up appointments are required, your veterinarian will inform you. The majority of your dog's follow-up appointments will be focused on continuing to treat the underlying cause of hyperpigmentation.

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 concerned that your dog may have a health condition that's causing hyperpigmentation? Contact our Los Angeles vets today.