Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

What are these dark patches on my dog's skin?

Is your dog developing dark patches on their skin? It could be hyperpigmentation. In today's post, you'll find information about hyperpigmentation in dogs, including what causes it and how it can be treated. 

Why have black spots started to appear on my dog?

If your dog has begun to develop areas of darkened skin then they may be experiencing hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is generally defined as an excess of pigmentation in a bodily part or tissue. 

Hyperpigmentation is not a condition on its own, it is typically an indication that your pup may be suffering from an underlying health concern. Many conditions can cause hyperpigmentation on your dog's belly and other areas of the body. 

What are the symptoms associated with hyperpigmentation?

If you've noticed that areas of your dog's skin have changed color and are asking yourself, 'What is causing my dog's skin to turn black?', you're not alone. Hyperpigmentation appears as light-brown to black areas on the skin. While the discoloration alone isn't necessarily an indicator of health concerns, there may also be patches of skin that are a different texture along, and the discoloration may be accompanied by other symptoms.

Other skin symptoms that can be present along with the change in skin color can include redness, scaling, crusting, itchiness and hair loss. The skin may also become abnormally moist or sweaty. On the other hand, your dog's skin may become dry to the touch and dandruff could become a problem. 

There are two types of hyperpigmentation seen in dogs:

Primary Hyperpigmentation

While primary diseases that may cause hyperpigmentation can occur in any breed, they seem to be more prevalent in Dachshunds. This form of the condition is often seen in dogs less than one year old.

Secondary Hyperpigmentation 

Secondary hyperpigmentation is a common symptom and can occur in any dog breed. It is triggered by inflammation or friction that leads to additional skin changes including thickened skin, odor, hair loss and discomfort. 

Veterinarians and pet parents most often see secondary hyperpigmentation in breeds that are prone to skin infections, contact dermatitis and allergies including basset hounds, German shepherds, Irish setters, Yorkshire terriers, great Danes, Dobermans, Labradors, dalmatians and border collies. Obesity and hormonal abnormalities are often associated with the condition when it affects breeds such as Lhasa apsos, Labrador retrievers, basset hounds, Irish setters, Jack Russell terriers, golden retrievers, and pugs. 

What could be causing my dog's hyperpigmentation?

Some of the conditions that can cause hyperpigmentation in dogs include:

  • Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Pseudo-Cushing's Syndrome - An endocrine disorder common in middle-aged and older dogs 
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - A chronic, relatively rare immune-mediated disease 
  • Malassezia - A type of yeast infection
  • Demodicosis - A condition resulting from the presence of parasitic mites

How is the cause of hyperpigmentation diagnosed?

To diagnose hyperpigmentation, your veterinarian will examine your dog for other symptoms associated with 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 determine the cause of your pet's symptoms. 

Further diagnostic testing may be recommended to gather more details about your dog's internal health and to ensure that the cause of your dog's condition has been correctly diagnosed.

What are the treatments for 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. 

At Friendly Animal Clinic, our veterinarians are experienced in diagnosing and treating many dermatological issues seen in dogs and cats. We are dedicated to developing effective treatment plans to soothe skin issues and get your pet feeling better as quickly as possible. 

If your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with secondary hyperpigmentation, your pup's skin should return to normal once the underlying issue has been treated. It will also be important to treat any yeast or bacterial infections in addition to hyperpigmentation. 

Anti-fungal medications or antibiotics may be prescribed to treat yeast or bacterial infections of your pooch's skin. Medicated shampoos may also be recommended for application 2-3 times a week, but be prepared for slow progress. Relapse of hyperpigmentation will only be high if the underlying cause hasn't been correctly treated. 

Will my dog's skin return to its normal color?

As indicated above, progress may be slow and it may take weeks or months before your dog's skin gets back to normal. Your veterinarian will tell you whether any follow-up appointments are required. Most follow-up visits 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. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Concerned about the health of your dog's skin? Contact Friendly Animal Clinic today to book an examination for your furry friend.

Clients Share the Love

  • Wonderful caring staff and so kind to the animals!
    - Sue E.

Book Online (336) 299-6011