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Have you noticed your dog’s skin may have unusually dark areas in their skin? Irregular in shape, scattered, or even in just one region?

Just like us humans, there is also Hyperpigmentation in dogs.

In this article, we'll discuss what is hyperpigmentation in dogs, its symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.

Scroll down to find out more!

What is Hyperpigmentation in Dogs?

Hyperpigmentation is the irregular accumulation of melanin in a region of the skin. It is the darkening and thickening of a skin region in a dog’s skin.

Unlike the surrounding area or overall skin color, certain area/s are highly pigmented compared to the other parts of the skin. 

This issue can be seen throughout the body but there are some areas wherein hyperpigmentation takes palace more frequently. 

On the other hand, Hyperpigmentation does not strictly happen to elderly dogs. It may occur still occur regardless of age.

Hyperpigmentation may happen to any dog breed but unfortunately, there are more breeds prone to hyperpigmentation.

However, hyperpigmentation is not a disease. It may be a symptom of other conditions or a reaction from skin trauma. 

It is split into two categories. The first one is Primary hyperpigmentation is congenital for certain breed types while secondary hyperpigmentation is a symptom of other underlying health conditions.

Hyperpigmentation in dogs belly

Primary Hyperpigmentation

Primary hyperpigmentation is a congenital condition found in Dachshunds. It usually appears during the dog’s puppy stages from 0- 12 months.

However, it does not necessarily need treatment, owners can use ointments to replenish the external skin.

If there’s inflammation present, veterinarians will advise anti-inflammatory medications and cleansers to relieve swelling. 

Secondary Hyperpigmentation

Secondary hyperpigmentation is a reaction from inflammation, skin trauma, or symptom from underlying conditions.

Some cases of secondary hyperpigmentation include inflammation, scaling, and infections. 

Where can you find Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation can be found throughout the body. They can come in irregular shapes and sizes.

It can come in a single region or scattered as well. For example, common areas for hyperpigmentation to take place are:

  • Abdomen
  • Armpits
  • Around the Eyes
  • Behind the Ears
  • Buttocks
  • Forehead
  • Groin
  • Hock
  • Muzzle
  • Neck

Symptoms of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Moreover, let's now tackle the symptoms of hyperpigmentation in Dogs. As dog owners, we must monitor and check on their health.

If you see any of the signs below, make sure to contact your vet immediately. 

Hyperpigmentation’s symptoms may vary due to its causes. For instance, here are some symptoms commonly found in dogs with hyperpigmentation: 

  • Irregular dark spots on the skin
  • Redness and swelling
  • Dry skin
  • Seborrhea (Scaling)
  • Lichenification (Thickening of the skin)
  • Musty scent
  • Hairloss 
  • Discharge
  • Infections
  • Lesions
  • Repeatedly biting/ scratching the area
  • Discomfort

Regarding the cause, symptoms may change over time. Secondary inflammation may begin to appear patchy and lighter.

Subsequently, it may increase in number and color over time.  

Hyperpigmentation in dogs

Causes of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Moreover, Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin mass-produces melanin to a specific region or it may be scattered.

Melanin is naturally present in the skin but with hyperpigmentation, it concentrates in a particular area in the epidermis and corneocytes

For secondary hyperpigmentation, causes may be around the underlying conditions all breeds are predisposed to such as:

Allergies

Firstly, allergies may aggravate the dog’s skin from constant biting to scratching causing it to be inflamed.

Recurring allergies may obstruct the repair of lesions and multiply skin that’s already been repaired. 

Atopic and Contact Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition. It can cause extreme pain and itching of the skin.

Atopic dermatitis leads to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.  The condition has no definite cure and may reoccur.

Contact Dermatitis is an allergic reaction of the skin after a direct encounter. This also leads to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Comedone associated Hyperpigmentation

Thirdly, Comedone is a condition where a skin pore is congested with debris and excess oil.

Comedones obstruct the pores causing inflammation and it becomes prone to infections. 

Cutaneous Tumor-related Hyperpigmentation

Cutaneous Tumor-related hyperpigmentation is found in melanocytoma and melanoma tumors.

When surgical treatment has been performed, cells in the region begin to increase in pigment.

Drug-induced Hyperpigmentation

Although it’s a rare condition, there have been records of drugs (cabergoline, ketoconazole, minocycline, and mitotane) causing hyperpigmentation as a side effect. 

Hormonal Imbalance (Hypothyroidism, Hyperadrenocorticism, etc.)

Thyroid glands produce hormones that affect pigmentation along with other functions in the body.

Hypothyroidism symptoms include inflammation, drying, and thickening of the skin. 

Hyperadrenocorticism is an endocrine disease that affects the pituitary or adrenal glands. It causes skin infections, skin mineralization, and hyperpigmentation as well.

Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections can cause discoloration in the skin.

Tinea versicolor is a sample of yeast infection that leaves the skin with atypical color patches in the skin affected. Lesions from infections can cause darker pigmentations in the skin.

Obesity

Dogs who are prone to obesity may form skin that may be prone to hot spots. Obese dogs are more prone to hyperpigmentation.

Papilloma Virus

Lesions in Papilloma Virus are prone to hyperpigmentation. It can be found within the oral cavity.

Lesions may not be visible initially and will be more pigmented over time. Along with the pigmentation, it will begin to scale and thicken.

Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation 

Lastly, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypomelanosis is the accumulation of melanin in the dermis and subsequent inflammation.

Example of Hyperpigmentation in dogs

Diagnosis of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Hyperpigmentation can be diagnosed through physical examination and some tests.

Primary hyperpigmentation may be diagnosed with physical examination alone but secondary hyperpigmentation may require follow-up tests and screenings. 

For secondary hyperpigmentation, the dog may undergo bacteria culture, food trials, intradermal testing, skin cytology, skin scraping, and thyroid tests.

Bacterial culture

Bacterial cultures are done to separate the bacteria causing the skin condition.

Food Trial

On the other hand, a food trial is where you'll feed your pup a very strict diet for 8 weeks.

It's trial and error where if the symptoms do improve, the original food is given again to see if the symptoms come back.

After that, we'll know if it was the diet that was causing the problem or something else.

Intradermal testing

Moreover, in intradermal testing, 60 different allergens are injected beneath the skin's subcutaneous layer. If there's a reaction, a welt or hive will form.

Skin Cytology

Furthermore, Skin Cytology on the other hand is a microscopic examination of tissue samples. It is a great tool for assessing skin lesions in small animal patients.

Skin Scraping

Lastly, skin scraping can show the presence of abnormal cells in the superficial layers of the skin.

For instance, it can reveal specific fungi, bacteria, cancer cells, and parasites.

Treatment of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

Furthermore, Hyperpigmentation treatment may depend on its kind and causes. 

The primary hyperpigmentation treatment is elective.

It does not require any treatment but may still apply ointments and medicated cleansers to decrease symptoms in its early stages. Ultimately, primary hyperpigmentation is incurable. 

Lesions found in primary hyperpigmentation do not exacerbate and may respond to symptomatic treatments alone. 

On the other hand, for secondary hyperpigmentation, treatment may depend on its affiliated condition.

Investigating the dog’s condition cause for hyperpigmentation is the first step.

While treating other symptoms, until the condition is diagnosed, the veterinarian may address the other symptom with oral or external medication. 

Also for secondary infections in secondary hyperpigmentation, treatment is immediate and crucial. 

Bacterial and yeast infections may spread throughout the body and even to other dogs if exposed for long periods.

Treatment for hyperpigmentation must be strictly followed and up to schedule.

Leaving hyperpigmentation untreated or delayed may cause pain and discomfort for the dog. Symptoms may even aggravate and may result in another disease. 

Fortunately, the prognosis may be positive if treatment and maintenance are met properly and on time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is hyperpigmentation in dogs contagious?

It will depend on whether it’s primary or secondary pigmentation.

For primary pigmentation, it will most likely affect the dog alone but for secondary hyperpigmentation, secondary infections can be contagious.

How long does treatment work in hyperpigmentation?

Treatment for hyperpigmentation will reflect on the frequency and effectiveness of the treatment.

Treating hyperpigmentation will usually take weeks to months regarding the severity and other conditions with it. 

Are follow-up check-ups needed for hyperpigmentation?

Yes, follow-up check-ups are procedures to ensure a good prognosis for dogs with hyperpigmentation.

Dogs diagnosed with secondary hyperpigmentation may need to attend more follow-up check-ups to address the underlying condition along with the hyperpigmentation.

Skin problem in dogs Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation in Dogs Summary

If you see your dog's skin begin to darken and thicken in specific areas, it can be a sign of hyperpigmentation.

In conclusion, hyperpigmentation in dogs can be the result of many conditions in your dog. It can be from an underlying health problem, allergies, infections, obesity, and more.

Since it's caused by other health conditions, hyperpigmentation can only be a minor issue compared to what's coming.

As pet owners, we all want what's best for our dogs. That's why as soon as we see an abnormal thing or small changes in them, it's in our best interest to have them checked out.

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