Hyperpigmentation: Black Spots on my Dog

If you have recently noticed that dark spots are appearing on your dog then they may be affected by a condition causing hyperpigmentation. In this post, our La Mesa vets discuss hyperpigmentation in dogs, the common causes and how it can be treated.

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 their 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 as 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 due to the thickening of the skin.

Hyperpigmentation in dogs is a secondary skin condition and can be caused by a variety of factors. The darker the pigment within the skin, the darker that area of the body will appear.

You might also note other skin symptoms including itchiness, crusting, redness, scaling and hair loss. The appearance of the skin can vary greatly with the skin potentially being sweaty or even dry and experiencing dandruff.

 There are two types of hyperpigmentation: primary and secondary. 

Primary Hyperpigmentation

Primary diseases that may cause hyperpigmentation can occur in any breed but are most commonly seen 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 most often seen in breeds that are prone to allergies, skin infections, contact dermatitis, hormonal abnormalities and obesity. 

Why is My Dog's Skin Turning Black?

If you have noticed that your dog's skin has been turning black then you may be inclined to ask your vet what the potential cause could be.

Causes of hyperpigmentation in dogs can vary and most commonly is an indicator of an underlying concern, 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 La Mesa 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 may be 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. 

Your vet will most likely perform thorough diagnostic testing in order to determine the cause of your dog's hyperpigmentation accurately.

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. Your vet may prescribe medications if your dog s experiencing more severe symptoms or if an infection develops.

Our veterinarians at Rancho Village Veterinary 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 medications or antibiotics may be prescribed to treat yeast or bacterial infections affecting the skin of your canine companion. Medicated shampoos may also be recommended for application 2-3 times a week - be prepared for slow progress. Relapse of hyperpigmentation is highly likely if the underlying cause of the condition hasn't been properly addressed.

Recovery of Hyperpigmentation in Dogs

As indicated above, progress may be slow and can 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-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 concerned that your dog may be experiencing a health condition that's causing hyperpigmentation? Contact our La Mesa vets today.