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What Is Hyperpigmentation in Dogs?

What Is Hyperpigmentation in Dogs?

If you've noticed changes in your dog's skin's color and texture, this may be a case of hyperpigmentation. While it is not a disease, it can be indicative of certain conditions. Learn more in today's blog as our vets talk about symptoms, causes, and treatments for hyperpigmentation in dogs.

In dogs, hyperpigmentation manifests as areas of the skin becoming darker and thicker velvety, rough areas of thickened, often hairless skin. This condition is commonly seen in the leg and groin areas on dogs, and can affect dogs of any breed, though some breeds are more prone to developing it.

Hyperpigmentation in dogs

There are two kinds of hyperpigmentation in dogs: primary and secondary. Primary hyperpigmentation is thought to be breed-specific, and secondary hyperpigmentation is common among all breeds of dog and can be caused by several health issues. 

Primary hyperpigmentation

  • Uncommon 
  • Breed-specific to Dachshunds 
  • Dogs usually start presenting symptoms by their first year
  • Not curable, but manageable with treatments and medications 
  • Can occur concurrently with secondary hyperpigmentation 

Primary hyperpigmentation is currently only seen in Dachshunds and does not have a cure. Sometimes, the condition only cosmetically affects the skin and won't necessitate treatment. If the hyperpigmentation presents with inflammation, medicated shampoo and steroid ointments can be effective treatments during the early stages. Your veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose your pet and recommend the best treatment options with their wellbeing in mind. 

Secondary hyperpigmentation 

Secondary hyperpigmentation can be caused by inflammation or friction and leads to changes in the skin such as thickened areas, hair loss, odor, and signs of pain. It is commonly found in many different dog breeds with a variety of underlying causes including: 
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal imbalances
  •  Allergies
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Infections of the skin

Inflamed areas can often be red around their edges, which signals the presence of a secondary bacterial infection, or possibly a yeast infection. Without treatment, hyperpigmentation can spread to different parts of your dog's body - including the groin, abdomen, ears, and around the eyes. They may also experience itchiness and discomfort. Eventually, your canine companion could experience even further hair loss, fluid discharge, and infections. Regardless of the severity of your pooch's symptoms, take them to a vet to be examined and diagnosed so that treatment can begin sooner.

Diagnosing hyperpigmentation in dogs

Your veterinarian will base a diagnosis on particular symptoms and the physical appearance of your dog. If you have a young Dachshund, other potential causes for hyperpigmentation should be ruled out first. A thorough history is taken and a physical examination is carried out to diagnose a cause for the condition. 

In the case of secondary hyperpigmentation, there is almost always an underlying disease to blame. In order to narrow down potential causes, skip scrapings are taken from the affected sites and examined for other issues (e.g. parasites). Your vet may recommend additional testing depending on the findings, including diagnostic procedures like endocrine function tests, allergy tests, and skin biopsies for further examination. If there are secondary bacterial infections present, your vet will treat those before moving on to other tests. 

Treatment of hyperpigmentation in dogs

Primary hyperpigmentation in Dachshunds is not curable. In some dogs, the condition is only cosmetic and does not require treatment. If inflammation is present, early cases may respond to shampoo treatment and steroid ointments. As signs progress, other treatment, such as medication given by mouth or injection, may be useful. The concurrent treatment of secondary infections is helpful and is required before steroids are administered. Medicated shampoos are often beneficial for removing excess oil and odor but must be used regularly.

Secondary hyperpigmentation tends to resolve once the underlying problem is treated, including any additional bacterial or yeast infections that are present with your dog's skin change. 

Your vet could recommend medications such as antibiotics and antifungals to treat bacterial and yeast infections affecting your dog's skin, and other topical treatments like medicated shampoo to help soothe and treat your dog's skin. Treatment will need to be consistent to see results; it is advised that pet parents prepare themselves to be patient and persistent. Neglecting to follow treatment instructions could lead to a relapse and return of hyperpigmentation in your dog. 

Your vet team works with you and your animal so that we can offer them the very best care, tailored to their needs. If you're concerned that your dog has signs of hyperpigmentation, contact Newtown Veterinary Specialists to book an appointment with us today!

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