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Vitiligo in Dogs

Updated on September 5, 2012
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Dog Health: If your dog has white patches, he may have vitiligo.

What is vitiligo in dogs:

Vitiligo, a pigmentation disorder, affects as many humans as dogs. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks melanocytes which are the cells that produce melain - the dark biological pigments that produce coloration to skin, hair, eyes, nails and some internal tissues. Once the melanocytes are destroyed, the pigment on skin or hair will disappear, which result in white patches on skin or white hair/fur. Vitiligo is not contagious and does not cause any pain or pose any harm to a body’s overall health except for the disappearance of coloration. Sometimes the affected areas may regain pigment by itself or through medical treatments.

How to find out if your dog has vitiligo?

Not all dogs have an equal level risk to be affected by vitiligo. According to the study of The University of Sydney, Gundog, Hound, Utility and Working dog are the groups affected. These breed of dogs also have a higher chance to be affected such as Rottweilers, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd and Labrador Retrievers.
When a dog starts to show sign of vitiligo, the owner of the dog will most likely notice the white patches in these areas: nose, the bridge of the nose, skin or fur around the eyes, eye lashes, paws, anus and genitals. Dogs that have no fur would show spotty skin coloration.
The best way to confirm this condition is to have a veterinarian run a test on the dog.

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The cause and the treatment for vitiligo in dogs

The cause
To date, there is no confirmed cause for vitiligo. Although some people claimed vitiligo is a common manifestation of hyperparathyroidism, its cause might be related to stress, infections, mutations, some people even suggested the build-up of excessive of hydrogen peroxide was in play. However, so far none of these suggested causes has been scientifically proven.

The treatment
Although there have been a lot of suggested treatments promising the re-pigmentation, such as the compounds derived from black pepper extract that created by Amala Soumyanath, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology, OHSU School of Medicine, none has been approved as an effective medical treatment for vitiligo.

Since vitiligo is a painless and harmless condition, there is no need to spend hundreds of dollars to seek medical treatment. Besides, all medications can have certain degree of side effects. Dogs with vitiligo are still very healthy dogs. It’s not worth it to put your beloved dogs through those unnecessary treatments that might cause more harm than good. Dogs don’t have the complex feelings as human do, so they don’t care about whether there are extra white patches on them. Vitiligo is just a cosmetic problem in human eyes, not in dogs . They are happy as long as they have their owners’ love and cares.

How to take care of a dog with vitiligo?

Although vitiligo doesn’t affect a body’s overall health, unpigmented skin areas are very prone to sunburn. Therefore, a dog with vitiligo should not stay in direct sunlight for a prolong period of time. It will also help reduce the chance for the dogs getting sunburn by covering their white patches with cloth or sunscreen.

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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      An interesting hub. My little dog has an allergy and instead of white patches, because her fur is white, her skin has brown patches like large freckles. It sounds like the opposite of what you describe, which is interesting.

    • kittyjj profile image
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      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thanks Blossom for stopping by. Your comment about your dog's brown patches as having freckles - the opposite of vitiligo is exactly how I feel about the vitiligo on human. :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I think I have seen dogs with this condition, but I didn't know what it was. I'm glad it doesn't harm overall health - that's a comfort! I'd be interested in more information about the condition in humans, too.

    • SonQuioey10 profile image

      Toni Northern 5 years ago from Williamston NC

      That's an interesting thing to know about dogs. I never would have guessed the white patches were because of a disorder. Nice Hub. Interesting.

    • kittyjj profile image
      Author

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      @Marcy, the condition in human is the same as in dogs. It is the mental/emotional reactions toward vitiligo that are different. Human seem to care a great deal about their or other people's appearance while dogs don't. An owner of a restaurant, for example, most likely won't hire someone with white patches on his/her face or hands as a waiter/waitress. A lot of people will think twice before taking in a person with vilitigo as a new friend. That is why people with vitiligo feel stressed and depressed when they have two skin tones on their body, especially on their face, neck and hands where they can't cover them with clothes all the time.

    • kittyjj profile image
      Author

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you for coming by and commenting, SonQuioey10. A lot of people are not aware of vitiligo in dogs. Most of the time is the owners of dogs who would notice the change of colors on their dogs. But since vitiligo is harmless, most owners don't make a fuss about it.

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