Vitiligo In Dogs: Facts And Myths

Have you ever had a dog that suddenly or gradually began to develop white or pink spots and patches all over its body? If your answer to that question was yes, then you have definitely come across a rare condition of vitiligo in dogs. In case you are wondering, it’s the same health condition that leads to the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes) in humans. While it seems dogs can suffer from vitiligo too, there are underlying factors to consider before jumping to conclusions.

We will be exploring if vitiligo in dogs is a real condition among canines or a myth, the possible causes and treatment of it, and so much more in this article.

Vitiligo In Dogs Explained – Is It Genetic?

Vitiligo is a very rare condition in dogs that causes them to lose pigmentation in certain parts of their bodies, especially the skin. Just like it is in humans, the skin of your dog has melanocytes – which are cells that produce melanin, which in turn makes your pet have its normal colours and markings. A dog that has vitiligo may have its characteristically black nose turn white or pinkish, and with time, this could spread to other parts of its body, including the fur, paws and so on.

It has also been confirmed that if the ancestors of a dog had the condition, the chances of suffering the same fate becomes high. This makes it important to know a dog’s history before you adopt to allow you prepare for what may come.

There are basically two types obtainable in this condition, focal vitiligo and generalised vitiligo.

  • Focal Vitiligo

This type of vitiligo in dogs is characterized by the “whitening’ of just one part of your dog such as the nose. In this case, the discolouration focuses on a particular spot and doesn’t spread beyond that. The reverse is the case with the generalised type of vitiligo in dogs.

  • Generalized Vitiligo

As the name easily suggests, generalised vitiligo causes several pink or white patches to develop in symmetric or random patterns all over the body. Most of the time, you would notice that the patches have an exact copy at the same spot on the other side of the body as if they are mirroring each other.

Does Vitiligo In Dogs Occur Often?

As stated earlier, vitiligo is not very common in dogs and the chances that your pooch will develop this condition is quite very slim; except where it is caused by hereditary factors.

If your dog, however, has a rare condition, it may respond to a certain form of treatment with the physical symptoms receding, but they may come back after some time.

How To Know Your Dog Has Vitiligo

The first signs of vitiligo in dogs would be presented facially. You will notice the nose – which may be naturally black or brown, start to turn white or lose its natural pigmentation. This would consequently spread to the muzzle, ears, eyes and head.

The condition would then proceed to the skin, fur, paws and back, and continue until it covers most parts of the body. Once you begin to notice this pigment loss, it’s time to visit the vet who will make further visual inspections, take blood samples and run a skin biopsy to diagnose the exact cause and nature of your dog’s loss of pigment.

Causes Of Vitiligo In Dogs

The major cause of vitiligo is largely believed to be hereditary, passed down from one generation to another. If the sire and/or dam of your dog has the condition, the chances of your pet developing it too are probably high. This, however, may not be the only cause of this condition, so let’s examine a few more:

Autoimmune Skin Disorder

In this case, vitiligo in dogs is caused by a band of diseases that happens to the canines. Here, the dog’s antibodies or white blood cells attack its own tissues and skin. This is probably the most likely leading cause of vitiligo in dogs.

Neurological Diseases

This condition in dogs attacks the brain and nervous system of the pooch, which may, in turn, lead to vitiligo. The condition may also cause severe health challenges for the dog if not taken care of.

Exposure to Toxins

Dogs can get into anywhere or anything if left unattended. Depending on the things they come in contact with, some of their adventures can be toxic and cause issues with their nervous or immune system.


Exposing your dog to certain stressful conditions and situations can lead to neurological and immune system problems, which may present themselves as vitiligo.

Treatment For Vitiligo In Dogs

There seems to be no definite line of treatment for vitiligo as most times, it is a permanent problem, but as caring dog owners, we won’t just fold our arms and do nothing. Here are some remedial situations you could try to manage your dog’s condition:

Read Also: 10 Blue Dog Breeds You Can’t Resist

Natural Reversal

Sometimes – though on very few occasions, a dog suffering vitiligo and covered with spots and patches, may begin to change back to its original colour, either permanently or partially. As stated earlier, this happens in extremely rare cases.

Good Old Sunshine

A little sunshine never does anyone any harm – this can be true for your dog if it has this condition. Vets advise that dogs with vitiligo should be allowed to get in the sun more, in order to get their Melanocytes working to produce Melanin and prevent further loss of colour/pigmentation.

Diet and Nutrition

Though vitiligo in dogs is not caused by diet or nutrition, it won’t cost the dog owner anything to consult a dog nutritionist or vet to find out if your present dog food is supplying your pet enough nutrients to allow its immune system to function optimally.

Cosmetic Overlay

First off, this isn’t a treatment for vitiligo in dogs, but if the patches and spots – which is perfectly harmless to your pooch, bothers you a lot, why not visit a dog groomer or vet and ask them to cover the patches and spots cosmetically. They can achieve this with pigments and dyes that can be very close to your dog’s natural colors and markings.

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