When the internet first saw this black lab with white eye patches, a lot of people thought he was Photoshopped into a reverse panda. But dogs with random white patches usually AREN’T the result of image manipulation– instead, they’re likely to have a skin condition called vitiligo. Vitiligo in dogs causes random white patches to appear on a dog’s coat. We’ll talk more about what vitiligo is in a little bit, but first: Let’s meet some dogs with vitiligo!
Rowdy the Black Lab
Rowdy isn’t just a beloved pet– he’s also the face of the American Vitiligo Research Foundation. He’s on a mission to inspire and empower people with vitiligo to feel comfortable in their own skin and celebrate their uniqueness. Follow Rowdy on Instagram @White_Eyed_Rowdy.
Yeti the Rottweiler Mix
Yeti is a rottweiler mix with vitiligo who was rescued after being hit by a school bus! With some TLC, this “tri-pawed” pup has made an amazing recovery and is waiting to find his forever home. His foster mom says that he’s “very smoochable.” With a face like that, we have to agree! Follow Yeti on Instagram @Lil_Cobbs16.
Siegfried the Bernese Mountain Dog
Berners, as they’re commonly known by the people who love them, are famous for their tricolor coats. But Seigfried is snow-white! This beautiful boy’s vitiligo has spread to cover his entire coat, and he is an ambassador for other dogs with the condition. Follow Seigfried on Instagram @SiegfriedTheDog.
Orion the Rottweiler
Orion is a gorgeous rottweiler with unique white patches that have appeared on his face. He lives in Brazil and is almost three years old. Don’t his white eye patches make him look soulful? Follow Orion on Instagram @OrionRottweiler.
Vitiligo in Dogs: FAQs
By now, I bet you have a bunch of questions about vitiligo in dogs. Here are some of the details about what vitiligo is and how it develops in our canine companions.
What Is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a condition caused by the destruction of pigment cells in the hair and skin. The hair and skin contain cells called melanocytes that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin and hair its color, and vitiligo occurs when these cells are destroyed or die off. In dogs, this creates white patches in the fur, and the underlying skin may turn pink or white. Vitiligo patches can appear anywhere on a dog, although they usually start on the face.
What Causes Dog Vitiligo?
The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown. What we do know is that there are several things that can lead to vitiligo– it is not just linked to one condition. Sometimes, vitiligo is caused by an autoimmune disease or a neurological disease. Toxin exposure can also lead to vitiligo. Stress, especially stress caused by a medical condition that causes discomfort can cause vitiligo. But the most common trait of vitiligo in dogs is that it is hereditary.
What Breeds Of Dog Get Vitiligo?
There are several breeds that are more prone to vitiligo than others. These include:
- Belgian Tervurens
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Giant Schnauzers
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Siberian Huskies
Vitiligo has also been reported in Newfoundlands, miniature dachshunds, and other breeds. It also seems like mixed breed dogs are less likely to develop vitiligo than purebred dogs.
What Age Does Vitiligo Start In Dogs?
Vitiligo can appear on dogs of any age. It is not the same thing as pigment loss from aging. Pigment loss from aging usually starts on your dog’s muzzle and is typically restricted to your dog’s facial area. Gray or white hair from aging starts gradually and doesn’t have defined edges.
If your dog’s vitiligo is genetic, you will start seeing it at a very young age. It will usually start on your dog’s face, frequently around the nose, and may spread to anywhere on your dog’s body.
Is Snow Nose Vitiligo?
You may have heard of a condition called “snow nose” in dogs. This is actually vitiligo! It’s just vitiligo that has stopped at the nose. Dogs with snow nose have speckles or patches of white fur around their noses. They will also have light pink or white patches on their nose where the pigment is reduced. If your dog naturally has a brown nose, these can be hard to see– but if your dog has a black nose, these patches will stand out.
Can Stress Cause Vitiligo In Dogs?
Yes, stress can cause vitiligo in dogs. Chronic stress, especially from underlying medical conditions that cause discomfort, are linked to vitiligo. Finding out what’s causing the stress and doing what you can to reduce it can help prevent the vitiligo from spreading further. However, it is very rare that a dog with vitiligo experiences repigmentation– those white patches will probably stay white.
How Do You Prevent Vitiligo In Dogs?
There’s nothing you can really do to prevent vitiligo. If it happens, it happens! Vitiligo doesn’t hurt your dog or cause them any discomfort. It’s important to remember that vitiligo is a rare condition. We don’t have enough information to know how common it is in animals, but in humans, vitiligo only affects between 0.5% and 2.0% of people worldwide. If you’re worried about your dog being stressed and developing vitiligo, you can make sure to take good care of them by feeding them a high-quality diet and getting plenty of sunshine and exercise.
Is Vitiligo In Dogs Contagious?
No. Your dog can’t catch vitiligo from another dog or any other animal with vitiligo.
Can Cats Get Vitiligo?
Yes! Many mammals get vitiligo, including cats, rats, horses, and even gorillas. Humans can also get vitiligo.
The Final Word On Vitiligo
Vitiligo isn’t a disease. It’s a skin condition that is ultimately harmless. Even though it might seem alarming at first, remember that it doesn’t cause any pain or trauma. A dog with vitiligo is just like any other dog, and they don’t have any special needs or problems to worry about. Dogs with vitiligo live happy, full lives, just like any other dog!