Vitiligo is a condition in which the black pigment is lost from the skin or hair, and it affects dogs much as it affects humans. According to Pro Vet Health Care Information, it is a very common condition, and learning more about it can help you determine whether or not it might be affecting your dog.
Vitiligo occurs when the body starts producing antibodies against melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin pigment. While the condition is harmless to the dog, it will result in white splotches of skin and hair on the dog's body. Some of the most commonly affected areas include the lips, face, inside of the mouth and foot pads.
Vitiligo commonly affects several types of dogs. The condition is particularly common among Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, Rottweilers and Belgian shepherds. Alaskan malemutes, golden retrievers, Siberian Huskies and yellow Labrador retrievers will also develop pale blotches on their noses, which is considered a type of vitiligo.
Dogs with vitiligo will suddenly develop bleached spots on their skin. The hair that grows on the affected skin may or may not turn white There may be lesions that form around the nose, eyes, mouth and genitals, but these lesions will not be scaled or inflamed. The loss of colour is usually permanent, but the colour may also spontaneously return. A veterinarian can confirm this condition by running a biopsy on a skin sample from the affected area.
There is currently no known cause for vitiligo, though a genetic component is strongly suggested given that certain breeds are more predisposed to it than others. Stress, infections, neurological factors and mutations have all been presented as possible causes of vitiligo. Similarly, vitiligo has been linked to autoimmune diseases in humans, and it might have the same association for dogs.
Vitiligo is a harmless condition that only affects the appearance of the dog. A biopsy is appropriate when vitiligo is suspected because pale blotches on the skin can also indicate an inflammation. Dogs that have vitiligo should not be bred.