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Hyperpigmentation on a Dog's Belly

| Updated September 26, 2017

Hyperpigmentation is a condition in which the skin color has become darker than normal. In dogs, various changes in skin color or fur color around the abdominal area can be a normal occurrence. Unfortunately, some causes of hyperpigmentation can indicate a serious health issue, such as canine hyperthyroidism. Owners who observe a change in their dog’s physical appearance should seek the insight of a trained veterinarian.


In dogs, hyperpigmentation can be accompanied by other physical changes of the skin or fur. Canine hyperpigmentation may be accompanied by hair loss or other skin-related symptoms, such as swelling, itching, redness or various skin lesions. Some dogs may experience symptoms that do not appear to be related to the change in skin color, such as weight gain, slowed heart rate or lethargy.


There are several reasons for a dog to suffer from hyperpigmentation affecting the abdominal area and beyond. Some causes of hyperpigmentation are inherited diseases, such as acanthosis nigricans or follicular dystrophy. Some dogs may suffer from abdominal hyperpigmentation because of hormonal issues, such as growth hormone responsive alopecia or hypothyroidism. Additional causes of canine hyperpigmentation include yeast infections, injection site alopecia, folliculitis, castration responsive dermatosis and Cushing’s disease.


Once the owner recognizes that an issue is occurring, he should make an appointment with the veterinarian immediately. Along with a physical exam, the owner can expect that the veterinarian will inquire about the dog’s history to determine if the skin change was because of recent vaccinations or contact with various toxins or even medications. Blood tests may be done to evaluate organ function along with hormone evaluation in order to determine if the hyperpigmentation is occurring because of an issue affecting an organ.


Treatment will vary based on the cause of the dog’s hyperpigmentation. With some diseases--such as hypothyroidism--the hyperpigmentation will resolve itself once treatment for hypothyroidism is in place. In other dogs, hyperpigmentation may clear up after the dog has been neutered or spayed, such as the case with growth hormone responsive alopecia. Unfortunately, some causes are untreatable, and the hyperpigmentation may become permanent.


Fortunately, changes in skin pigmentation does not affect the quality of life for the affected dog. However, with certain diseases, the dog may require life-long treatment with medications or regular check-ups at the veterinarian in order to remain healthy. Without treatment, some diseases can lead to a premature death for the affected canine. However, for the majority of causes of hyperpigmentation, the prognosis is relatively good. A pet owner should always make sure his dog is checked out if hyperpigmentation occurs.