Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Leg Discoloration on a Canine

| Updated September 26, 2017

The condition of a dog's skin can help a veterinarian determine the overall health of the dog. Discoloration of the dog's legs can indicate a few different conditions and only a veterinarian can determine what those conditions may be. In some cases, the discoloration may be difficult to see due to the dog's fur, while in others the dog loses his hair and the discoloration becomes very apparent.


Skin discoloration in a dog is most often seen as a darkening or lightening of the normal color of the dog's skin. This can be with or without the loss of the fur on the legs. This is most common on the lower legs, closest to the paws, although can be seen throughout the entire leg. The skin texture may also change, becoming thicker and rougher.


While a veterinarian is necessary to determine an exact diagnosis of the medical condition, there are conditions that can cause skin discoloration. According to the professional staff at Go Pets America, Acanthosis nigricans is a darkening of skin due to consistent and chronic inflammation. This typically includes a thickening of the skin. Acral dermatitis is the loss of pigmentation and fur due to consistent licking. This is often accompanied by thickening of the skin, bleeding and oozing of the skin. Acute moist dermatitis, also known as hot spots, is characterized by a reddening of the skin, as well as oozing of the skin. The hot spots may also feel hot to the touch. This type of skin condition causes the skin to become very moist and uncomfortable for the dog, causing the dog to lick or bite at the site.


While there are leg discoloration conditions that can strike very suddenly, most often there are warning signs that can be found with careful observation. According to Pet Education's experts, most skin conditions that affect the legs are accompanied by licking and chewing of the legs. If this condition persists after changing the dog's food to eliminate the potential for a food allergy, which may cause biting or licking of the legs, a trip to the veterinarian is recommended. Changing the food can be done before or after speaking to a veterinarian.


A veterinarian may administer an antibiotic to prevent the dog from contracting an infection from the skin being broken and sore, which can occur from biting and licking of the skin. The veterinarian may administer a steroid to speed the healing process, although the order of the medication delivered and the extent of it is up to the veterinarian. In addition, the veterinarian may suggest a food change to rule out food allergies and the use of an Elizabethian collar to prevent a dog from reaching his paws. Frequent bathing may also be suggested to help to prevent infections.


Skin problems often show up without much warning. Discoloration of the legs may be prevented by feeding the dog a healthy dog food that contains a meat product as a primary ingredient, rather than corn or another grain type food that can cause food allergies. If the dog begins to excessively chew or lick at the paws or leg, action should be taken through training or medication. If the licking is caused by boredom, then training and exercise may be ways to prevent the skin conditions that discolor the leg. If licking is done as a calming method for an anxious dog, then training and medication may be necessary. A veterinarian will be able to decide if and what medication should be used, as well as help you determine the cause of the biting or licking.