When a dog has Vitiligo they will start to develop white patches of fur or pink skin where the pigment was previously darker usually the condition will start on the nose and face and over time spread to cover the body, sometimes the area will regain pigment or a dog will only develop a small amount of white patches, other times the dog can turn almost completely white.
This condition occurs when a dog’s immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that fight the cells that produce melanin (melanocytes). Melanin is responsible for the dark pigment in the skin and hair when this is effected white patches begin to develop usually before the dog turns 3.
Pictured Below Doberman With Vitiligo Photo credit
Vitiligo does not cause irritation to the dog and is a purely cosmetic issue. According to the University of Sydney, faculty of Veterinary Science the most commonly effected breeds are; Australian Shepherd, Dachshund, Miniature Dachshund, Dobermann, Golden retriever, Irish setter, Old English sheepdog, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Shetland Sheepdog, Siberian Husky and St Bernard.
In some breeds the condition is more noticable, for example darker dogs will have a clearer definition between the white spots and the original fur where as on a lighter dog it may be harder to tell and look more natural. In the case of the Rottweiler below the condition is extremely obvious but with a Samoyed you may not be able to tell as easily.
Pictured below Rottweiler with intense Vitiligo Photo Credit
Cherie is a Whippet owner from Australia, her three year old whippet Billy has recently started to develop Vitiligo. The onset of his condition was quick and unexpected, as she told us.
“Came on over about 3 weeks but started quickly .. I think its still developing actually , I can see some white hairs starting across his forehead”
Billys discolouration started on his face aligning with common accounts of the condition, Billys colour is Blue fawn (just like our Brum!) and the Vitiligo is most noticable on his blue nose and masking although it is still visable on the fawn areas on his face, his white patches may continue to grow or can fade back to his original colouring in the coming years his coat has the potential to make some very drastic changes!
“It started above one eye and looked just like he had a splash of paint ..I was away for 3 days and came home asking where he got paint from”
Thankfully Billy won’t feel any effect from his changing colour, as the condition does not cause inflamation or irratation to the skin however it is advised that owners of dogs with Vitiligo take extra precautions when their furry friends are out in the sunshine and use sun block much like you would do with any lighter coloured dog.
Pictured below Billy the Whippet before and after
There is some debate that Vitiligo is responsible for the ‘snowflake’ coats found in some lines of black greyhounds most frequently found in the UK.These coats have a white speckling over the body very similar to the effects of Vitiligo although the white areas do not spread with age and from all accounts are present from birth which suggests Vitiligo is not the cause, and it is just a rare coat variety in greyhounds.
Pictured below a snowflake greyhound (Photo Credit)