Why Does My Dog Have Black Skin?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. August 2, 2018
Why Does My Dog Have Black Skin?

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There are different reasons a dog may have black skin, some of which should be concerning. This is because it may be a symptom of an underlying condition, often a hormonal imbalance which is causing changes in their physicality and likely their behavior. However, it is also important to remember than black skin on a dog doesn't necessarily mean there is some pathology as the root cause. Often the reason is much more benign or even relatively obvious.

The key to understanding why your dog has black skin is taking a comprehensive approach. This means looking at their physical symptoms and psychological well-being to understand what might be the cause. AnimalWised helps you find out what might the problem, if there is one to begin with.


You may also be interested in: Why Does My Cat Have Black Dandruff?


The first thing to know about the color of a dog's skin is that it can be a range of colors. If the skin is another color but white, it is known as pigmented and can be a range of colors. Some of these colors may be naturally black, but they could also be purple, pink or even yellow. The reasons for this have to do with genetics and which genes are dominant from the mother or father dog. There may be changes to the fur color over these parts of the skin, but not necessarily.

Hyperpigmentation is when the skin starts to saturate with color, becoming deeper and darker in hue. However, this is something can happen naturally over time. When a dog gets older, their skin will become darker. It won't necessarily change color, but if your dog has a pink belly then you will likely see it become darker when they age. It is normal and not something to be concerned about.

There are other causes of hyperpigmentation, some of which are due to a pathology such as pruritus. Pruritus is, essentially, the scientific term for itching. If you see your dog scratching at themselves regularly and/or excessively and patches of black skin appear, then it is most likely we are faced with a dermatological condition. This skin condition will be chronic if they are regular biting and scratching at their skin. This biting and scratching often leads to a blackening of the skin and will often be accompanied by inflammation. The hyperpigmentation will usually remain as part of the healing process.


Another cause which may explain a blackening of the skin is canine hypothyroidism. As with hypothyroidism in humans, this is due to a deficiency in the thyroid gland. This gland produces the hormone thyroxine which is involved in the control of metabolism. Dogs with hypothyroidism will have a slower metabolism and this affects dogs more often from their middle-age onward.

In dogs with hypothyroidism, we can see bilateral and even symmetrical changes in both skin and coat color. Additionally, the hair will not grow as well and there may be patches of alopecia which leave exposed skin. This skin may be dry, thick, inflamed and black. The dog will also gain weight, feels the cold more, prohibit the heat period in females and produce other non-specific symptoms. Our vet can confirm the disease by producing a blood test. This will require pharmacological treatment.

Why Does My Dog Have Black Skin? - Hypothyroridism


Hyperadrenocortism is also known as Cushing's disease and it is another explanation for black skin in our dogs. Another glandular condition, in this case it is as a result of overproduction of glucocorticoids in the adrenal glands located in the kidneys. This disorder may also have an exogenous origin as drugs composed of glucocorticoids supplied for long-term treatment may induce the condition.

Endogenous causes are often related to the presence of tumors. The excess glucocorticoids lead to alopecia which follows a symmetrical pattern equal on both sides of the animal. The skin turns black and there is sagging in the belly. An increase in water intake and urination can also be observed. This affects more middle aged and older dogs. Through analytics, the vet can confirm a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.


Excess estrogen is another cause of blackened skin in dogs. With this condition, a female dog's ovaries or a male dog's testes overproduce the hormone estrogen. The root cause is often due to the presence of cysts or tumors, neither of which need to be malign to make changes. The disorder is known to produce a range of symptoms which are known as feminization. This involves the enlargement of the breast area or the vulva in female dogs.

Additionally, dogs suffering from hyperestrogenism may present with other irregularities. These might include phantom pregnancy, irregularities in the heat period or uterine infections. Regarding the skin and fur, the latter will often fall out revealing blackness in the former. Seborrhea may also present which is a particular type of dermatitis leading to redness in the skin. The veterinarian should investigate the cause of this hormonal overproduction. Often the treatment is sterilization to remove the sex organs and prevent this from occurring.

Other causes of your dog's skin turning dark or black may include yeast infections, different types of dermatitis or even allergies. The best way to determine what is wrong and which treatment plan is required is to seek a veterinary health specialist.

Why Does My Dog Have Black Skin? - Hyperestrogenism

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Have Black Skin?, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.

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