Vitiligo in Dogs

Written By Wag! Staff
Published: 03/31/2017Updated: 03/19/2024
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Vitiligo in Dogs

What is Vitiligo?

Many pet parents take great pride in the condition of their dog’s coat, so if they suddenly notice large patches of it losing its natural color — especially at a young age — they can be forgiven for being alarmed.

Vitiligo is often the explanation for this drastic change in a canine’s appearance. While the condition is certainly uncommon, the good news is that it’s rarely a sign of anything serious happening inside their body.

In this introductory summary of all things vitiligo, you’ll learn that:

  • Vitiligo in dogs is more often than not nothing to worry about
  • The condition is more common among certain breeds
  • Your vet will still run tests to rule out other illnesses

What is Vitiligo in Dogs?

Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin and hair lose their natural pigment, leading to white or gray patches on the body. While these depigmented areas can look unsettling to pet parents, they’re not generally considered dangerous to your pet’s health.

That said, it’s still recommended to take your pet to the vet if you spot it happening. This is because there might be an underlying cause that requires further medical attention for the sake of your dog’s wider health.

Not only can dogs get vitiligo, but humans sometimes suffer from it, too. The disease isn’t contagious, however.

Just because a dog’s coat has changed color as a result of vitiligo, a parent should still try and keep it healthy-looking — it’s easy to keep up a good grooming regimen with a wellness plan

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Symptoms of Vitiligo in Dogs

When it comes to vitiligo, there really is only one symptom — the discoloration of parts of a dog’s skin or fur.

There are two main types. The first is facial vitiligo, which can be a white spot on dogs nose or around the eyes. There’s also generalized vitiligo, which produces patches all over the body. This looks particularly striking on black or brown pets. The spread of the discoloration normally stops after three to six months.

Once the fur or skin loses color, it rarely reverses and re-pigments — just ask any parent whose hair is going gray!

Which Breeds Are More Likely to Develop Vitiligo?

There are certain dog breeds that have been seen to be more susceptible to vitiligo. These include:

Causes of Vitiligo in Dogs

Vitiligo is widely considered to have a genetic basis in most cases. However, there are other instances that are potentially immune-mediated, meaning a dog’s immune system may, for some reason, start producing antibodies that destroy pigmentation. Stress can also play a role.

Toxic exposure is another possible explanation. This might destroy or inhibit the cells that produce melanin, the substance in the body that determines the color of hair, skin and eyes.

Diagnosis of Vitiligo in Dogs

Seeing your dog suddenly start to change color or become patchy can be concerning at first. Even if it doesn’t look to be causing your dog any pain and they remain their usual healthy self, it’s still wise to book a check-up with the vet as there may be health issues causing the vitiligo. 

A vet will evaluate your dog’s condition and run diagnostic tests to establish the cause. This includes taking skin scrapings from the site of the fading and possibly blood tests to rule out other disorders such as a hormonal imbalance or hypothyroidism.

They’ll also look out for signs of stress and anxiety.

Treatment of Vitiligo in Dogs

In the vast majority of cases of vitiligo in dogs, treatment isn’t required. That’s because rarely is vitiligo dangerous for dogs and there are usually no negative effects on their health or mindset. Parents should see a diagnosis as a way in which their dog is even more unique.

Some vets will recommend exposing a dog with vitiligo to more sunlight with the hope of stimulating melanin production and preventing new loss of color from occurring.

Others might give dietary guidance to promote the healthy function of the immune system — some even propose the use of Vitamin C or Omega-3 supplements.

This largely hands-off approach only differs when vets think that vitiligo might be linked to another medical condition. For example, if your dog looks to be stressed, it’s recommended to pinpoint the source of this worry and make lifestyle or environmental changes to get them settled once again.

Likewise, if your vet suspects an immune disorder behind the vitiligo, they’ll look to treat this to prevent further secondary conditions from developing. Again, this is extremely unlikely to bring back the color to your dog’s coat, but it will make them healthier.

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Recovery of Vitiligo in Dogs

Dogs can’t recover from cases of vitiligo, which sounds a lot more serious than the reality. Yes, color most likely won’t return to patches of fur from which it’s disappeared, but this won’t have any negative effect on your dog’s health. 
The only things parents can do is keep an eye on the spread and follow the advice of your vet. You’ll soon adjust to your dog’s new look — and may even grow to love it!

A good pet insurance policy will help you and your dog out in situations big and small — take a look at some of the best options available using Wag!’s comparison tool

Vitiligo Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Chesapeake Bay Retriever




6 Years


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My pet has the following symptoms:
Pigment Disappeared
She was born in early 2013, a beautiful pup with promising confirmation. She was a dream in the show ring, beautiful animation, taking her first Best-of-Breed at age 7 months, over specials. There was a series of events that led to the dog ingesting nearly two doses of Frontline, the topical flea medicine. A few weeks later, when she was about 9-months old, developed a pink spot on her brown nose. Then, it started spreading. It seemed her pigment was just... disappearing. Within 2 months, she lost pigment in most of her nasal planum and about 1/3 of her face. Her facial hair turned white, over regions of depigmented skin. In early December, as the condition advanced, my husband capitulated and said, "Take her to the vet". His diagnosis was canine vitiligo, though he did express some uncertainty in his diagnosis, and encouraged me to take her to a veterinary dermatologist. A local dermatologist's office informed me they were no-longer accepting new patients. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and led me to call UC Davis. Of course, by then, it was mid-December and the UC Davis veterinary hospital was shutting down for the holiday season. I could not get an appointment until late January. The wait felt interminable and excruciating, as the depigmentation continued to advance. UC Davis was wonderful. My dog must have been seen by at-least a dozen veterinary students and their supervising veterinary professors. They confirmed the vitiligo diagnosis. To my surprise, they 'prescribed' vitamins. Vitamin C, daily, and, three days a week, a tablet of Trinfac-B, which contains vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 in a compound that contains the gastric juice called Intrinsic Factor, which aids in the absorption of the B-vitamins. Within a week of starting the vitamins, I could literally see the tide turn. The pigment started returning. Within three months, perhaps 80% of the pigment had returned to her face. Then, the process slowed, significantly. Somewhere in there, I read about the work of Dr. Amala Soumyanath, at the Oregon Health and Science University. She has attained some success in treating vitiligo with piperine, a black pepper extract. I began to apply piperine, topically, to the dog's depigmented areas. The repigmentation continued, very slowly. It is now 4.5-years later, and we have probably regrown another 15% of the pigment. Almost all of the pigment has returned to her nasal planum. At the base of her right nostril, has been the most persistent patch of white skin. Recently, pigmented nubs have developed into the depigmented area, and a fine, light brown mist is appearing between the nubs, indicating, that pigment will soon bridge between the nubs. I remain optimistic, that in the next 1-2-years, we will completely re-pigment her face. Photos of the re-pigmentation, are available, upon request.






3 Years


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
White Spots On Body
My pet Duster is also suffering from Vitiligo and there are many white patches on in whole body. We consulted our Vet and took his medicines and supplements but no positive result came. Then we went for homeopathic medicines and now it seems that he is recovering. Hope he will be back in form soon and even in any negative circumstance, we are happy living with him with this condition.

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