Have you recently noticed changes to your dog’s coat? Perhaps some spots of color are beginning to change without explanation. If so, you might be alarmed that something is wrong with your dog. Well, I’d like to present to you all the potential reasons for it, and also suggest some things to do now that you have noticed it.
So, why is my dog’s fur changing color in spots? One of the main reasons a dog’s fur changes color in spots is a result of maturing and aging. A change in the seasons can also cause a dog’s fur to change color in spots, as your dog may spend more or less time out in the sun. Other potential reasons include hair and skin regrowth after an injury, a lack of proper nutrition, or as a result of an underlying medical.
Chances are that your dog will be just fine, but let’s look more closely at the reasons why your dog’s fur might be changing color in spots.
Then we will move on to other questions you likely have, including whether your dog’s coat will ever return to normal.
Reasons Why A Dog’s Fur Can Change Color In Spots
Your Dog Is Aging
Puppy to Adult
Dogs go through a couple of noticeable age transitions during their life. Along with changes in behavior and energy level, changes in your dog’s coat color may occur.
The first major transition is from a puppy to an adult.
Many breeds of dogs have a puppy coat that is noticeably different from their adult coat in visual appearance and feel.
A puppy’s coat is often fluffy and full to protect them while they take part in rambunctious play.
The transition to their sleeker adult coat seems natural, but a shift in color can take some owners by surprise.
An owner whose puppy is getting in their adult coat may notice that spots of their dog’s fur are suddenly a few shades lighter or darker than normal.
This is completely normal, and the entire coat may eventually transition to a slightly different shade or may stay a blend of colors with only certain areas changing.
Some breeds are more likely than others to have noticeable color changes as they transition from puppy to adult.
A few breeds that often have quite noticeable color changes are German Shepherds, Poodles and Poodle mixes, Shih Tzus, and many of the Terrier breeds.
Becoming A Senior Dog
As much as we hate to think about it, eventually, our dogs will reach their senior years.
They might not be up for as many rounds of catch, but they are still amazing cuddle buddies.
As our dogs reach this sweet life milestone, you may start to see spots of color changing on their fur.
If your dog is developing spots of silver, gray, or white fur around their muzzle (nose, mouth, chin), eyes, and ears, they are very likely beginning to show their age.
These color changes will be gradual but eventually noticeable.
Just like with human hair, there may first be just a few lighter streaks or spots which, over time, spread over the face and head.
Some dogs will also turn gray around their paws and across their chest.
Not all dogs will gray with age, and some dogs may only ever develop a few spots of gray while others make quite a change.
Breeds that are known for changing fur color as they age are Golden Retrievers, Poodles, and dogs with naturally dark faces such as German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers.
Changes In Seasons and Sun Exposure
If you live somewhere with widely varied seasons that include hot summers and very cold winters, you have likely noticed the way people’s hair can change throughout the year. Dog hair can do the exact same thing!
When the weather is nice and the sun is out, many of us spend more time outside with our dogs.
Time out in the sun can cause the lightening of patches of your dog’s hair, just like it can create natural highlights for many humans.
In the winter, as you begin to spend more time inside and out of the sun, your dog’s hair could start to darken.
This won’t happen across the body all at once and may lead to your dog having different colored spots in their hair.
This process of lightening and darkening during different seasons is completely normal.
If you have started spending a lot more time inside or outside in recent weeks, this may be a reason you notice changes in your dog’s fur color.
Recovering From An Injury
If your dog experiences an injury such as a scratch, bite, puncture, or surgical wound, you might notice some spots of fur near the wound changing color.
You may also notice that the skin beneath your dog’s fur is a different color in some places.
When dealing with the stress of helping an injured dog heal, it can be alarming to notice changes in their fur but try not to stress.
Melanin is a substance created in both human and dog bodies, and it carries with its pigmentation or color.
Melanin is also helpful to the body in healing injuries and reducing inflammation.
When a dog experiences an injury, their body will send melanin along with other things to the wound to help heal the injury.
Melanin can cause both the skin and the fur around the area to change color but is otherwise harmless.
Changed color spots due to injury do not usually spread and will stay at the site of the injury.
Poor Nutrition or Other Health Condition
While many causes for a dog’s fur changing color in spots are completely harmless, there are times when it could be a sign of a health problem.
If none of the reasons for the color change listed above seem likely to be the reason for your dog’s fur changing color, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a vet.
A few dog health conditions that could cause the fur to change color in spots are:
○ A dog who is not receiving the proper vitamins and minerals in their diet will often start to see a change in the quality of their coat and sometimes fur color.
Usually, a dog that has spots of fur changing color due to poor nutrition will also have a coat that is dull or skin that is having issues with flaking or discoloration.
The hormones in a dog’s body can influence their coat color.
A dog with hypothyroidism has low thyroid hormones and can display fur that changes color in spots.
If your dog has changes in their fur color paired with sudden weight gain or extreme tiredness, talk with your vet ASAP.
This is a very rare condition that both dogs and humans alike can face.
Vitiligo involves the loss of pigment in patches of an animal’s skin and hair. This can make hair that was once colored turn unexpectedly white.
Vitiligo is often seen as a sudden color change in the hair around the mouth and nose, but it can happen in other places.
It is not contagious, but it can be hereditary (passed down from parents/grandparents). This is usually not a medical emergency but is worth mentioning to your vet.
Will Your Dog’s Fur Changing Colors Spread?
The amount of spreading you can expect during color changes depends largely on what caused the fur to begin changing color.
When It Is Likely To Spread
If your dog’s fur is changing as they transition from a puppy to an adult, it is common for the hair to first change in small spots and then begin to change across the entire dog’s body.
This process is sometimes moved along more quickly by grooming and trimming sessions that cause a dog to lose their puppy coat more quickly.
Some areas of your dog may remain unchanged, but usually, a puppy-to-adult color transition will affect a large part of the body.
If your dog is changing colors due to aging into the senior years, it is normal to see some slow spreading of gray spots in your dog’s fur.
For senior dogs, the fur will often first change around the mouth or chin and then spread over the muzzle.
It may also start just above a dog’s eyes and wrap around and back across their head.
Color changing due to this part of aging is usually limited to the head or chest and doesn’t spread across the entire body.
When It Is Unlikely To Spread
Dogs with fur that changes with the season will usually only see a minimal amount of spreading.
The same general areas will likely tend to lighten and darken back and forth each year.
If you suddenly spend much more time in the sun for several weeks than you previously were, you might notice some increased highlighting or color changing.
If your dog’s fur has changed during the healing of an injury, the color change usually stays located at only the spot of the injury.
Dogs with underlying health conditions could see spotted color changes become more widespread if the medical condition is left untreated.
Will Your Dog’s Spotted Fur Return To Normal?
In most cases, the fur will not return to the exact color it was before.
Color changes as a result of maturing and aging, injury healing, or Vitiligo will often be a permanent change or may continue to change without returning to their original color.
Color changes that are the result of seasonal changes and sun exposure will often even out over time.
Many of these changes are very subtle and only noticeable by you as the owner.
The changes will likely continue to happen with each season but could be slowed or changed based on changes to your dog’s outdoor activities.
If your dog’s fur is changing color because of a health condition such as poor nutrition or hypothyroidism, there is a chance that once these conditions are treated, their color will return to normal.
Once the skin and body are healthy, a coat can regain shine and color for many dogs.
What To Do About Your Dog’s Fur Changing Color In Spots
When you notice that your dog’s fur is changing color in spots, there are three main things you should do:
- Look at the common cause of a dog’s fur changing color in spots and see if any of those causes might line up with what you are noticing. Having an idea of why your dog’s fur is changing color can bring you peace of mind during an unexpected change.
- If you think your dog’s fur changing color is due to a health concern, make an appointment with your vet. Never hesitate to get your vet’s opinion when something changes with your dog. Your vet may be able to reassure you about what is happening, could help you improve your dog’s nutrition, or treat another medical condition that is causing their fur to change color in spots.
- Remember that no matter their fur color, your dog is still the same sweet pup you love. It can be startling to realize that a dog whose appearance we love is changing, but when those changes are out of our control, the best thing we can often do is embrace it!
Take pictures of your dog as a puppy, prime adult, and senior citizen.
Cherish the gray knowledgeable, and well-loved face of your aging dog and take joy in the smooth, sleek coat of your dog’s adulthood – even if the color wasn’t exactly what you expected.
Unplanned changes in the dogs we love can be alarming, but a dog’s fur changing color in spots isn’t extremely rare.
Approach this change by investigating potential causes and then determining if a trip to the vet is a good idea.
Most of all, love your dog in all of their amazing ages, stages, and appearances.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.