Should my puppy see a dermatologist?
April 13, 2007 11:24 PM   Subscribe

The skin on my puppy's little pink belly seems to be turning blackish...

Over the period of a week I've noticed the skin on both sides of her belly getting gradually darker. Then she was in a kennel for 5 days this week and I noticed the skin changed color quite a bit from when I left her there. She seems to feel fine and I don't want to take her to the vet if I don't have to, but it does concern me. It looks like what I've known Alopecia X to look like, but so far she's not going bald anywhere that I can see. I'm sure she's fine... I just don't want it to end up regretting not taking her to the vet immediately. If I should be giving her some kind of special skin care to get her skin back to the happy puppy pink it once was I'm happy to do so. Should I even be worrying about this? What do you think?

She's a little dachshund/terrier mix pound puppy. She was a runaway so I have no idea of her parent's history or her real age, although it's been estimated at almost 2 1/2 years.
posted by miss lynnster to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have never owned a dog, but the fact that she recently spent time at a kennel is what concerns me. I had a cat who died of liver failure after being poisoned by a kennel who used an inappropriate flea bath.

Plus, there are communicable diseaes she could have picked up.

Take her to the vet for peace of mind.
posted by mds35 at 12:12 AM on April 14, 2007

IANAV, but I can tell you that the bellies of all our famiily dogs over the years (some terriers, some dachshunds) all turned a sort of mottled pinky-black as they got older, and no vet ever seemed concerned about it.
posted by hot soup girl at 12:28 AM on April 14, 2007

Finally, a picture! And what a little darling she is. My very first family dog, when I was a wee little snarkling, was a standard smooth red dachsie, so she is definitely tugging at my heartstrings. (Interesting alopecia x link, btw -- I had not heard of that particular term before but this appears to be the same thing that in malamute circles was being referred to as "coat funk" as much as a decade ago.)

I have never noticed any sudden discoloration like that on any of my dogs, but since other than that one childhood dachsie my experiences are all with other breeds, so definitely pay more heed to dachshund people for what is normal with them. The only transient dark discoloration I've ever seen in person was on a friend's very elderly mal bitch -- it didn't seem to be funk as the only hair loss was associated with her chewing/scratching, but the vets never were able to get a handle on the root cause of it.

Anyway, if your little pup is not scratching or chewing at herself, isn't showing appetite loss or listlessness or any sort of behavioral change other than the pigmentation, and since these color changes seem to be within the normal range for the breed, I wouldn't be too concerned...the only thing that would continue to nag at me is how quick the change seems to have been. There are some chronic conditions that can also lead to hyperpigmentation, though, including food/contact allergies, which might all be possible if the kennel was using a diet, shampoo, etc. other than her usual. So really, even in the absence of any symptoms beyond the pigmentation change, if you're going to be fretting anyway, call your vet and have it checked out just so you can rest easy.

posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 1:00 AM on April 14, 2007

My mothers little Pomee-poo puppy had the same thing...

Had a pink belly (which was all the more pink when he was hot) that eventually gave way over the course of a few months to what started as little brown "blotches". Now his bare tummy is more brown than pink but our vet told us it wasn't an issue and is normal.
posted by puddpunk at 6:12 AM on April 14, 2007

Its called dirt. A friend of mine has a pitbull, nice pink tummy in the winter when it hardly goes out, blackish tummy in the summer when it spends most of the time out doors.
posted by Max Power at 7:09 AM on April 14, 2007

It is not dirt. I give my puppy a bath regularly.

Oddly enough - I noticed this happening to my dog over the past several months. He's 4 years old. I haven't taken him to the vet because he seems to be acting normal enough. He goes to Doggie Day Camp twice a week (best $20 I've ever spent... he comes home exhausted).

After seeing your question - maybe it's time to reconsider the vet visit.
posted by matty at 7:29 AM on April 14, 2007

Cute, cute, cute, matty! Corgi?

I think Miss L's pup may be an indoor dog...and even if the little dog was out romping in mud every day, a bath or even a quick swipe with wet wipes would surely have shown if the discoloration was more than just a surface smudge before she started worrying?

(FWIW, my pittie has a very very pink tummy that, over the course of four years now, still has not turned notably dark at any point, even from dirt...but she is just not terribly fond of rolling in mud, and not much on digging even in dryer weather.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:49 AM on April 14, 2007

both of the dogs that live with me had pink bellies when they showed up ... but now have brown mottling to them. it's probably normal.
posted by lester at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2007

Not all dirt is so easily scrubbed off, it gets rubbed in.

A dog's tummy is a tender place, you'd have to abrade it to get it off.
posted by Max Power at 8:01 AM on April 14, 2007

Best answer: I would get a vet check to make sure, especially since this is an adult dog and this is a sudden change. There are some conditions which cause this which are seen in Dachshunds specifically - see here. Cute dog!
posted by biscotti at 8:25 AM on April 14, 2007

Has she been out in the sun any more than usual? Perhaps at the kennel? My dog, when we moved to a place with a yard he likes to sun bathe in, skin turned black in a matter of days.
posted by ill3 at 8:26 AM on April 14, 2007

Not to derail the OP, but yes mine's a Corgi. He's an indoor dog... not a dirt-roller (well, maybe a little when he finds something that stinks sufficiently to his liking).

His stomach turned darkish brown over the last several months - during the winter. It is NOT dirt, so again you have me wondering if there's something going on.
posted by matty at 8:35 AM on April 14, 2007

My greyhound's belly turns pink every winter and greyish-purplish every summer. She is not a dirt roller at all - we're city folks and she gets most of her exercise on walks, not in yards where she has the freedom to get the belly dirty. Also, even when it's pink it tends to have darker spots which move and appear and disappear over time. I've never thought it was a big deal.

I've heard that really dark belly skin can be an indicator of thyroid issues, at least in greyhounds, but you'd probably see other symptoms like lethargy, weight loss, etc.
posted by misskaz at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not all dirt is so easily scrubbed off, it gets rubbed in.

Perhaps the dirt around your friend's place is much clingier or prone to causing stains than the clay soil in my area, or perhaps your friend's pit is just much, much more of a mud-wallower than my prissy girl. But there's plenty of bare dirt in my yard (thanks to constant canine roughhousing), yet despite spending hours outside in warm weather, my pittie has NEVER wound up with dirt so rubbed-in that it couldn't be wiped/washed off easily, no harsh scrubbing required. A little film of surface dinginess on her pink tum or white chest splotch is about as bad she ever gets. (The other dog is a total wallowing mud fiend, but he's an elkhound with a harsh double coat that pretty much sheds mud as it dries, and no real unfurred patches worth speaking of, so he's not much help for a comparison.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2007

Best answer: One of our pugs has the same thing -- the skin on his belly (spreading onto the inside of his legs) has turned dark. If you look closely it's a sort of mottled brown/black color.

Here's a photo. Is this anything like what you're describing on your dog?

This has never bothered him, and the vets we've been to have never mentioned it. It's been this way for at least a couple of years.

I wouldn't worry about it. I think it's just a natural skin change.
posted by jayder at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2007

I think you're seeing the doggish equivalent of freckles.

Several of my childhood dogs had skin coloration that changed, sometimes over the course of just a couple of months. One of these dogs had obvious dark freckles on her otherwise pink skin. From about October to May, she stayed pink. By the middle of May, however, she'd have a new set of freckles, completely different from last year's. Except for the permanents, of course.
posted by Netzapper at 9:21 AM on April 14, 2007

My Jack Russell's skin has Ticking. Perhaps your puppy has something similar?
posted by fvox13 at 9:39 AM on April 14, 2007

If it was me, I would probably rub some aloe vera gel into the belly, just to see what happens. We've done that with our Westies (infamous for skin trouble) and they find it very soothing. If it doesn't help, at least it doesn't hurt.

Beyond that, if the condition stays and if it worries you, then call your vet and describe what's going on. The vet can tell you if you need to come in for an office visit. I wouldn't be alarmed about it, but your peace of mind is important.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2007

Response by poster: jayder, yeah, that's kind of similar. Her belly has always been bright pink all over and now it's got those dark areas in the same spots as your dog. I know it's not freckles because it's also under her arms a bit too (in places that don't see much light). She is a spoiled little indoor dog and FOR SURE IT ISN'T DIRT. It isn't ticking, either. If I hadn't noticed the change began before I brought her to the overnight place I would be freaking out more, but I am sure she didn't "catch" anything there.

She really does seem to be acting normally and she isn't scratching or irritated by anything so for now I think I'm going to just keep an eye on her. I miss her little pink puppy belly though... but maybe my little dog's just growing up. Sniffle. Soon she'll be off to college & then what'll I do...?
posted by miss lynnster at 12:11 PM on April 14, 2007

Miss Lynnster --

We've tried to scrub the dark stuff off in the bath, and it hasn't come off. (At first, we just thought it was dirt or grime from laying down in the yard.)
posted by jayder at 12:46 PM on April 14, 2007

Response by poster: Hers definitely isn't dirt either. She's a super clean dog. It's just that her skin is changing color as she's aging I'm thinking. If it seems irritated or if she starts acting funny I'm definitely going to take her to the vet though.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2007

This happened to my Westie's ears (expected). Then I found some black spots on his back. The vet told me they were freckles! They are perfectly round. He does have some "sprinkles" of this pigmentation on his tummy, too, but it never looked weird to me--I've just assumed they are freckly spots, too.
Cute puppy!
posted by FergieBelle at 2:50 PM on April 14, 2007

In the anecdote department, I've had 2 poodles and a lhasa apso in my family that this has occurred to.

No mention from vets ever.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:09 PM on April 14, 2007

My 8-year old lab's belly turned black from allergies/yeast infections. Bathing her regularly with Earthbath Orange Peel shampoo helps, as does adding a capful of apple cider vinegar to her waterbowl, but it never fully goes away.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 1:11 PM on April 15, 2007

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