When we look at dogs, we tend to focus on the fur and with good reason. Given that their fur covers the vast majority of their bodies, that is the “color” that we associate their bodies with. But on bellies and paws, that can be different.
For the most part, dogs have bellies that are pink in hue. If you notice that your dog’s belly is getting dark, sometimes even black – sometimes called blueberry belly in dogs – it can feel like something to be concerned about. But it is known as hyperpigmentation and can be totally normal.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
The term hyperpigmentation has to do with the darkening (or lightening in some cases) of the skin where pigmentation is more visible. Obviously, in areas where there is predominantly fur, you won’t be able to see the skin. For dogs that have light skin and fur, their pigmentation is more noticeable.
For the most part, darkening of the skin in a dog is secondary to other conditions and even metabolic problems such as infection, endocrine disorders, and allergies. Skin color also generally does not happen overnight. There needs to be continuous exposure or trauma in order for hyperpigmentation to take place on the stomach or in other areas.
Hyperpigmentation and Allergies
One of the most common reasons for blueberry belly in dogs or hyperpigmentation is due to chronic scratching and itching. The term is called pruritus-induced hyperpigmentation. This is basically your dog’s skin being turned darker through frequent itching.
This could be the result of allergies that result in the chronic itching and inflamed skin that can ultimately change the color. While skin may never go back to that pink huge, it is important to treat issues that result in itching, such as health conditions or trauma. This can have a drastic impact on their health and comfort.
You may be wondering where the color change comes from if your dog doesn’t typically mess with their belly and chronic itching is not the cause. Licking, infected skin, or scratching can change the color well before you ever notice.
The most common cause is age. Sometimes factors can slowly play a role in the changing of their skin color. It doesn’t impact their comfort level and doesn’t really have a change other than their aesthetic appearance.
The Miscellaneous Causes
Allergies or skin disorders are common, but there are a plethora of other reasons why your dog’s belly may have a different coloration. It might turn black after shaving, which has to do with post-clipper alopecia. This is common in certain breeds, which makes it inadvisable to shave the skin close to their bellies.
Saliva is a common reason that their bellies can change colors. The saliva in some dogs with lighter coats can change their skin color over time. The fur can also become darker in some instances, though it is particularly limited to their belly.
Changes in hormones can have an impact on the pigmentation of their skin as well. Giving them diethylstilbesterol (DES) or steroids for things such as urinary incontinence can wind up causing hyperpigmentation. Remember that hyperpigmentation is not a big health issue, it is generally about the aesthetic, and only sometimes about the comfort of your dog.
There are some breeds that are more naturally inclined to hyperpigmentation. Dachshunds in particular are more prone to discoloration. They have a lot of pigment in their skin, so it is not uncommon for their aesthetic to change for a number of reasons. Even a small pimple can cause the skin around the area to turn black.
The simplest explanation, especially in older dogs, is that aging is the key. Hyperpigmentation is normal as a dog ages. Any mild darkening can come from exposure to the elements or sunlight, especially those dogs that have a lighter coat.
Consult Your Vet
Darkening of your dog’s skin is mostly normal. If it does concern you, consult your vet sooner rather than later. They should be able to isolate why hyperpigmentation is occurring in your dog and what, if anything, can be done about it.
For the most part, however, you may notice that their belly is darker and then think nothing of it. If they itch a lot, that is noticeable, and you should take the steps towards helping alleviate that inflammation. Other than that, there is not anything to be done about hyperpigmentation – partially because no one is really sure how it works to begin with. But you can rest assured that your dog is okay and likely not feeling any discomfort.
The most common reason that your dog may have blueberry belly is due to hyperpigmentation. While that can sound scary to some, it really is not a big deal. It is quite common in dogs as they get older, resulting in a darker hue to their skin.
It is also possible that other skin conditions and even allergies are the cause of the issue. If it persists, be sure to consult your vet to find out what is going on. It could be that frequent itching is resulting in the changing color of their skin.