Why Are Your Dog’s Lips Turning Pink?

Your dog is enjoying their favorite chew toy when you notice something unusual about their mouth. In fact, it seems that their lips have lost their color and are turning pink!

This is a fairly common finding in dogs and it’s not always the symptom of a serious illness. If your dog’s lips are turning pink but are otherwise the same as before, it’s probably just a loss of pigmentation. If there are other symptoms, it’d be better to consult a veterinarian.

Why is your dog’s lip turning pink? 

Unless your dog is white from head to paws, changes in a dog’s pigmentation are bound to happen during their life and they’re completely normal.

Sometimes the skin and coat of your dog can become lighter (hypopigmentation), sometimes darker (hyperpigmentation), and sometimes it can turn back to its original color after these changes.

As it happens for dogs’ nose discoloration, pink lips may also be seasonal and due to daylight changes. In fact, some dogs may go through changes in their skin and coat pigmentation when they don’t get enough light.

Just like how we get darker in summer and lighter in winter, dogs go through a similar process, during which their nose and mouth may take a temporary pink coloration and slowly go back to normal when the weather gets warmer.

Pink lips are also common in puppies that have yet to develop their pigmentation and in old dogs that are slowly losing their pigmentation with age.

In all of the above cases, the discoloration of the lips is painless and without symptoms.

Causes of dogs’ lips turning pink. 

Lips depigmentation in dogs is usually a slow and steady process that doesn’t harm your dog.

However, if you notice that the discolored area looks inflamed, wounded, swollen, or is associated with other symptoms, it could be a sign of a more serious issue.

Some of the causes of dogs’ lips turning pink include:

Porphyrin: this is a natural substance that is produced by your dog’s tears and saliva. It appears in pink/brown color and is particularly noticeable on light skin/coat. When your dog has excessive salivation, this substance could cause the depigmentation of the lips. In order to reverse the process, you should find the cause behind the salivation, which is usually related to dental problems, inflamed gums, allergy, or mouth cysts;

Allergies: contact dermatitis or allergies are among the most common causes of skin depigmentation in dogs. In this case, the affected area will not only look pink, but also inflamed, crusty, swollen, or a combination of the three. If it appears suddenly, it may be due to changes in their diet, something your dog picked up outside, or the detergents you use to clean their items;

Trauma: sometimes your dog may get wounded or scratch their lips while playing and the affected area may look discolored. In this case, it’s important to take care of the wound so it doesn’t get infected. Once the wound has healed, the original pigmentation usually comes back on its own;

Infection: dogs explore the world with their mouth and nose and not everything that they find is healthy for them. In fact, if your dog picks up random things during your walks or while in the yard, they may develop bad infections in different parts of the body, on top of risking serious health conditions that could even be deadly. Infections tend to cause swelling and they will spread if left untreated, so head to the vet right away;

Cancer: unfortunately, this disease starts from one point and spreads throughout the body the longer it’s left undiagnosed. Sometimes, pet parents do not realize their dogs have cancer until the symptoms become clearly evident, for example through discoloration of the nose and mouth. In this case, the depigmentation is not limited to the lips and usually affects other parts of the body as well.

What should you do if your dog’s lips are turning pink?

When you notice a dog’s lip discoloration, you need to thoroughly check their mouth first.

Take note of how the loss of pigment looks: are the lips swollen? Is the discoloration extended or there’s just a pink spot on your dog’s lip? Are these spots raised, inflamed, or do they seem well-blended with the rest of the mouth?

If your dog’s lips are changing colors but look otherwise normal, there is probably nothing to worry about. Lips losing color is a common phenomenon in dogs that can be seasonal or due to aging.

However, if your dog is feeling discomfort, looks pained, or has difficulty eating, they will need a medical examination to rule out more serious diseases, of which the lips’ discoloration might only be the most evident symptom.

Skin depigmentation disorders in dogs. 

Apart from dogs’ lips turning pink, there are other kinds of depigmentation that occur in dogs for different reasons. In fact, skin disorders are fairly common in dogs and they usually only affect the aesthetic aspect of a dog without actually causing any harm.

Some of the most common forms of depigmentation disorders in dogs include:

– Vitiligo: this is a genetic condition that only shows up in adult dogs and causes pink discoloration. It doesn’t mean that all pink lips are a symptom of vitiligo, but it could be the case if you rule out all other possibilities through medical examinations. Vitiligo doesn’t have treatments, but it’s only cosmetic and doesn’t affect your dog’s health. However, for purebred dogs, it could prevent them from breeding as it’s not a desirable trait to have;

– Impetigo: this skin infection is most common in puppies because they have weaker immune systems. When a dog has impetigo, the skin is covered in bacteria that may cause rashes, acne-looking bumps, and even pus-filled blisters. This condition is not life-threatening, but it’s very uncomfortable for your pet and might cause them depression. Treatment is possible but it changes from case to case, so consult your veterinarian;

– Lentigo: if your dog’s bottom lip is turning black, they may be affected by a condition called lentigo, which is characterized by the appearance of one or more patches of black skin in different areas of the body. The condition has no symptoms and isn’t painful for your dog, as it’s merely cosmetic. There’s no need for treatment and the prognosis is good as it’s a benign skin condition.

Other types of dermatoses in dogs. 

Other skin-related issues in dogs that sometimes do not feature depigmentation are:

  • Erythema: inflammation of the skin (red skin)
  • Leukoderma: the skin partially or completely lacks pigmentation
  • Leukotrichia: causes white hair in dogs
  • Ulceration: tissue damage that causes the loss of the top layer of the skin

There are dog breeds that are more predisposed than others to skin conditions and autoimmune diseases that cause discoloration of the skin, including:

  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Collies
  • Chow Chows
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Rottweilers
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • St. Bernards
  • Giant Schnauzers
  • Labrador Retrievers

In order to formulate a diagnosis, the veterinarian will take into consideration the genetic predisposition of your dog on top of any other pre-existing medical condition that could be influencing changes in their skin and coat pigmentation.

For many skin conditions, treatment is easily manageable at home and it will be enough to take the proper precautions for their skin type and predisposition to assure that your dog lives a long and healthy life.

Will my dog’s lips turn black again? 

When it comes to seasonal skin changes, the original pigmentation comes back on its own once your dog starts spending more time outside under the sun.

For scratches, wounds, and some treatable skin diseases, there is a good possibility that the original skin color will come back once your dog has been restored to full health.

Depending on the disease, sometimes your dog’s lips will stay pink. However, in many cases, their different physical appearance doesn’t translate into any discomfort or pain for your pooch.

As dogs grow older, it’s fairly common to see changes in their pigmentation, but this is just the natural course of their life and it doesn’t mean your dog is sick.

However, in the presence of other symptoms or if your dog’s skin looks unhealthy, it is safer to have them examined by your veterinarian.

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