You probably expect your dog’s fur to remain the same throughout its life. Of course, the texture will change as your dog moves from puppy to adult dog. However, you may be surprised to learn that your dog’s fur can change color as well. 

Can a dog’s fur change color?

Yes, your dog’s fur can change color for a variety of reasons. Pinpointing why is important. Most of these reasons are harmless, but it can indicate medical issues.

Adulthood

When a dog transitions from a puppy to adult dog, its coat undergoes changes. This can include color changes. Dog’s fur changes around 8-12 months old. If your dog is in this age range, this is likely the cause. Your puppy will shed, losing its puppy coat and developing its adult coat. 

Some breeds are more likely to have color changes than others. A poodle’s fur will often lighten in color as they mature. Labradors may change from black to brown in certain areas as they age. If your puppy maturing is the cause of the color change, you won’t notice any skin issues. Just lots of shedding. 

Agouti Coat

Agouti is the color of wolves, and other wild animals, including mice and rabbits. It’s often referred to as the “wild type” coat. This coat has banded hairs. They usually begin with black tips and then change to gray or yellow. Agouti coats often change colors as the dog reaches maturity. 

Seasons

Your dogs coat may change color with the seasons. If you want natural highlights, all you have to do is spend enough time in the sun. The sun will bleach your hair, which lightens it. This can also happen to your dog. If you notice your dog’s hair lightening in the sunny months and darkening in the winter, it is probably due to the sun. 

Undercoat

A dog’s undercoat is often a different color than the topcoat. The undercoat usually isn’t visible, so it’s not noticeable. However, if your dog is experiencing a lot of shedding, the undercoat will show through temporarily. This will look like your dog’s fur is changing color. 

Trauma

If your dog gets injured, you may notice that the fur around the injury site is darker than the rest of its coat. Dogs have melanin just as people do. When they heal from an injury like a cut or surgery, the skin develops more melanin as it heals. This causes the skin and fur in the area to be darker. 

Loss of Color

A dog can lose color in part or all of its fur. This is called vitiligo. It typically affects the lips, nose, and face. It can be temporary or permanent. A dog’s fur is colored by cells known as melanocytes. The loss of color occurs because the melanocytes no longer function properly. This can be caused by a virus, genetic makeup, or an autoimmune condition. In some cases, the cause can’t be determined. 

Grooming

If you shave your dog’s coat, you may notice color changes as it grows back. It can also change the texture of the hair. Usually the hair will be softer and lighter as it grows back. The more often your dog is shaved, the more significant the changes can be. Some groomers now require a disclaimer because of the potential coat changes. 

Medical Causes

There are many potential medical reasons why your dog’s coat can change colors. Most are fairly rare, however. Infections, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and certain types of cancers can cause pigment changes. 

Hormonal problems can also cause a change in colors. This is often the result of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can also cause hair loss, obesity, and fatigue. Female dogs may also have color changes when they reach sexual maturity. 

Stress

Stress can also cause your dog’s coat to appear to change color. You may also notice its hair thinning or excessive shedding. In most cases, the loss of fur exposes the undercoat, which causes the coat to appear to be a different color. Stress can occur for a wide variety of reasons, and some dogs are more prone to stress than others. 

If your dog has recently had a change of routine or environment, this could be the source of stress. You may also notice other signs of anxiety, including clinginess, frequent whining, or a change in appetite. Once your dog’s stress levels improve, their coat should return to normal. 

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can also cause your dog’s coat to change color. Dogs require the right mix of protein and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals. Your pet’s coat may lose color or become dull if they aren’t getting proper nutrition. Hair loss, skin lesions, and skin thickening and cracking can also occur. 

Do dog’s fur change color as they get older?

It seems strange to think of a dog graying the way a human does. The process isn’t exactly the same as it is for an aging person, but it does occur. As your dog ages, you may notice gray around its mouth and nose. Their coat may lighten significantly as well, particularly if they have a dark coat. 

This occurs because it takes energy for the body to produce the pigments that color fur. As the dog gets older, their energy levels change. Their bodies focus more on keeping the system going, and energy can be conserved by reducing the pigment in the fur. 

Why is my dog’s white fur turning brown?

White dogs have beautiful coats. Unfortunately, keeping them bright and white can be difficult. It’s common for white dogs to develop brown spots on their coat, often to the dismay of their owners. 

Stains

In many cases, when a white dog develops brown spots, it’s actually stains. They are the most common reason a white dog gets brown spots. The spots can also be pink or red. Stains are usually the result of the dog’s tears or saliva, which contain a chemical called porphyrins. They are most common on the face, but they can develop in other areas. Dogs like to lick their fur, and may develop stains in areas they frequently lick. 

Blocked tear ducts can cause excess tears in the eyes. As tears develop and run down the face, it can cause staining on the dog’s fur. Periodontal disease can cause excessive drooling. This increase in saliva makes staining more likely. 

If your dog has staining, it’s best to check with your vet. Especially if you notice excessive tears or saliva. 

Allergies

Allergies can also cause staining of your dog’s coat. If your dog has skin allergies, they will lick the area frequently. This can cause stains to develop in the area due to saliva. If your dog has allergies, you may notice redness on the skin. They may also lick the area excessively. 

Metal Collar or Tags

Saliva isn’t the only thing that can cause discoloration. It can also occur if the fur is exposed to metal. Metal can cause oxidation, or rust. This rust can stain your dog’s fur. If you notice discoloration around your dog’s collar or tags, this is likely the reason. 

What should I do about my dog’s fur changing color?

What to do about your dog’s fur changing colors will depend on the reason. If your dog’s fur is changing color due to the natural aging process, there’s little that you can do. If it’s seasonal, genetic, or caused by trauma, you’ll just have to accept these cosmetic changes. However, some causes do require action.

Vet Appointment

If you suspect that your dog’s fur is changing color for a medical reason, you should take them to the vet. Your dog can’t tell you if something is wrong, so it’s up to you to decode whether something could be wrong based on their behavior and physical appearance. 

Nutritional Deficiencies

With all the dog food options available today, it’s hard to imagine that your dog could have a nutritional deficiency. However, a deficiency can occur from feeding the wrong type of dog food or the wrong amounts. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to certain deficiencies. Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs, which can also play a role. 

If you suspect your dog has a nutritional deficiency, you’ll need to visit the vet. It can be tempting to simply switch their food to one that seems to be healthier. However, there’s a lot of guesswork involved without knowing what your dog is deficient in. Your vet can run tests and identify deficiencies. They can then recommend a suitable diet. 

Skin and coat problems from nutritional deficiencies should clear up once your dog is eating a proper diet. 

Stains on White Fur

If your white dog has brown stains on its fur, there are a few things you can do to remove them. Consider checking with your vet first. Periodontal disease, blocked tear ducts, glaucoma, and allergies can cause your dog to develop stains.

Once your dog has a clean bill of health, you are ready for stain remover. One option is to purchase a product specially designed for removing stains. These often come in convenient wipes. If you want a DIY option, use peroxide and cornstarch. 

Make a paste from peroxide and cornstarch. Apply it to the stained areas. Leave it for 5-15 minutes, and then wash it away with a damp cloth. 

If your white dog’s coat is developing a yellow tint, you can brighten things up. Use shampoo specially designed for whitening your dog’s coat. 

Stress

Is your dog losing their coat or color due to stress? Start by trying to determine what is causing the stress. If you can, reduce or eliminate it. For example, if loud vehicles cause your dog stress, you may want to walk them early in the morning to avoid traffic. If it’s a new pet, give your dog its own space where it can be alone when the other animal is too much for them. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.