Throughout the ages, dogs have proven time and time again that they deserve the title of man’s best friends. Dogs are in tune to everything around them and their humans. There is no animal on the planet more reliable and loyal than a dog. Beyond the fact that dogs provide their pet parents with unconditional love, they are also fierce protectors of the people they love.

Dogs truly love their owners more than they love themselves, and there are more than enough stories that have been told about family dogs placing themselves between their humans and imminent danger.

Dogs often know their humans better than they know themselves. For example, a dog knows when their pet parent is happy or sad. They sense anger, and they also sense when their human needs a little love and affection. With as much as dogs know about humans, humans are vastly behind the curve in terms of what they actually know about the dogs in their lives.

For example, there are a fair number of people who question why their dogs who have light coats of fur suddenly develop black hairs. There are a number of reasons why pet owners start to see black hairs grow in their dog’s fur or gender as well. 

Why Dogs Get Black Hairs

Genetics often play a major role in terms of when and why a dog’s coat changes color. The distribution of pigmentation that is placed into the hair while it is still growing inside the hair follicle is the determining factor. These follicles are responsible for secreting a melanin that is either black-brown or red-yellow. It is important to note that a dog’s coat goes through a resting and a growing cycle, and there are a number of factors that can influence the hair follicles.

What are Acanthosis nigricans?

There is a skin disorder called Acanthosis nigricans that causes hyperpigmentation and abnormal skin darkening. The primary iteration of this disorder is genetic and specific to a certain breed. This disorder is primarily found in dachshunds and is generally manifested in pups under the age of one year. Symptoms associated with primary acanthosis nigricans include seborrhoea, the darkening of the skin, skin thickening, the growth of yeast and bacteria and secondary infections.

Secondary acanthosis is the most common form of the disorder and is caused by several things. The condition is found in all breeds of dogs, and it can manifest in any dog no matter the age. With this type of acanthosis nigricans the melanin is concentrated in areas of the dog’s skin that are inflamed. This is what causes the skin to appear dark. Secondary acanthosis can indicate the presence of other diseases of the skin. Symptoms of the disorder can cause itching and the loss of hair.

Sometimes the medications that a dog is taking can cause the hair follicles to produce more of the black-prown pigmentation which would produce black hairs. On the flip side of things, a dog’s hair begins to turn white when it stops producing melanin. When this is a natural process of aging, and is generally nothing for pet parents to be concerned about. There are several conditions that are also associated with the loss of pigmentation that are more serious in nature like Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism and disorders of the liver and the kidneys. Environmental factors like sun exposure, and the exposure to hot and cold temperatures can also cause a dog’s coat to change colors.

At what age do dogs begin to experience a change of color in their coats?

People may be under the impression that dogs start to experience changes in the color of their coats as they get older. The fact of the matter is, dogs can experience changes of the color of their coats at any age. Changes in the color of a dog’s coat can also occur in any breed. Oftentimes the appearance of darker colored hairs is a benign process that naturally occurs. There are circumstances that cause a dog to grow black hairs, or darkened fur that are more serious in nature.

When should I be concerned about pigment changes in my dog’s fur?

Once again, it is important for pet parents to understand that there are any number of conditions that could cause a dog to manifest changes in the pigment of their coats and fur. The best thing a pet parent can do when these changes become prominent enough that they are apparent, is to take their pet to the vet for an examination. The vet will be able to diagnose the source of the problem by conducting a series of diagnostic tests to include a blood analysis. 

Could my dog’s fur be changing color because of an infection?

There are several types of infections that can cause pigment changes in dogs. Pet parents knowing what they are and how to identify them is very important. No matter what type of infection a dog has, it is important to identify it and get it treated as soon as possible. Some infections that cause black hairs in dogs include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Demodectic mange and Malassrzia dermatitis.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is caused by ticks. They carry an organism called Rickettsia rickettsii. This particular infection is generally found in dogs who spend the vast majority of their time outside where ticks are more prone to be. It is possible that a dog could actually be infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and not have any of the signs or symptoms associated with the disease. In these types of scenarios, dogs recover without intervention. This stage of the infection is known as the subclinical stage.

How will I know if my dog is in the acute state of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Dogs who are in the acute state of Rocky Mountain spotted fever can have a number of signs and symptoms of the condition. It should be noted however, that many of the symptoms associated with Rocky Mountain fever resemble or appear as other diseases, this is why it is important for pet parents to get their fur babies to a vet for an evaluation if they suspect their pet has it. Some symptoms associated with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include but are not limited to: 

  • Depression 
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Edema in the legs and face
  • Lymph node swelling
  • Loss of appetite

How much of a danger is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to my dog’s health?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can also produce some pronounced complications that could cause some serious complications if they are not treated in a timely manner. For example, dogs can develop pneumonia as the result of contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This can cause heart arrhythmias and result in sudden death. The condition can also cause gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting. 

In addition, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can cause some rather significant neurological issues in dogs. A dog who has contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can experience bouts of depression, stupor, dizziness, and they can even have seizures. Dogs can also manifest bleeding in the retinas of their eyes, have nosebleeds, blood in their bowel movements, ulcerations on their front and back legs and ulcerative mucous membranes.

What type of treatment is available for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

As previously mentioned, many cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are so mild, they don’t even produce any symptoms. However, the more profound manifestations of the condition do require treatment. Generally a 14-21 day course of an antibiotic like Doxycycline, Tetracycline or Enrofloxacin are prescribed as treatments for the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Oftentimes, if treatment begins within a couple of days of a dog contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, they will begin to show signs of getting better within a couple of hours of their first dose of antibiotics. Most dogs with milder cases of the condition will make a full recovery. Dogs who have experienced damage to their neurological systems don’t always recover completely.

What is black hair follicular dysplasia?

Black hair follicular dysplasia generally manifests in pups during their earliest stages of life, The disease progresses slowly and causes hair loss in the black color of the dog’s coat by the time they reach 8 or 9 months of age. Black hair follicular dysplasia is hereditary and is often found in dogs that are of mixed breeds as well as purebreds. The disorder can make pets more susceptible to bacterial infections. Because Black hair follicular dysplasia is considered a cosmetic disorder, many veterinarians don’t prescribe treatment unless there is the presence of an infection.

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.