If your dog’s dark lips suddenly begin turning pink, you may start to worry. There are many potential causes of pink lips in dogs. In most cases, it’s simply a loss of pigment, and not something to be concerned about. However, it can indicate a more serious condition.
Why is my dog’s lip turning pink?
Your dog’s lips can turn pink for several reasons. It may be a temporary change, or a new permanent feature.
Cause for Concern?
First, let’s establish when you should be concerned about your dog’s lips turning pink. If you notice swelling, inflammation, or lesions on your dog’s mouth, you should get them evaluated by the vet.
If your dog’s mouth looks completely normal other than the change in color, it’s probably nothing to worry about.
However, if you notice health or behavioral changes in your dog, this should be evaluated by the vet as well. Discoloration can be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.
You should also check the rest of your dog’s body. Most benign conditions that cause pigment changes will also cause pigment changes on other areas of your dog’s body.
You may notice that their nose, paws, or hair in certain areas also become lighter.
Vitiligo is a condition that causes your dog to lose their pigment. It can occur in the hair or skin, usually in patches. In addition to causing your dog’s lips to turn pink, it can cause the hair to turn white. It can cause the skin to turn very pale pink or white.
Your dog’s skin and hair is colored by melanin, the same thing that pigments your own skin. Melanin is produced by special cells. Vitiligo occurs when these cells are destroyed or die, causing your dog to loose their pigment.
Vitiligo isn’t completely understood, but it’s thought to be hereditary. Certain breeds are at a higher risk of the condition, including Shepards, Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Daschunds.
It typically starts with the face, and then moves on to other areas of the body.
Some pigment changes are natural as your dog ages. Puppies will have pink lips, because they haven’t developed all their melanin cells yet. As they mature, their lips may turn brown or black.
Older dogs also experience pigment changes. Typically, dogs begin to loose their pigmentation as they age. This can cause your dog’s lips to turn pink.
Allergies can also cause your dog’s lips to turn pink. This typically happens when your dog comes into contact with something they are allergic to. The allergy will cause inflammation and redness, which can make your dog’s lips pink.
You may notice a rash, swelling, or sores on or around the lips. This is caused by the allergy itself, which causes skin irritation, as well as your dog scratching or rubbing the area on the ground to relieve itching.
Dogs can be allergic to many things, just like humans. Common food allergens are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, and chicken, which are common dog food ingredients.
Environmental allergens, including dust, pollen, and mold are also common culprits. Your dog may also be allergic to chemicals, including those used to wash their bedding items.
Lack of Light
If your dog’s lips turn pink in the winter months, it may simply be a lack of sunlight. Your skin gets darker with sun exposure, and your dog’s does too.
The role of melanin is to prevent you, or your dog, from too much sun exposure. The more sun exposure you have, the more melanin the body needs. When sun exposure decreases, melanin will decrease as well. This decrease can cause your dog’s lips to turn pink due to loss of sunlight.
Mucocutaneous pyoderma is believed to be caused by a skin infection. It’s typically treated with antibiotics. It requires treatment from a veterinarian. They will perform a simple test to determine the bacteria causing the infection, and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Creams are often given as well to speed healing and prevent secondary infection.
It typically causes loss of pigmentation on the lips. It can also cause lesions around the lips, and sometimes on the eyelids, anus, or private areas.
Discoid lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes coin-shaped lesions on the skin. It can occur on the face and lips, or other areas. The lesions typically get worse with sun exposure.
Treatment for the condition focuses on treating the symptoms. This can include steroidal or non-steroidal creams.
Cutaneous lymphoma causes the body’s lymphocytes to replicate abnormally, causing lesions. These commonly occur on the gums, nose, and lip margins. However, they can appear anywhere on the body.
The disease is actually a type of cancer. It forms lesions and irritated patches, which will be pink. They may also bleed or become infected.
Unfortunately, treatment for the cancer is typically chemotherapy and surgery to remove the lesions. Radiation is sometimes used as well. In most cases, the lesions return after treatment.
Uveodermatologic syndrome causes the body to attack it’s own pigment cells. The disease causes a loss of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. The lips will turn pink and the hair will turn white.
The biggest concern with this condition are the eyes. They also lose their pigment, which causes red and uncomfortable eyes. Because the cells attack the pigment cells, damage to the retina also occurs. This can lead to blindness over time.
Oral papillomas are caused by the papilloma virus. It causes lesions or sores on the lips, which can cause them to be pink. It typically occurs in dogs under 2 years old, because their immune systems have not yet developed immunity to the virus. Over time, the lesions should go away as the body’s immune system learns to fight the virus.
There’s no treatment for the virus. It is typically asymptomatic, other than the appearance, and eventually clears on its own. Dogs with lesions can be contagious, however, so you should avoid close contact between them and other dogs.
Why is my dog’s upper-lip turning pink?
It may seem strange if only your dog’s upper lip is turning pink. You are probably wondering what could cause it, and if you should be concerned.
Conditions to Consider
Any of the conditions listed above can cause your dog’s upper lip to turn pink. It’s a good starting point. However, there is another cause that can affect the upper lip more prominently.
Porphyrin is an iron-containing molecule in your dog’s body. As red blood cells break down, porphyrin is formed from the waste products. These waste products must be removed. Most of this is excreted through the bile and digestive tract, and removed through your dog’s poop. However, iron containing porphyrin will also come out in your dog’s tears and saliva.
It’s normal for some staining to occur, particularly for white-coated breeds. Porphyrin is well known for staining a white coat red, brown, or pink. However, it can also stain your dog’s lip and the area around their mouth.
If your dog is overproducing tears or saliva, it can cause abnormal staining. Frequent licking can also stain the fur.
Excess Tear Production
Excess tear production can cause staining on the top lip. It may also cause staining on your dog’s fur, if it’s lighter in color. Dogs with narrow tear ducts and short noses are more likely to have excess tear production.
Allergies can also increase the amount of tears your dog produces. Irritants like cigarette smoke, and ingrown eyelashes can also cause lip staining.
Your dog’s bottom lip can turn pink from any of the reasons listed previously. However, there are a few more possibilities for why your dog’s bottom lip is turning pink.
Trauma can cause your dog’s lips to look pink. Trauma can occur on any area of the body or mouth. However, the bottom lip is more likely to get injured than most areas.
It can occur in a fight or even a play session with another dog. It can get scratched if your dog rubs their mouth against the ground to eat or smell a scent.
Dogs use their mouths and noses to explore the world. They lead with these areas and use them constantly, which makes them prone to injury.
Areas that are injured will be pink. Even after it heals, your pooch will have a pink scar.
Excess saliva can cause porphyrin staining, particularly on the bottom lip. This can cause it to turn pink. Excess saliva is most often caused by dental or mouth problems.
Cavities, broken teeth, and foreign objects in the mouth are common culprits. Stomach upset or motion sickness will also cause excess saliva production.
Irritation from eating something toxic or corrosive will cause saliva as a defense against the substance. Allergic reactions and some medications can also cause higher saliva production.