When a dog’s lips turn pink, this is due to a loss of pigment and refers to a process called depigmentation. Melanocyte skin cells produce melanin, a pigment that can determine the change of skin color. The more melanin you have, the darker you are.
Depigmentation can happen in dogs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they’re starting to age, or it may be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Common Causes of Depigmentation
To determine whether you’ll need to seek further help, you’ll need to assess the severity of it.
Sometimes, depigmentation can be part of a natural process where your dog’s lips fade and turn pink. For the most part, it’s not something to worry about, but you may want to look at this closer.
Examine your dog’s lips – are they swollen? Are there any spots, and are they raised or inflamed?
If the answer to these questions is no, and there are no other physical signs or behavioral changes, then it’s likely that the reason for your dog’s lips turning pink is due to aging or seasonal changes.
Much like humans, when dogs age, they start to go gray and lose pigment in their skin. It’s really just a part of the aging process and isn’t anything to worry about.
In the same way that some dogs can lose color in their nose due to seasonal changes, it can also happen to their lips. Some breeds are more prone to depigmentation than others, i.e., Labradors, Siberian Huskies, and Golden Retrievers.
Due to daylight changes, their lips may change color. In the summer months, their lips tend to be darker, whereas, in the winter, they tend to be lighter.
Whilst these are natural causes that don’t cause your dog any harm, there are some diseases where lip depigmentation can be the only visible cause.
Therefore, if you want to rule out anything more serious, you may want to consider taking your dog to a vet for a check-up.
Depigmentation Conditions and Diseases
Skin discoloration can be a symptom of a few diseases that affect dogs. Therefore, it’s a possibility that it could be one of the following.
Vitiligo is a genetic condition that causes pink discoloration. The discoloration is most common around their noses, lips, and eyes, but it can also affect their coat and nails.
Although Vitiligo is a hereditary condition, the discoloration isn’t visible in puppies. Despite Vitiligo developing in dogs from a young age, the depigmentation only becomes evident throughout their adult lives.
Vitiligo is more of a cosmetic change and doesn’t cause any harm to your dog. There isn’t really too much that can be done about Vitiligo. In some cases, more exposure to the sun and ensuring your dog’s in a stress-free environment can help to improve Vitiligo.
The breeds that are more prone to this condition are:
- German Shepherds
- Yellow Labradors
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Doberman Pinscher
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Belgian Tervuren
- Siberian Huskies
- Golden Retrievers
Mucocutaneous Pyoderma is a bacterial skin disease in dogs that particularly affects their lips and the tissues surrounding their mouths.
It is often associated with other underlying diseases, like allergies, parasitic diseases, and internal diseases. During diagnosis, the testing for these underlying diseases should be examined.
For milder cases of Mucocutaneous Pyoderma, shampoos that contain chlorhexidine should be applied daily. For more severe cases, the dog will need to undergo systemic therapy.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) can be identified by scabbing of the skin. This can cause depigmentation, scarring, and hair loss. Despite the discoloration mostly being around the nose, it can also spread to other areas, including lips, that cause them to turn pink.
While DLE has no specific causes, genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are likely to play a role in its development.
DLE is diagnosed by performing a skin biopsy. As the skin biopsy requires the clinician to touch sensitive areas, dogs will typically be put under anesthesia.
Treatments for DLE focus on reducing inflammation and often involve applying topical creams or gels to the affected area. Oral medications like oxytetracycline and niacinamide may be administered.
Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that are fundamental in the immune system for protection against diseases. Lymphoma is an abnormal replication of these lymphocytes.
The clinical signs of Epitheliotropic Lymphoma include scaling, depigmentation, and/or crustacean on the nose, lips, and footpads.
A skin biopsy may need to be completed by a qualified skin pathologist for diagnosis, as Epitheliotropic Lymphoma can sometimes be misdiagnosed as allergies.
In some cases, it may be treated with surgical excision or radiation therapy. However, the majority of Epitheliotropic Lymphoma cases are too severe for surgery.
To reduce skin inflammation and unease, oral steroid medications may be supplied as treatment. In more severe cases, dogs with Epitheliotropic Lymphoma would be offered chemotherapy.
Will their lips stay pink?
In some cases, your dog’s lips may not stay pink. Depending on the cause of depigmentation, your dog’s lips may return to their original color.
If the discoloration is down to seasonal changes, exposure to sunlight will gradually return your dog’s lips to their original color.
If discoloration is caused by treatable diseases, they’ll most likely return to their natural color once they have fully healed from the disease.
If the diseases are severe, it is likely that they won’t return to their natural color and will remain pink.
There is a range of reasons why a dog’s lips can turn pink, and whilst physical changes in pets can sometimes be scary, typically, this isn’t something to worry about.
The diseases associated with discoloration of the lips can be quite rare, and most commonly, it’ll be to do with aging, seasonal changes, or their surrounding environment.
It’s always wise, though, to keep an eye on them to see if anything else changes or develops. If you do have any concerns about your dog’s health, you might want to get them checked over at the vets to put your mind at ease.