Why Are My Dog’s Lips Changing Color And Turning Pink? (11 Possible Reasons)

dog lips turning pink

It can be worrying for many dog owners to notice that their dog’s lips are changing color and turning pink. But what can be causing this change in appearance?

This could be due to several factors including sun exposure, aging, and health conditions like vitiligo, lupus or allergies, each affecting skin pigmentation in different ways.

Infections like pyoderma and physical injuries can also change lip color, as can porphyrin stains from saliva. Autoimmune disorders such as Uveodermatologic Syndrome directly target pigment cells, leading to depigmentation.

Observing these changes and consulting with a vet can help determine the underlying cause.

This post explores the different reasons behind such changes and what can be done about them.

1. Sun Exposure

Too much sun exposure can cause skin pigmentation in the lips thus causing them to turn pink color.

If you have a dog that loves the outdoors, chances are it has sun-bleached skin which causes its fur color to lighten.

The amount of sun exposure that your dog gets during the summer and winter months can cause pink spots to appear around the dog’s nose and mouth.

The change in pigmentation in the lips and fur may be permanent or temporary.

This discoloration by the sun can also happen to dogs with brown noses.


Prolonged sun exposure for your dog is bad for the skin, just like with people.

If you are taking your dog out when the sun is out, use some pet-friendly sunscreen lotion and ensure access to shade when needed.

You can apply the lotion sunscreen to the ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, nose and any area where pigmentation is low.

This can help prevent sunburn on your dog’s face and head. But be sure it is a dog-friendly formula! 

If it is hot out, also be sure the paw pads are protected from burning.

2. Vitiligo

This condition starts as small spots and grows to larger areas over the years.

Vitiligo is a condition whereby the skin begins to lose its natural pigments. It can happen to your dog’s skin and it occurs in patches.

Areas that are affected by vitiligo can turn white or a very pale shade of pink.

Melanin is the cells that give our skin its natural color. For dogs with vitiligo, these cells are destroyed causing the skin to lose its pigment.

This condition starts as small spots and grows to larger areas over the years.

Vitiligo in dogs can appear on the face before moving on to the body.


There isn’t a cure for vitiligo at this point. But there’s nothing for you to worry about as it is purely a cosmetic issue.

Your dog is still healthy even with a condition like vitiligo. However if your dog seems itchy or in distress with any skin change, consult your veterinarian. 

3. Lupus

Lupus is an inappropriate response of the immune system that can affect both humans and dogs, also known as an autoimmune condition.

Facial discoid lupus erythematosus (FDLE) is a form of lupus in dogs that can cause a change in skin color.

This disease can start as a white salt line on your dog’s nose and spread to other areas like the lips and surrounding skin area.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sores and ulcers around the facial areas
  • Lighter skin color around the nose
  • Bleeding from sores
  • Skin lesions on the ear and genital areas

This change is due to the immune system attacking the skin cells responsible for pigment, leading to a loss of melanin.


Oral or topical medication will be required to manage this autoimmune condition in your dog.

For dogs with FDLE, it is important to limit the amount of sun exposure to avoid UV light as sunlight can aggravate the condition.  Antibiotics may be needed initially if the skin lesions become ulcerated.

4. Uveodermatologic Syndrome

Uveodermatologic Syndrome is also another autoimmune condition in dogs that can cause changes in pigmentation on the skin and mucous membranes.

This condition causes the immune system to attack the body’s own cells, particularly melanocytes, the cells responsible for pigment.

As a result, affected dogs may experience a lightening of the skin and lips, which can cause the lips to turn pink or lose their normal color.


The veterinarian will need to do blood tests and take skin samples to make sure of the diagnosis and check for other health issues.

The treatment focuses on managing the immune system and easing the symptoms.

This includes giving medications to lower the immune system’s overreaction and using corticosteroids to lessen inflammation.

5. Old Age

elderly dog

As your dog gets older its body starts to produce less melanin which is the pigment responsible for coloring the skin, fur and lips.

This reduction in melanin can lead to a noticeable lightening of the lips, which may turn from their usual dark color to a lighter shade.

This change is purely cosmetic for the most part and does not typically indicate a health problem.

Puppies on the other hand have yet to fully develop their melanin which makes their lips more pinkish in color compared to an older dog.


There’s no fountain of youth treatment when it comes to reversing old age. But the best thing that you can do for your senior dog is to feed it a good diet and keep it active.

Regular vet visits are also a must once a dog becomes a senior.

6. Allergic Reaction

When your dog experiences an allergic reaction, its immune system responds leading to inflammation.

Allergies are a common concern for many dog owners that can affect a dog’s comfort and health.

One less commonly known symptom of allergies in dogs is the change in lip color, particularly turning pink.

Allergies in dogs can be due to environmental allergens (pollen, dust, mold), food ingredients and contact with certain materials (plastics, certain fabrics).

When your dog experiences an allergic reaction, its immune system responds leading to inflammation.

The inflammation can cause a dog’s lips to turn pink or reddish. The lips turn a different color because more blood goes to the area when the body tries to protect itself. 

Increased redness is a common sign of inflammation.

Other allergic symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchiness


Effectively managing and treating allergies in dogs involves several key steps, starting with identifying the specific allergen.

Essential strategies include:

  • Dietary Adjustments: Implementing an elimination diet if food allergies are suspected, primarily the protein source
  • Environmental Changes: Reducing exposure to environmental allergens (pollen, dust, aerosols, etc)
  • Medications: Using antihistamines or corticosteroids to alleviate symptoms
  • Topical Treatments: Applying creams or ointments to relieve irritation from allergies

If you are using plastic bowls for your dog’s food and water, that could be the problem right there.

Many dogs are allergic to plastic and it tends to trap bacteria much more quickly, especially in the folds of the lips.

Using a less porous material such as stainless steel or ceramic is better, and be sure to wash the bowl thoroughly with hot, soapy water..

7. Porphyrin

In the context of lip color, a buildup of porphyrin from saliva can cause the lips to appear pinker than usual.

Porphyrin is a compound that dogs naturally produce during the breakdown of red blood cells.

It’s present in a dog’s tears, saliva, and urine and can lead to staining on lighter-colored fur.

Porphyrin staining is most noticeable in dogs with white or light fur, where you may see pink to reddish-brown discoloration around the mouth and eyes.

In the context of lip color, a buildup of porphyrin from saliva can cause the lips to appear pinker than usual.

This staining is harmless but can be a cosmetic concern for pet owners.


Dog breeds with more prominent eyes such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, etc are more prone to staining.

You can easily use a wet towel and clean your dog’s mouth area. Regular cleaning will prevent the stains from sticking to your dog’s fur.

8. Pyoderma

Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that is common in dogs.

It can sometimes affect the area around the mouth and lips, leading to noticeable changes in coloration.

This condition happens when bacteria enter the skin’s natural barriers due to irritation, wounds or other injuries.

Other symptoms of pyoderma include:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Small, itchy bumps near the lip area
  • Loss of hair around the mouth
  • Increased licking or scratching at the affected area


Treating pyoderma involves medical intervention to combat the bacterial infection and promote healing.

Antibiotics are often prescribed to target the underlying infection as well as medication for inflammation and to reduce itching.

Keeping the mouth area clean and dry helps to prevent further bacterial growth.

9. Injury To The Mouth

dog biting on stick

Dogs are very playful and can get too carried away at times.

Injuries to your dog’s mouth, including cuts, scrapes or punctures, can change the lip color reddish-pink.

These injuries can occur from chewing on hard objects, rough play or encounters with sharp items in the environment.


The treatment of mouth injuries in dogs varies based on how severe the injury is.

For minor injuries, cleaning the area to avoid infection and watching for any signs of worsening is sufficient.

More serious injuries require a vet to professionally clean the wound, use stitches for deeper cuts and prescribe antibiotics to fend off infection.

Pain relief medication may be given to help the dog feel more comfortable while it recovers.

10. Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes and potentially the nervous system. It can cause changes in the skin and possibly the color of the lips.

Lymphoma can lead to systemic changes that might indirectly cause a dog’s lips to turn pink or undergo color changes.

If lymphoma makes a dog produce fewer red blood cells, it could cause anemia. This might make the dog’s lips look paler or pinker than usual.


Diagnosing lymphoma generally involves a combination of physical examinations, blood tests, imaging studies and biopsies.

Once diagnosed, treatment options typically include chemotherapy, which is the standard of care for most types of cancer in dogs.

The earlier that this cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.

11. Parasitic Infections

A parasitic infection can cause your dog’s lips to change color.

Parasites like hookworms or fleas feed on your dog’s blood, leading to blood loss over time.

Hookworms are especially dangerous for young dogs or puppies because their bodies might not recover fast enough, leading to anemia.

This reduction in red blood cells or hemoglobin can cause the lips, gums and other mucous membranes to appear paler than usual.

Young or immune-compromised dogs may also be susceptible to mite or fungal infections that can cause crusting or hair loss around the lips which may result in color change.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite


Start with a vet visit for a diagnosis which is confirmed through a fecal sample or skin scrape. The vet will prescribe deworming medication to eliminate the hookworms or other intestinal parasites. 

For external parasites, check with your vet on which products are safe to give young or sick dogs to avoid reactions and ensure the product will target specific organisms.    

In more serious cases, a blood transfusion or iron supplements may be necessary to address severe anemia.

Should I Be Worried About My Dog’s Lips?

dog at vet

If you notice that your dog’s lips are turning pink, the first thing that you need to do is to closely inspect its mouth.

  • Are the lips swollen?
  • Are there any signs of bleeding?
  • Do you notice a change in your dog’s breath?
  • Are there any sores or rashes on the lips and mouth area?
  • Is the discoloration getting more obvious by the day?
  • Does it seem that your dog is in pain?
  • Are there any other areas of the body that seem to be affected?

If your dog’s lips are turning pink very gradually and it seems that the issue isn’t causing your dog discomfort or pain, it could just be due to aging or sun exposure.

But if you notice anything else out of the ordinary, it would be best to bring your dog to the vet for a thorough check-up.

The vet might require a tissue sample or blood test to be sure it isn’t due to an underlying medical condition.

All dog breeds can develop skin conditions at some point in their lives but some breeds are more prone to such issues.

  • German Shepherds
  • Collies
  • Chow Chows
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Rottweilers
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Any light, short-haired dog such as Dalmations or white boxers or pitbulls

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