It can be worrying for many dog owners to notice that their dog lips are losing color and turning pink. But what can be causing this change in appearance?
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 very bad for its skin. If you are taking your dog out when the sun is out, make sure to use some pet-friendly sunscreen lotion.
You can apply the lotion sunscreen can be applied to the ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, nose and any area where pigmentation is low.
This can help prevent sunburn to your dog’s face and head.
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 in time. 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.
Lupus is an autoimmune system that can affect both humans and dogs.
Facial discoid lupus erythematosus (FDLE) is the form of lupus in dogs which can cause a change in its skin color.
This disease can start off as a white salt line on your dog’s nose and spread to other areas like the lips and surrounding skin areas.
Other symptoms include:
- Sores and ulcers around the facial areas
- Lighter skin color around the nose
- Bleeding from sores
- Skin lesions on 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 mange this autoimmune condition in your dog.
A medication called Oclacitinib may be an effective treatment option for dogs suffering from different from FDLE.
A study1 has shown that oclacitinib can greatly improve or even clear up skin problems in dogs quickly.
For dogs with FDLE, it is important to limit the amount of sun exposure to avoid UV light as sunlight can aggravate the condition.
4. Old Age
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 pink 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.
5. Allergic Reaction
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.
Other allergic symptoms include:
- Hair loss
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
- Environmental Changes: Reducing exposure to environmental allergens
- 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.
Use a better material such as stainless steel or ceramic.
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 might 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.
Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection which is common in dogs.
It can sometimes affect the area around the mouth and lips, leading to noticeable changes in coloration, such as turning the lips pink.
This condition happens when bacteria enters 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. Keeping the mouth area clean and dry helps to prevent further bacterial growth.
8. Uveodermatologic Syndrome
Uveodermatologic Syndrome is an autoimmune condition in dogs that can cause changes in pigmentation on the skin and mucous membranes.
This condition causes the immune system to attackthe 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.
9. Injury To The Mouth
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, simple at-home care such as cleaning the area to avoid infection and watching for any signs of healing or worsening can often lead to natural healing.
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.
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.
Should I Be Worried About My Dog’s Lips?
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?
If your dog’s lips are turning pink very gradually and it seems that the issue isn’t causing your dog any 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 just to make 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
- Chow Chows
- Siberian Huskies
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Labrador Retrievers
1. Harvey, Olivrī, Lima, Olivry, Effective treatment of canine chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus variants with oclacitinib: Seven cases
Iggy Thorne, also known as ‘Iggy the Explorer,’ is a seasoned writer with a flair for adventure and a deep love for animals.
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