Vitiligo is a disease caused by loss of melanin. Melanin is the substance that gives color to the skin. In its absence, the skin becomes pale or milky-white. The disease affects 1% of human population. There is more to what is vitiligo that can be learnt on the internet today. Patients can always approach their doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Animals too can be affected by vitiligo, dogs and cats especially. An animal with vitiligo will not develop any serious health complications. In fact, it is more about being esthetically appealing than physically healthy.
Most cases of animals with vitiligo are caused by autoimmune activities and hereditary factors. Other factors such as stress and environmental conditions can trigger vitiligo cycles.
Since vitiligo in animals is not considered a dangerous condition, treatment is not always necessary. Tattoo ink can however be implanted by a veterinarian to darken vitiligo affected areas.
Vitiligo dog causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
Vitiligo dog signs often appear on nose and around eyes. Other areas can also be affected.
A number of factors may be responsible for vitiligo in a dog. They include;
- Autoimmune activities – sometimes, the immune system becomes so active that it destroys healthy body cells, melanocytes in this case. This results in loss of pigment and thus vitiligo.
- Genetic factors – about 30% of all vitiligo cases run in families. The defective gene responsible for loss of pigment can be passed from parents to offspring. In dogs, the gene often produces its effects in middle ages.
- Stress – diseases are common causes of stress in dogs. Any source of extreme or chronic stress can trigger vitiligo cycles in dogs. Stress is also a common cause of vitiligo in toddlers.
- Exposure to toxins – some toxins may take away the ability of melanocytes to produce melanin. Exposure can be internal or external.
Symptoms begin in localized areas. From there, they may or may not spread. There for example may be white spots on the dog’s nose and around eyes or mottled skin on paws.
It is also not uncommon for vitiligo in dogs to present as areas of faded pigment or vitiligo hair. This causes noticeable difference between the vitiligo affected areas and other healthy areas.
Sometimes, vitiligo develops in small body areas and stops at that. It can however spread to cover large areas and form large patches.
There will be no signs of distress caused by vitiligo. This is unless stress was the primary trigger, which in this case will not be a sign of vitiligo itself. It is not uncommon to see a Golden Retriever, Siberian Huskies or a Rottweiler with vitiligo.
In humans, physical examination is usually done with a vitiligo wood’s lamp. Since not always will loss of pigment in dogs translate to vitiligo, the following steps can help with diagnosis conformation;
- Inspect usual areas – vitiligo in dogs often begins in nose and around eyes. Start by looking for loss of pigment particularly on nose. Note that color changes in dogs’ noses sometimes changes with seasons.
- Check for complete pigment loss – vitiligo doesn’t cause color changes that resemble normal transformations that may occur from time to time. The disease causes complete loss of pigment, which results in white patches. The whiteness will be noticeable both on skin and fur.
- Have the dog checked – your vet will help rule out other possible causes of pigment loss. The vet will also determine if your doctor is affected by uveodermatological syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease that may cause loss of vision and pigment.
Some breeds are at higher risk of developing vitiligo than others. These include German Shepherds, Dachshunds, Yellow Labradors, Siberian Huskies and Belgian Tervuren.
There is no treatment that will completely restore pigment to a vitiligo affected dog. It is also not likely that color will return naturally to affected areas. The good thing is that vitiligo will not harm your dog mentally or physically. In fact, it is not rare to see beautiful vitiligo in animals.
Your vet may suggest use of tattoo ink or supplementing with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and omega-3s. Vitamins for vitiligo such as vitamin B-12 with folic acid, Vitamin D and minerals like zinc and copper are used in humans. They may also work on dogs and pets. Another option that may help is letting the dog spend more time in sunlight in the hopes that the exposure will stimulate production of melanocytes.
Vitiligo cat types, symptoms and treatment
Vitiligo cat cases are caused by autoimmune activities, genetic factors, environmental factors or stress. The disease doesn’t cause pain or physical distress.
- Acrofacial – this type appears on paws and around orifices.
- Mucosal – loss of pigment occurs in soft linings of mouth, nose, eyes and lips.
- Focal – presents as spots appearing on localized body areas.
- Generalized – white patches form in no systematic fashion.
- Universal – loss of pigment occurs in most of the body.
Signs and symptoms
Since vitiligo is caused by loss of pigment producing cells, affected areas become pale or white. These signs mostly present in nose, around eyes and paws in cats.
It is not uncommon for vitiligo to appear on other body areas in cats. For example, a white patch resembling a belt can appear on the cat’s belly. Random white patches may also be seen all over the cat’s body. It mostly depends on the type of vitiligo being dealt with.
A vet will help with diagnosis. Afterwards, they will suggest any of the available treatment options. Since vitiligo in cats is not agonizing or dangerous, treatment is not always necessary. In fact, there is no known cure that will completely restore lost pigment. Available options include tattoo ink, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also used as potential treatments for vitiligo in humans, especially in cases such as genital vitiligo.
Vitiligo in birds
Discoloration in birds caused by vitiligo was thought to be not common. People are nowadays able to share stories and pictures through social media. It is now known that vitiligo is not uncommon in birds, including chicken.
The same disorder that causes vitiligo in humans is responsible for vitiligo in birds. Sometimes, it happens that melanocytes are lost or become unable to produce melanin. This presents as discoloration on different parts of the body.
Vitiligo in birds doesn’t cause pain or any serious complications. Problems may however occur if the disease is being caused by an autoimmune disease that may be fatal to the bird.
Some experts think that studying the changes that take place in chicks with vitiligo may help understand the disease better. This is particularly because vitiligo is caused by autoimmune activities and hereditary factors. Birds with vitiligo therefore tend to have defining characteristics which may be passed to offspring.
If we are able to understand the exact cause of vitiligo in humans, a cure may not be long way in coming. The main difficulty with developing a cure for the disease is due to the fact that not all is known on how the disease occurs.
Other cases of vitiligo in animals
In humans, vitiligo almost always causes cosmetic concerns. This is a common problem in celebs who have been diagnosed with the disease. Tamar Braxton vitiligo saga is a good example. This is not the case with animals. It is not uncommon to find beautiful vitiligo in animals.
Both domestic and wild animals can develop vitiligo. Sometimes, it is not easy to tell whether difference in pigmentation is due to natural causes or discoloration caused by vitiligo.
Pregnancy is a potential vitiligo trigger. It doesn’t necessary cause the disease but triggers cycles. This means that the offspring is unlikely to develop the disease.
There are many pictures on the web of animals with vitiligo. Changes are most noticeable in hair color but also occur on the skin.
It is important to note that animals affected by vitiligo are still able to stay healthy. The main possible complication is becoming sensitive to sunlight. Affected areas may also become sensitive to pests, insects and bugs. This is especially in wild animals. Essential oils for vitiligo can be used on pets to reduce cases of skin sensitivity.
How is vitiligo in animals treated?
Treating vitiligo in domestic animals like dogs and cats is much easier compared to wild animals. A vet can use tattoo ink to restore some of the lost pigment. Supplements can also be added in meals. For wild animals, nature is often left to take its course. This is mainly because vitiligo doesn’t not lead to complications serious enough to kill victims or even render a species extinct.
More research is required if an actual cure for vitiligo, not only in animals but also in humans is to be developed. In fact, studies done in animals may be a source of important breakthrough to coming up with a vitiligo cure.
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