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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Vitiligo is very common - but what is it ?

Vitiligo is a condition in which black pigment is lost from hair or skin - resulting in white patches of hair or areas of pink skin where it were previously black. It is a common problem and the cause is thought to be an immune disorder in which the animal produces antibodies against the cells (called melanocytes) that produce the black pigment melanin. Antibodies to melanocytes have been found in affected cats and dogs and they have not been detected in normal animals.

Some Breeds are particularly likely to develop the disorder - which suggests that there may be a genetic basis for the condition. The condition particularly affects the Belgian Tervuren, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd Dog, Rottweiler and Siamese cats. In addition, these breeds often develop depigmentation of the nose which is considered to be a form of vitiligo : the Alaskan Malamute, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever (Yellow), and Siberian Husky.

The loss of pigment can occur anywhere, but common sites are :

  • The nose
  • Lips of the mouth
  • The muzzle
  • Inside the mouth
  • The footpads

The condition usually develops in young animals and the loss of pigment is usually permanent, although spontaneous re-pigmentation can occur .

There is no known treatment for this condition.


Updated October 2013