Some people go gray at a young age, and this also happens in some dogs, as well. If your pooch's fur starts turning gray when he's still young, it could be indicative of a medical ailment, however. Take your dog to the vet if you notice that he's turning prematurely gray.
If your dog is older, gray hair is often just a fact of life. It's especially common for dogs to sport a little gray in their muzzle regions. Gray by the eyes is also common. Many even get gray eyebrows. The majority of dogs attain "older" status once they're somewhere in the range of 7 to 10 years old, although bigger canines often get there even quicker during their "middle" years. Not only do dogs frequently go gray with age, their coats also usually lose a little of their prior glossy thickness.
Premature graying is a common indication of hypothyroidism, which is an ailment that is characterized by inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones. This graying occurs specifically over their mouth and nose areas. Apart from early age graying, dogs with hypothyroidism also frequently display other coat-related symptoms of the disease, namely loss of hair, immoderate shedding and excessive dryness. When dogs have hypothyroidism, their coat also tends to take on a lackluster overall appearance. If you think this might be the case with your pooch, schedule a veterinary appointment -- complete with blood work -- immediately.
Other Possible Ailments
If it turns out that your dog doesn't have hypothyroidism, a handful of other medical conditions could be responsible for contributing to the premature gray. Your vet might analyze the processes of your pet's liver and kidneys, for example. She also might conduct a variety of different laboratory evaluations to check for Cushing's disease, another illness that sometimes results in premature graying. Cushing's disease is also often known as hyperadrenocorticism.
Outside influences can sometimes bring upon shifts in the pigmentation of a dog's coat, as well. If your precious pet's coat is graying -- while other similarly aged dogs' coats aren't -- then it could just be an effect of his surroundings and the elements, whether intense heat or the sun. Note, too, that these shifts in pigmentation can sometimes be hereditary.
By Naomi Millburn
Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue: How to Care for Your Aging Dog
Small Animal Dermatology; Karen A. Moriello
St. Georges Veterinary Hospital: Hypothyroidism in Dogs
DogChannel.com: Going Prematurely Gray (and You're not a Schnauzer)
American Kennel Club: Aging Dogs
Long Beach Animal Hospital: Hypothyroidism
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Cushing's Disease
PetEducation: Normal Aging and Expected Changes in Older (Senior, Geriatric) Dogs
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.