IS MY MALTESE ILL? THIS REALLY SCARED US!

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Did you know this condition could happen to a Maltese dog?

When There are Black Spots on the Body Normal color of Maltese skin:

Not all Maltese have non-pigmented skin. This does not necessarily mean that the skin is black; it may be have a light yellow or tan tinge. This may not be noticeable unless you lift all hair sections and inspect the skin under proper lighting conditions.

That lightly pigmented skin can turn black:

In MOST cases, when a Maltese puppy or dog has skin that is turning black, it is a matter of these pigmented areas - whether these be little freckled areas or large patches that were previously lemon or tan - having a change from the lighter color to the darker black color.

Therefore, it is not usually a matter of non-pigmented (white) skin suddenly changing to black; it is instead lemon or tan.

And if this happens, it generally occurs as a Maltese matures:

This can happen at any age; a young puppy may develop black spots or an older, senior dog may begin to develop them. In general, it is owners of 1 to 2 year old Maltese dogs that begin to notice this change.

In many cases, it is first noticed during bathing when the coat is wet and can be quite alarming if an owner does not know that it (in most cases) is not uncommon.

If a Maltese does not have a medical issue, the blackening of the skin is often due to 1 of 2 things:

1- Genetics. Black skin pigmentation is a trait (just like size, bone structure, etc.) that is passed down. Traits can be passed down from up to 5 generations back. And, traits can skip generations.

2- Exposure to the sun often causes darker pigmentation. In fact, it is not uncommon for a Maltese dog's nose to fade a bit during darker winter months only to darken again in the summer.

Along these lines is the element that being outside - or even laying in a sun-soaked room - can cause black spots to start appearing. These can be anywhere, but are often seen on the stomach.

Here is a list of the most common health issues that cause black skin:
• Apocrine sweat gland cyst - This would present as a few small, round darkened lumps. With many dogs, the lumps are actually a dark blue that can be mistaken for black. These are most often found on the dog's legs, neck and/or head. It is diagnosed with a biopsy and the lumps are removed surgically.

• Basal cell tumors - A raised darkened lump on the skin; most often located on the chest, head and/or neck. This is a slow growing cancer that is diagnosed with a biopsy and removed surgically.

• Bowen's disease - A rare disease in which black, thick, and raised lesions change into ulcers that crust over and bleed. These may be present on just about any area of the body: head, neck, chest, shoulders, around the mouth, belly and/or genital areas. This is diagnosed with a biopsy and treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation.

• Cushing's Disease - Unfortunately, this is not uncommon with the Maltese breed. This is a condition in which there are hormonal disorders that cause high levels of cortisol to appear in the bloodstream.

Not all Maltese dogs with Cushing's have black areas of skin.

Other signs of Cushing's include:
Excessive thirst
Increased urination
Changes in appetite
Hair loss
Weakness in the limbs
Skin lumps
Crusting on the skin
This is diagnosed with blood/urine tests and treated with steroid based medications

The best method to fade or eliminate black spots is to prevent direct sun exposure. BUT, there are a few points to keep in mind since there are several wrong ways to go about doing this.

1) The first thing to keep in mind is that black points and halos are a desired trait of the Maltese breed and it is sunlight that can play a huge role in keeping those areas black.

Since a lack of sun can cause the nose to fade above all other black points, many owners purposely encourage exposure to sunlight - even if this simply includes a bit of rest time in a sun-room during the winter season.

Therefore, if you try to limit sun exposure in an effort to decrease black skin on the body, it will often have undesirable outcomes, which includes nose fading.

2) Limiting sun should also not mean limiting outdoor activities since daily outdoor exercise is important to keep a Maltese healthy and strong.

It helps a dog to maintain a proper metabolism, keeps bones and heart healthy and in many cases offers a dog the opportunity to release pent up energy which leads to being better behaved when inside the home.

Keeping all this in mind, you will want to block sunlight from reaching a Maltese's skin (but not his nose), while still bringing him outside as often as normal (typically two walks per day, plus any additional outdoor, supervised playtime). This is best accomplished by using a really good leave-in coat product with SPF sun protection.
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