Can an old dog get white hair?

July 26, 2018

Certainly: old dogs get white hair. It’s a normal sign of aging, but if it occurs prematurely in young dogs, a health problem may be causing it.

To begin the discussion, first remember that dogs may be considered to be “seniors” at seven years old. An old dog can get white hair as part of the normal aging process. Below, we’ll look at what white hair really is and when you should take it as a warning signal.

Why might an old dog get white hair?

Hair turns white (or gray) when it loses pigment, or melanin, a substance responsible for giving your skin and hair color, among its other jobs.

When a dog ages, his body produces less of an enzyme called MSR, which is in charge of neutralizing hydrogen peroxide. It’s a normal phenomenon and is associated with the natural wear and tear that cells suffer over the years, but the body continues to generate hydrogen peroxide as a metabolic byproduct.

And what does that have to do with white hairs? Effectively, hydrogen peroxide inhibits the action of the melanin-producing enzyme. That is, when dogs get older, their high concentration of hydrogen peroxide does not allow their bodies to continue producing melanin.

With the absence of melanin, hair loses its original color and turns white or gray. In healthy people and animals, this process is gradual and just part of the natural aging process.

White hair in young dogs: A cause for concern

Some dogs may get white hair before they turn eight years old, when they officially become “seniors.” Although it may seem funny to some people, turning white early is a cause for concern.

white hair in young dogs

Generally, white hair means that your dog’s cells are wearing down faster than normal and his body is aging sooner than it should. Among other things, he needs quality nutrition.

There are many aspects that play into an acceleration of cell damage, and there are also risk factors inherent to certain dogs. Below, we’ll see why young dogs can — but shouldn’t — have gray hair.

Why do young dogs get white hair?

Stress and anxiety

Experts today are saying that oxidative stress accelerates cellular deterioration and increases the risk of many diseases. This explains why antioxidants are hugely successful; doctors and nutritionists highly recommend them.

As with humans, our furry friends are affected by high levels of stress and anxiety. Therefore, premature graying can also be a major sign that something may be wrong in their mental health.

There are many things that can raise a dog’s stress levels. Thankfully, most of them can be prevented by adopting healthy habits in the home. Among the possible causes of stress in dogs, we can highlight the following:

  • Living in an overwhelming environment, exposed to unpleasant conditions, violent situations or negative emotions.
  • A lack of physical exercise can make a dog tense. As a result, he may develop behavioral problems, in addition to aging prematurely.
  • An unbalanced diet can weaken a dog’s immune system and put him at risk of illness and disease. Therefore, it’s also a risk factor for oxidative stress, cell damage and behavioral problems.
sedentariness in animals

Genetic predisposition

Genetics can also be determining factor in early graying. Like humans, dogs may inherit a predisposition for white hair from their parents and grandparents.

Pathological causes

Unfortunately, some pathologies and metabolic disorders can accelerate the natural wear and tear of your dog’s body. Among the possible symptoms is premature graying. Therefore, it’s essential that you do what you can to prevent health issues. Take your dog for periodic visits to the veterinarian every six months.

Conclusion

Elderly dogs may have white hair, and this is a natural phenomenon involved in the aging process. But premature graying can be a sign that something is wrong. Thus, if your dog has white or gray hair before he turns seven, take him to the vet for a checkup.