You Make The Diagnosis: Thickened Black Skin in Dogs

The pictures below are of the abdominal skin of a dog. The skin is black in color and thickened like an elephant’s skin. Although this dog developed it on the abdomen, it can also commonly occur around the anus, underarms and muzzle. Look closely at the pictures and then answer the following questions: What is the term used to describe this kind of skin?  What causes this condition to occur?

photo 1 (8)

photo 2 (7)

Diagnosis: Lichenification

Lichenification is the term used to describe skin that looks like elephant skin. Here are the most common causes of this condition ranked in the order I see them:

  1. Food Allergy
  2. Pyoderma – Bacterial infection of the skin
  3. Malassezia Dermatitis – Fungal infection of the skin by an organism called Malassezia
  4. Atopic Dermatitis – This is often simply called allergies or environmental allergies
  5. Demodectic Mange – I have seen dogs with lichenification of all their skin from demodex mites
  6. Cutaneous Diroflilariasis
  7. Primary and Secondary Acanthosis Nigrans

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

4 replies on “You Make The Diagnosis: Thickened Black Skin in Dogs”

  1. My dog has exactly the problem as your photos. What shall I do to help him aside from visiting the vet. thanks

    1. Well it depends upon the exact cause, but I would start with keeping his skin very clean to treat bacterial infections and a new diet with a protein source that he has never had before. If this doesn’t work, he will need to see a veterinarian.

    1. I would recommend a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet. Work with your veterinarian to select the protein source and determine the proper amount. Since he has been on chicken, you should stay away from that in the trial diet. Many of the over-the-counter diets are contaminated with other protein sources which is why I recommend a prescription hypoallergenic diet. As for topical therapy, it really depends upon what I find with cytology. Again, your veterinarian can perform an impression smear to see what is going on in the skin.

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