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Strange Tan Appearing?

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Heidi is a black tri, and just turned 3 years old on July 4th. 

We were petting her a while back, and we noticed on her head, there is some random copper/red coming through. I didn't think much of it, just figured that her coat was changing a little bit. 

Then I did the worst possible thing and Googled it thinking maybe there was a name for it. Instead I came up with all the diseases and sun damage etc. that she could be experiencing and freaked myself out. We aren't out in the sun that much, and being a black dog, she tends to seek out the shade and she's had no new changes to her diet/vet care. 

Has anyone seen this sudden emergence of copper before? 


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I think what you've been reading about sun damage and diseases and nutrition is a different phenomenon that what is happening with your dog.  With your dog it just looks like he's developing more tan as he matures, and I don't think that's all that unusual. 

When people talk about sun damage or poor nutrition causing a reddish color in the dog, they are talking about the black parts of the coat taking on a distinct rusty reddish color over much of their body.  As the dog sheds out old coat, nice black new hairs will replace the reddish hairs, and then as those  hairs get older they'll take on a rusty color until they are shed out, and the cycle starts again.  This is because black hair contains a reddish pigment that is masked by darker pigments.  As the hair shaft gets older the darker pigments get bleached out and more of the red shows through. When this happens, the tip of the hair shaft gets red first, while the shaft nearest the skin stays blacker.   Diet may play some role in this, and exposure to uv radiation may hasten the reddening of the black hair, but in my experience the tendency to develop a reddish cast to black coats also runs in some lines more than others.  I've had dogs fed the same diet and kept in the same living quarters, and one would keep a nice deep black color all through the summer, and the other would get a nice new shiny black coat after shedding and then within a month or so the red would start showing through, and that reddish color showed up in many of his relatives.  I've even read that this is controlled by a single incompletely dominant gene, although I doubt that it's really that simple. 

When white parts of the coat turn reddish (especially around the paws) it's because the dog has been licking that area, and that could be a sign of an alergy or some other skin problem.

But I digress.  That's not what's happening with your dog.  I doubt that he's been licking the top of his head ;-) and from your video it looks like it's just a localized patch and it's the base, not the tip, of the hair shaft that is losing the black color. Your dog is just developing some more tan hairs as he matures.

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I agree with Hooper2 that I do not think what is shown in your video or photo above is the result of any illness or malnutrition.  It looks like your dog's coat governing genes are coming out.

This is not a BC website but covers agouti, sable and creeping tan in dog coats http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/tan.html

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One time my dog bumped her face on the coffee table, and one side of her snout swelled up a bit. I had forgotten about it when the swelling started, and somehow got myself in a tizzy thinking she had foxgrass up her nose, (despite the complete lack of sneezing, nasal discharge, etc.) I was talking to my mother about OMG foxgrass and I'll have to take her to the vet, and she looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Sarah, does foxgrass even grow around here?" 


It doesn't.

And then I remembered the coffee table/face collision. 

The swelling disappeared within a few days.

What I mean to say is that I am the exact same way, I always jump to the worst case scenario in my head and worry myself half to death, but more often than not, the most obvious thing is actually what's going on. 

Which is not to say that you should ignore signs of ill health, or that it's wrong to have a chat with the vet. But usually, if the dog is otherwise healthy, there's no cause for worry.

Also, look at the whole picture. Simply having one thing that could be a symptom of a disease/health problem does not mean they have that problem. Heavy panting is a sign of heat stroke, but that doesn't mean that every time my dog pants heavily, she has heat stroke. She pants heavily after a good run in the snow and I'm pretty sure she doesn't have heat stroke then.


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