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If you are new to this blog, please note that I'm not a veterinarian or a nutritionist. If you have concerns about your dog's health, please contact your veterinarian. This blog post was originally published May 2013; it has been updated with new information.
One night I was cuddling with Rodrigo, doing the combo “I love you, puppy” – At Home Exam – rub and I noticed that his tummy was really dark. It almost seemed black. I rolled him over more, reassuring him what a sweet baby he was while ignoring his confusion, and got a good look. Yep, his tummy was definitely darker; a lot darker.
What would cause my dog's stomach to turn black?
I parted his hair in various places and saw healthy, pink skin. I then checked Sydney’s tummy (darker, but not as dark as Rodrigo) and Blue’s tummy, a bit darker – but by now, I’m wondering if I’m just seeing things.
What Would Cause a Dog's Stomach to Turn Black?
I did what our veterinarian taught me; I listed all the facts.
- The dogs weren’t itching or licking excessively
- The dogs’ diet hasn’t changed
- The dogs weren’t sluggish or listless – they had three crazy play sessions that afternoon with us
- The dogs' behavior and body (besides the tummy) was otherwise unchanged
- Since two dogs had darker tummies, I was leaning towards age (Rodrigo and Sydney are siblings)
Google is helpful and harmful, and whenever I start doing Google research, I try and keep a clear head until I speak with the veterinarian, because, as I found with WebMD, everyone is dying of cancer.
When it comes to researching health issues online, I implore you NOT to click on sites that say “forum.” Each one I’ve been too has given me tons of dog parent contributions that are the worst-case scenario, and they freak me out. Instead, I look for actual dog health sites to learn more.
Things That Can Turn a Dog's Tummy Black
- Canine Black Crusty Skin
- Canine Black Skin Disease
Reminder: I'm not a veterinarian. If you are concerned about your dog's health, please contact your veterinarian.
Fleas: You’ll see flea dirt (remains of flea feces and dried blood) on their tummy. For their entire tummy to be black, you have an infestation that is crazy. We use Wondercide products, they're natural and don't have any harmful side effects. Our dogs have never had fleas.
Canine Black Crusty Skin: A disorder that results in darkening of the skin and hair loss caused by abnormally low levels of growth hormones. This has to be diagnosed by a veterinarian who will run tests and recommend treatment.
Canine Black Skin Disease: Caused by a hormone imbalance, genetics, and allergies. This has to be diagnosed by a veterinarian who will run tests and recommend treatment.
Why Rodrigo and Sydney’s Tummies Turned Black
Age. I called the vet the next day, let them know that nothing else has changed (diet and behavior) and by then I had noticed that the skin wasn’t completely black; it actually was just darker – it seemed black, because of the lighting the evening prior. There were also big splotches of pink on their tummies as well.
The veterinarian assured me that this is just normal for some dogs; their exposed skin gets darker as they get older (Rodrigo and Sydney just turned three years old at the time).
Skin Care. The chat with our vet calmed me down and I was comfortable that my dogs were okay. Since my dogs didn't have a skin issue, I moved on, making sure to use Wondercide products for natural flea control without the short or longterm side effects.
2020 Update: Rodrigo and Sydney are approaching their 10 year birthdays and their tummy is still light in color.
Switching to a Raw Food Diet
In 2013, I transitioned my dogs to a raw food diet and I was shocked to see that one of the amazing benefits of feeding fresh food is lovely pink skin. The dark pigmentation went away!!! You can learn more about my experience as a raw feeding in my books, which are now available on Amazon:
- A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs
- Keeping it Raw: 100 Questions Pet Parents Have About Raw Feeding
Easy Raw Dog Food Recipes [Bulk]
My dogs eat a diet of raw muscle meat, organ meat, and bone. I also add fermented vegetables, raw eggs, raw sardines, and dairy (raw goats milk and kefir). I post the recipes I make for my dogs every Friday:
- 6 Ways Pumpkin Guts Can Boost Your Dog's Health
- DIY Fermented Fish Stock for Dogs
- Easy Raw Dog Food Recipe with Ground Quail
- Easy Raw Dog Food Recipe with Ground Rabbit
- DIY Himalayan Chews (with pictures) by Rodney Habib of Planet Paws