Gray hair in dogs is a symptom of stress, if they appear before the age of seven, or a sign of premature aging.
Have you noticed that your dog has white hairs around its muzzle? Well, you should know that there is a good chance that these hairs are grey and also that they are a symptom of premature aging of the dog, as a result of stress if it has not yet reached the age of seven. The following are six secrets about dog grey hair that you should know: why do they have grey hair, what they look like and how they appear, how stress accelerates canine aging, at what age it is normal for them to have white hair and how stressed people can spread the anxiety to these animals .
1. What are grey hair like in dogs?
If you are surprised by the appearance of white hairs around the dog’s muzzle and also concentrated in other areas, such as over the eyes, you are not alone. Like people, the dog’s hair also bleaches with age.
But if you’re not seven or eight yet, those white hairs may be the fault of stress. They suffer from anxiety, they age earlier: the most impulsive and those who suffer from stress tend to have grey around the muzzle and eyes before the calmer ones. Those white hairs, says the researcher, are grey. And, in the case of younger animals, premature greying.
2. How do gray hair appear?
Stress or no stress, human hair begins to turn grey as the years go by. And once the 40 or 50 years are passed, the grey splashes the hair in a visible way, since 50% of our hair will have lost its natural color, according to information from the British Journal of Dermatology.
Hair color is due to a molecule called melanin, a pigment that is produced in each hair follicle. And how does a hair turn into a grey? Hair can lose its color due to genetic causes : DNA with age is not as effective in making melanocyte cells, which are responsible for creating melanin.
But there is a second hypothesis to explain why some hairs turn gray: sometimes, the follicles produce a greater amount of hydrogen peroxide ( hydrogen peroxide) than usual, a compound that bleaches the hair.
3. At what age do the first gray hairs appear in dogs?
As canine life expectancy increases, it is also more common to see dogs that show grey on their muzzles and eyebrows, among other areas of the face. This aging of the hair to turn grey appears when the dogs are between seven and eight years old.
But some dogs already have grey hair long before, even at one or two years of age ; and although there are genetic factors that can explain it, it seems that stress also plays an important role in this premature aging.
4. Hormones that bleach dog’s hair
And what role does stress play in human and canine gray hair? Some stress hormones (such as adrenaline and norepinephrine) can affect genes that control hair pigments, which can cause premature aging and the appearance of grey hair in people; But also in dogs!
5. Does stress cause grey hair in dogs?
If stress is capable of whitening human heads, is it capable of doing the same with dogs? it is. According to the aforementioned study, stress causes premature aging in dogs and, with it, the appearance of canine grey hair concentrated in the areas of the muzzle and eyebrows.
How did you check it? The team of scientists has examined a total of 400 dogs and analysed their behaviours and facial images over the years, in order to relate their appearance and their level of anxiety. To do this, they have examined these animals in the park, in canine behaviour clinics and also questioning their human families. And what have they discovered? As the researcher suspected, there is a strong link between stress in dogs and their risk of aging prematurely.
6. Stressed humans, stressed dogs?
“The impulsive and nervous dogs, like those that suffer stress when they are alone at home, have a greater risk of having grey hair at an early age , since these appear when they are between one and four years old. It is even possible for stressed dogs to live with anxious people : it has been shown that dogs can catch our moods, and stress would be no exception.
The appearance of symptoms of canine stress, such as premature greying, should be a reason for a veterinary visit and, later, also for a consultation with a trusted canine behaviour expert: there are health problems that can explain this anxiety that must be prevented and tackled as soon as possible .