Is Your Dog’s Black Coat Turning Red?

Dog Coat Turns Redbwolski/Adobe Stock

There’s nothing more beautiful than a healthy dog’s deep black coat—it glows from within. Depending on a dog’s breed, a black coat should have a blue-black hue when viewed in bright light. Of course, soft undercoat is usually a bit lighter than a dog’s regular coat, but overall a black coat should be glossy with minimal odor. Sometimes, a dog’s black coat (and dark gray coats too) can develop a red tinge over time, which can happen for numerous reasons.

1. Sun Exposure

By far, sun exposure is the most common reason why a black coat turns red. Sun exposure bleaches hair, including human hair. As a licensed cosmetologist, I’m very familiar with hair color. When dark-colored hair is exposed to sun (or chemical bleach), it turns red before turning yellow. Dark hair is packed with pigment, so it takes a long time for dark hair to turn yellow (unless lots of chemical bleach is used :)).

Since the sun shines downward, most dark-colored dogs develop red tinges on their backs, ears and tail. Longer hair is more porous because it’s older, turning red quicker even when it’s not in the sun. During winter months, most dogs’ coats will darken again due to limited sun exposure.

Many professional dog grooming products offer detanglers that also contain sunscreen for fur, which will protect fur from damaging sunrays. Follow the product’s instructions carefully and apply often.

2. Saliva

When dogs continually lick a specific spot, pet owners will notice a dark rusty color develop. Saliva is especially noticeable on white dog coats, but it happens to dark dog coats too. If your dog is licking a specific spot often, schedule an examination with your veterinarian. Licking is not always allergy related; some dogs lick due to pain caused by tummy or back issues.

3. Blowing Coat

Twice a year, dogs will blow out their coats. All dogs shed, regardless of their coat length, and will lose their soft undercoat. Medium- and long-coated dogs’ undercoats are usually lighter in color and can appear red-tinged during dog shedding season. As soon as you start brushing your dog daily, your dog’s dark coat will usually darken up nicely because all of the red-colored undercoat will have been removed.

4. Diet

Sometimes, a dog’s diet can play a part in turning his black coat red. All dogs should eat a high quality diet, but certain diets don’t work for all dogs. If your dog is not shedding, is not ill or has limited sun exposure, then consider changing your dog’s diet to cooked or raw food. Also, try different high quality kibble to find what works best for your dog.

5. Illness

When older dogs develop a red-tinged coat, it’s time for a thorough veterinary visit. Senior dogs should have blood work and a physical exam completed every six months to catch potential issues before they become a major issue. Ask your veterinarian about adding fish or hemp oil to your dog’s diet to help his coat if no health issues are identified. It’s possible your dog may be in need of additional supplements to boost his immune system. I recommend Standard Process, as it offers the best nutritional supplements out there.

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