Not long ago in 2016, a giraffe in Kenya was spotted with vitiligo. This was the first time when Zoe Muller from the University of Bristol, UK, had identified the first case of the skin disorder in a wild giraffe. The news was published in all the global media outlets, bringing much-deserved focus to vitiligo in animals.
Since then, animals with vitiligo have been captured by photographers around the world. They often become a viral talking point on the internet. A recent example of the same is Anaka a 6-year-old gorilla who netizens’ attention this December 2019. In a closeup, a viral picture had the hand of the Zoo Atlanta gorilla whose fingers got depigmented due to vitiligo. Interestingly, nothing has been discussed about gorillas with vitiligo before this.
But unlike giraffes and gorillas, vitiligo in horses was mentioned first mentioned in 1931. Vitiligo occurs in several horse breeds and is particularly common in Arabians, which is why it is given the name of “Arabian Fading syndrome” or “Pinky Syndrome” in some cultures. Just like horses, vitiligo is common among cats and dogs. Vitiligo is common in Belgian Tervuren, German shepherd dogs, Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, Old English sheepdog, German shorthaired pointer, and dachshunds.
A black Labrador with vitiligo, Blaze, recently become the internet’s darling. The 10-year-old was born with black shiny fur before he got a patch of white fur behind his ear. It turned out Blaze had vitiligo. Similarly, Elli, a 3-year-old German cat has turned from black to white after developing vitiligo. Elli was originally black with a white tuxedo. She was diagnosed with the skin condition when she was 18 months old.
Vitiligo in animals – What we know so far
The depigmented areas might not be permanent in some animals. In some animals, vitiligo comes and goes, especially in rats. Though nothing is confirmed yet, stress might trigger vitiligo in animals in the first place. Veterinary doctors across the world haven’t tested most vitiligo treatments intended for humans for efficacy in animals.
Since most instances of vitiligo outbreak in animals occur when they are young, depigmentation at an older age may require a visit to the vet. As per the Austin Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center, hypothyroidism, kidney disorder, and liver disease may sometimes also hint depigmentation in animals. While diet might not be implicated in an animals’ vitiligo case, exploring possible nutritional deficiencies and correcting them can support re-pigmentation in pets with vitiligo.