When you think about premature gray hair, chances are that your dog’s fur is the last thing to come to mind. But as it turns out, premature gray hair in dogs is just as real a phenomenon for some pups as it is for some humans. And for our four-legged friends, these gray strands could be a potential red flag for issues happening below the surface.
Karen B. London, PhD, a certified applied animal behaviorist, warns dog owners that those possible issues could be emotional in nature — and scientific research shows there is truth to this concern. In an Arizona Daily Sun article, Dr. London points out that a recent study analyzed 400 dogs that were just one to four years old, and measured the extent of the graying on their muzzles. The researchers then had the dog owners fill out a survey, which included questions about anxious and impulsive behaviors they might have observed in their canines.
As it turned out, the study results found a link between graying on pups’ muzzles and anxious and impulsive behaviors, as well as fears of loud noises and unfamiliar people and dogs. Interestingly enough, there was no link between the graying hairs and a fear of thunderstorms — which is often thought of as one of the most typical noises that startle dogs.
If you have a young pup who’s starting to sport some grays, we realize that this news might be a bummer — especially when you’ve been putting forth effort to make your furry friend feel comfortable. But London explains that understanding premature gray hair in dogs might open up more possibilities for helping them early on. Vets may be able to spot a link between gray hair and emotional problems in one of their furry patients, so it might prompt them to investigate further — or even refer the doggo to another specialist in some cases.
“Being anxious or fearful or struggling with impulse control is hard on dogs, and it is beneficial for them to receive help to overcome these challenges,” London writes. “Premature graying can tip people off to the possibility that a problem may be present, making intervention more likely to happen and to happen sooner.”