Why Your Maltese Has Black Spots on its Skin | Treatment

Black spots on the skin of a Maltese dog can be prevented and treated but be rest assured that it is not unusual for a Maltese dog to have these spots. The black spots on the skin of a Maltese dog form from pigmentation in the skin darkening. There are two reasons that black spots can appear on a Maltese dogs skin and these are health issues or sun exposure. Keep in mind there are areas on a Maltese puppy which should be black such as the eyes, nose, mouth and paws. Its when the skin on the belly and back of the Maltese puppy has black spots that there is a good chance that it can be treated.

Maltese Skin Color – What is normal?

There are two types of skin which a Maltese dog can possess. These are pigmented and non pigmented (or pigment free) skin. Non-pigmented skin is when a Maltese puppy has only white skin. Pigment skin is when there are any other colors such as tan, grey or black within the skin.

Maltese can have both types of skin but most people will not notice the black spots until they appear after a bath or when they have shaved off the hair of the Maltese. Many Maltese can have a yellow and tan color on their skin which isn’t noticeable unless it is looked for carefully. While the skin may be yellow or tan when the Maltese puppy is young it can quickly change as the Maltese puppy gets older and is exposed to the sun. When a Maltese puppy’s skin starts to turn darker it is because the pigmented areas have been activated by the sun and the sun exposure causes the darkening.

Below is an image of what is normal for dark spin spots on a Maltese. These are also known as Maltese Cow Spots.

normal skin spots on a Maltese dog.  These are nothing to worry about.
The picture above shows normal skin spots on a Maltese and are nothing to worry about.

This image shows a black spot which is not normal and should be shown to your vet.
The above image shows black spots which are not normal and should be shown to your Vet

Are Black Spots on the Skin of a Maltese Dog Something to Worry About?

It may be unsettling to a Maltese dog owner to see their dog suddenly have large black spots and black freckles appearing out of nowhere, but be rest assured that this is usually nothing more than the pigmentation in the skin being activated and turning darker. Generally it will be seen in older Maltese who have been exposed to the sun daily throughout their life. There are a few health issues which can cause black spots but these are in the minority but I will discuss them in the next few sections.

At what Age do Black Spots Appear on a Maltese Dog ?

Generally after a couple of years of sun exposure the black spots will be activated in the skin. It is much rarer to see in new born Maltese puppies. For this reason it is generally after about 2 years when bathing a Maltese that the black spots will become obvious to the naked eye. The reason they are seen while bathing is because this is the easiest time to see past the fur and directly to the skin.

What are the Causes of Black Spots on the Skin of a Maltese puppy?

There are three main causes of black spots on Maltese puppies. These include:

  • Sun Exposure: The dun can activate the pigmentation in the skin so that it goes darker. If your Maltese has pigmentation in its skin then it can darken up as the dog ages and will be darker during the warmer months when the sun is out more often. It is well known that a Maltese dogs nose can actually be much darker in summer than it is winter due to the pigmentation being activated in Summer. If your Maltese loves the sun (most of them do) they will tend to lay outside in a sunny spot and soak up the warmth of the sunny rays. This exposure to the sun outside can cause the black spots to appear more rapidly, especially on the stomach. They appear on the stomach first as that has the least amount of fur covering it and will get the most direct sunlight exposure.
  • Genetics: A Maltese dogs heritage can influence the number and darkness of any black spots on the skin. The amount of pigmentation in the skin can be traced through the genetics of the dog to the dame and sire. A Maltese puppy who has parents with black spots on their skin are more likely to have black and brown spots on their skin as well. Even if the direct parents do not have black spots on their skin it can be inherited from previous generations as the trait can skip a generation or two. If genetics are playing the culprit of the black spots on the skin of your Maltese dog then it will mean the spots appear regardless of the amount of sun exposure.
  • Health Issues: Lastly there are a few health issues which can bring on black spots on the skin of a Maltese dog. Generally the black spots which most people are talking about are flat and look like coloration of the skin but fortunately the health issues which cause black spots will look very different and look a lot more sinister. The next section covers the health related black spots which should be checked by your vet.

Black Spots which are Due to Health Related Issues of your Maltese Dog

Some black spots need to be investigated by your Vet as they are most sinister and nasty. Thankfully there are not too many health issues which can cause black spots and they tend to look very different the harmless pigmentation black spots. More than likely if it is a health related issue causing the black spots the skin will be raised and irritated. These health issues which can cause black spotting on the skin include:

  • Sweat Gland Cysts: Small black lumps will develop around the Maltese dogs legs, head and neck. This is where the glands typically can get infected and create small lumps which turn black. These black lumps on your Maltese dog should be investigated by your veterinarian and they may want to do a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. If these lumps are tender or causing problems for the Maltese your vet may recommend surgically removing them.
  • Tumors: Sometimes cancers can form on the skin and can present as raised dark sections. These will be localized to a specific area and usually present on the head, neck and chest of the Maltese. Your vet will want to do a biopsy of the area to confirm the diagnosis and will then recommend a treatment. As this is cancerous the vet will likely suggest surgically removing the affected tumor as soon as possible. The most common tumors which present as black spots are known as basal cell tumors.
  • Cushing’s Disease: This disease is where there is a hormonal disorder which causes a high level of cortisol in the bloodstream of the Maltese dog. Your vet will be able to test for this using urine and blood samples. It is usually treated with a steroid based medication but there are non-medication treatments such as diet changes which can be tried. Cushing’s will usually not be identified by the black spots but is more likely to be identified by other changes in the Maltese such as lethargy, excessive thirst, going to the toilet frequently, hair loss and weakness in the limbs. It is a serious disease but can be managed over the life of your Maltese dog.
  • Bowen’s Disease: One of the more rarer diseases which can cause black spots is the Bowen’s disease. This is where thick blackish lesions form crusts on the Maltese skin. These will break and bleed and will be raised above the skin. Your vet will do a biopsy and can treat this with chemotherapy or radiation. It is serious and your Vet will be the best person to make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment. Fortunately this is a very rare disease in the Maltese breed.
  • Other health conditions: There are other health conditions which can present as black spots on the skin but they are rare in the Maltese breed. If you are worried about black spots on your Maltese puppy and they look raised and do not look healthy then you should consult your vet as soon as possible to have them checked out.
Seriously bad skin condition on a Maltese dog. This should be investigated by a vet ling before it gets to this stage.

Can the Black Spots on a Maltese Puppy be Prevented and Treated?

Firstly if the black spots are due a health condition and is not just pigmentation in the skin then your Vet will be able to give you the best advice on treatment options for the black spots. This could include medication, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. But what about the flat black spots on the skin which are due to pigmentation. Can you prevent these and treat the spots which have already appeared? The answer is that there is a way to limit the activation of the pigments and to dull the black spots. It is simply to limit the sun exposure your Maltese gets each day.

Limiting the sun exposure will lessen the black spots but limiting sun exposure can cause other issues. Many Maltese owners will notice the change in color of the Maltese dogs nose through winter to a much lighter grey rather than a black nose. This is because the pigmentation in the Maltese dogs nose is not getting enough sunlight in the winter months so it goes lighter. The exact same thing happens with sun exposure on the skin of the Maltese dog. But limiting the time in the sun can result in vitamin deficiencies, mental disorders such as anxiety and stress and can reduce the amount of exercise your Maltese is getting daily. Every dog needs some sunlight and some time outside to ensure that they are healthy.

If you intend to have your Maltese dog as a show dog then limiting the sun exposure will also reduce the blackness in their black points (nose, eyes, lips) and this will be marked accordingly, so avoiding the sun for a show dog is not desirable either.

Hopefully it is clear with the above statements that a dog needs to get outside for it to be healthy and can not live a sheltered life indoors. Considering the black spots on the skin of a Maltese dog are just due to pigmentation and there is no good reason apart from how they look (which is cute anyway) then there should not be any reason you want to limit the sun exposure.

Now saying that if you really want to stop the black skin spots on your Maltese from appearing then there are a few ways to help them fade and prevent them from returning. These include:

  • Clothing: Use dog clothing on your Maltese puppy to stop the sunlight from accessing the skin of your Maltese especially on their stomach. This will restrict the sunlight exposure to their skin and reduce the likelihood of black skin spots appearing.
  • Leave-in Coat Product with SPF Protection: A leave in product is recommended after grooming to care for the Maltese coat but you can get some which have SPF protection (basically sun protection / sunscreen) built into the product. This will help to reduce the black spots as it protects from the UV rays of the sun which are activating the pigmentation in the skin.
  • Pet Sunscreen: There are a range of sunscreen products which are available for your Maltese puppy. These usually come in the form or a mist which can sprayed on or a powder which can be put into the coat of the Maltese. They range in price from cheap to expensive but its always good to look for a higher SPF number just like human sunscreen. A quick note that using sunscreen made for humans should not be used on dogs and they can contain ingredients which are harmful to the Maltese puppy. its always best to find a reputable product online at place such as amazon which have specifically designed pet sunscreen and have been reviewed by other users.
  • Sunscreen Wipes: This is a product on the market known as dog sunscreen wipes. The basic idea is that it will apply the sunscreen as you wipe your Maltese puppy with the sunscreen wipes. Its great for applying quickly before a walk or if you know your Maltese will be spending some time in the sun. They are also very handy to keep in your car or handbag if you are out and about with your dog and need to apply sunscreen.
Sun exposure is a major cause of black spots on a Maltese dog

What is the Scoring Impact of Black Spots on a Maltese dog who Appears in Dog Shows?

If you intend to put your Maltese puppy into dog shows and are worried about the black spots on the skin you need not worry. Black spots on the skin are not part of the judging and they will be hidden by the fur coat of the Maltese dog while on show. Judges in dog shows know that this is not a factor to fault on a Maltese dog. Due to cheating by some dog owners who use underhanded methods to make the lack halos on a dog even darker some judges may check for pigmentation in the skin to confirm the dark halos. Maltese dogs which have darker black points (which are the eyes, lips and paws) will usually also have pigmentation in their skin which causes the black spots.

What are Maltese Cow Spots ?

Maltese cow spots are exactly the same as Maltese black skin spots. It is known as Maltese cow spots as the patterns on the Maltese skin are similar to the look of the black spots on a cow. Following the same advice as above to prevent and treat black skin spots should help.

How did we do Answering your Questions on Black Spots on the Skin of a Maltese Puppy?

Did the article answer all of your questions or did it miss a particular question you had about black spots on the skin of your Maltese dog? Does you Maltese dog have black spots on its skin? Where do you see it the most, is it on the stomach or all over ? Do you have any other tips for our readers to help reduce the visibility of the black spots? Let us know in the comments and thank you for reading the article.