Little kids have tons of fun pulling off gray strands of hair from grandparents. Folks would say that it’s all part of aging. We will all go gray at some point in our lives whether we like it or not. But, is it true that like humans, dogs can also go prematurely gray?
Premature Graying or Progressive Graying?
Premature greying of hair or geriatric greying is linked to aging which is pretty much like what happens to human beings. However, in the case of dogs, there is another type called progressive greying which occurs in some breeds. This is said to be caused by a gene called chromosome 25 that progressively turns their shiny coats to silver or gray. Some breeds have the dominant greying gene like Bearded Collies and Poodles which causes their entire coat to turn to grey or silver.
A study on 400 dogs in Colorado, in which results were shown in Applied Animal Behavior Science showed that dogs who reportedly have higher signs of anxiety have exhibited premature graying of the muzzle as compared to other dogs that were less stressed. These gray hairs are also coined as stress highlights which are indicators of impulsiveness and anxiety in dogs. Dogs would usually grow gray hair by age 4 so anything earlier than that should be categorized as premature graying of hair.
Premature Grayness And Stress
It has been found out too that female dogs are more susceptible to premature grayness as compared to male dogs. Also, dogs who feel stressed or agitated when hearing loud noises or left at home alone were found to have more increased grayness of coat than dogs who are calmer and more at ease with their environment.
Grayness of hair does not have anything to do with the size of the dog and also with medical predicaments whatsoever. Genetics and environment too should be factored in when relating stress to grayness of hair. Stress is said to have a similar effect on mice as it hinders hair growth and it can also change hair color. In the same way, stress is also related to accelerated aging in mice. Dog owners noticed that dogs that have been exposed to stressful situations or have experienced fear and anxiety have grown grayish hair prematurely.
Keeping Your Dog Stress-Free
In order to keep the dogs physically and mentally agile and healthy, walking your dog or playing fetch will help reduce stress and keep them active. It is also recommended to create a safe zone for your pets or a specific area in your house that will provide them a sanctuary or safe haven in the event of having loud parties or when calamity strikes.
You can provide your dog a security blanket like a favorite toy or any item that would make it feel safe. Staying with your dog during stressful times will help keep it calm and secure. Enrolling your dog in a behavior modification program will also help with your dog resolving its own issues and inner conflicts that could contribute to its graying coat.