Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Skin: pigmentary disorders

Contributor(s): Ian Mason, David Scarff


  • Cause: may be associated with systemic disease.
  • Primary pigmentary abnormalities uncommon.
  • Signs: usually of cosmetic concern only.
  • Most important reason for pursuing the underlying cause of changes in pigmentation is to determine if it is a manifestation of systemic disease.



Hyperpigmentation - genetic

  • Lentigo simplex of ginger cats  Lentigo simplex of the orange (ginger) cat .
  • Nevi.

Hyperpigmentation - acquired

Hypopigmentation - genetic

Hypopigmentation - acquired

  • Physical and chemical insults.
  • Neoplasia Skin: neoplasia.
  • Periocular leucotrichia.
  • Vitiligo.

Pigment changes/atypical pigmentation

  • Red hair from saliva or tear staining.
  • Physical and chemical insults.
  • Neoplasia Skin: neoplasia.
  • Drug reaction.


  • Unclear.
  • Melanocytes produce melanin and are found in highest numbers in epidermis, mucous membrane epithelium and hair follicle epithelium.
  • Melanin is incorporated into keratinocytes by pinocytosis.
  • Control mechanisms include genetic factors and poorly understood local factors, eg ultraviolet light, inflammation, hormones.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Morielo K A (1995) Pigmentary Disorders. In: Handbook of Small Animal Dermatology.Eds K A Morielo & I S Mason. Oxford: Pergamon Press. pp 119-126. (Excellent problem-oriented approaches and diagnostic plans.)
  • Muller G H (1995) et al Eds Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. 5th edn. Philadelphia: W B Saunders. pp 807-823. (Detailed dermatology text book for in-depth reading.)
  • MacDonald J M (1993) Hyperpigmentation and Nasal Depigmentation. In: Current Veterinary Dermatology - the Science and Art of Therapy. Eds C E Griffin, K W Kwochka & J M MacDonald. St Louis: Mosby Year Book. pp 223-241. (Well presented dermatology text book.)
  • Scarff D H (1993) Disorders of Pigmentation. In: Manual of Small Animal Dermatology .Eds P H Locke, R G Harvey & I S Mason. Cheltenham: British Small Animal Veterinary Association. pp 83-89. (Review of common disorders of pigmentation.)