Stress causes dogs to go grey too.

In most of today’s papers (23rd January, 2020):

Stress speeds up hair greying process (in humans), science confirms.

Fight-or-flight response nerves pump out hormone that wipes out pigmentation cells.

So it is with dogs

Does Stress Cause Premature Graying in Dogs asked Stanley Coren Psychology Today, December 2016.

My Pickle, soon to be 10 years of age

‘History records that something remarkable happened to Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), the ill-fated queen of France. The night before her jailers walked her to the guillotine her hair allegedly turned white. She is not the only person whose hair lost its color because of a major stressful event. According to historical reports, Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) also had his hair suddenly turn white in the tower of London. This was the night before his execution by King Henry VIII for refusing to sign the act that declared Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church Of England. More modern accounts tell of survivors of bombing attacks in World War II whose hair turned white as a result of the anxiety they had experienced. Furthermore an examination of “before and after” photographs of United States presidents shows a highly visible increase in the amount of gray hair by the end of a four-year term. Some scientists suggest that this is a consequence of the stresses experienced in that office’.

Of course, the age when a human’s hair begins to turn white varies from person to person. The same goes for dogs. Genetics will play a part, but stress also contributes.

Below is my Pickle at seven months old.

Pickle, 7 months old

To quote Coren: ‘Hair color comes from melanin, a pigment which is produced in each hair follicle. There are two hypotheses as to how graying comes about. The first is that aging wears down your DNA, somehow inhibiting the production of the cells called melanocytes that produce melanin. The second hypothesis says that your hair gets bleached from within because hydrogen peroxide is also produced in small amounts in the follicles. Normally this bleaching compound is kept in check by another enzyme called catalase but eventually this enzyme ceases to be produced’.

Anxiety and impulsivity levels in the dog were analysed and a correlation was proved. Interestingly, female dogs tend to show more greying than males.

So, if a young dog is already beginning to show grey on its muzzle, then we may be able to help with his coping skills.

I wonder, had I not actively always helped my very alert, busy, easily aroused and alarmed little Pickle, whether he would be even whiter around the muzzle?


About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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