Maltese Cow Spots

Maltese Cow Spots – Do You See Black Spots On Maltese Skin?

The Maltese have a silky white coat that covers the whole body but its light color and fine texture make discoloration of the skin more visible as compared to dogs with darker or thicker fur. Skin pigmentation is a common condition among dogs and often not a matter of concern. At other times, it can be associated with a more serious health problem that needs attention.

A lot of Maltese owners are concerned about their pets developing black spots on different parts of the body. This post tries to address these concerns and shed some light on the conditions associated with pigmentation on Maltese skin.

Maltese Cow Spots – A Complete Guide

It is normal for a Maltese dog to have dark spots on the skin. These spots are called the Maltese cow spots because they resemble the pattern seen on a cow. A Maltese has two types of skin – pigmented and non-pigmented. A pigmented skin is when there are other colors like grey, black, brown, and tan along with white while the non-pigmented skin is only white in color.

Most Maltese have both types of skin but the cow spots are noticeable more when the hair is shaved off or the pup is bathed. They generally have yellow or tan spots that change into darker shades as the pup grows older and is exposed to the sun. When the owner notices the Maltese cow spots suddenly, it means the pigmented areas have been activated by sun exposure.

Maltese cow spots are generally not seen in newborn pups and get activated after a few years of sun exposure. It takes about two years to start seeing black spots on the Maltese skin with naked eyes. They are mostly seen during bathing as it is the best time to see past the fur into the skin. It might be concerning to see spots on the pet’s skin all of a sudden but it is nothing to worry about. It is generally seen in older Maltese exposed to the sun daily throughout its life. However, there are a few situations where black spots should be a concern for owners.

Black & Brown Spots on Maltese Skin

The black and brown spots on the skin of a Maltese dog are often a result of pigmentation and skin darkening. It is important to know that there are a few areas on the pup like nose, mouth, eyes, and paws which should be black naturally. So, it is only when the skin on the back or belly of your pup has such spots that you should try to treat them.

The spots on Maltese skin can appear for one of the two reasons – sun exposure or health issues. Genetics of the dog can also sometimes contribute to pigmentation and brown/black spots on the skin.


A Maltese dog’s genes generally influence the darkness on the skin and the amount of pigmentation. These spots can be traced back to the parents and ancestors. If genetics are responsible for the black spots, then they might appear regardless of the sun exposure and other factors.

Sun Exposure

If the Maltese dog has pigmentation on the skin, the sun can activate it which is why they appear much darker in hot months than in winter. Excessive exposure to the sun can cause the spots to get darker more quickly.

Health Issues

Lastly, there are some health problems that can cause black or brown spots on the skin of your Maltese pup. Normal cow spots are flat and appear like discoloration of skin but spots resulting from health issues look different and are easier to identify. Here are some health problems responsible for pigmentation in a Maltese dog.

Tumors – A cancer can sometimes form on the skin and look like a dark section mistaken for cow spots. A tumor is generally localized and present on the chest, neck, or head of the dog. Your vet would advise a biopsy to diagnose cancer and recommend a treatment based on the condition. Basal cell tumors generally resemble black spots and should be removed surgically upon diagnosis.

Sweat gland cyst – These would appear as round, small, dark lumps on the head, neck, and legs of your Maltese dog. The condition is diagnosed with a biopsy and your vet may recommend the best treatment that includes surgical removal of the lumps in case they are causing trouble.

Cushing’s disease – It is a disorder associated with hormonal imbalance in dogs. However, this disease has some other symptoms including excessive thirst and bathroom visits, lethargy, and weakness. It can be treated with medication and changes to the diet and lifestyle.

Bowen’s disease – This is a rare condition that creates brown spots on the skin. In this disease, a thick black lesion forms and raises above the skin before breaking and bleeding. It is a serious condition that your vet can diagnose with a biopsy and treat with radiation or chemotherapy.

Maltese Skin Spots & Pigmentation – What It Means?

Spots and pigmentation on the skin of a Maltese dog are quite common and are often a result of natural variances in the coloration. These are the Maltese cow spots that become visible after prolonged exposure to the sun. These pups generally have darker black points on some parts of their body and also have light pigmentation on the skin that gradually turns darker.

If your pup’s skin spots are just pigmentation, there are a few things you can do to reverse and prevent them. You can limit the exposure of your Maltese dog to the sun to reduce the activation of pigments and the appearance of these spots. However, limiting sun exposure can result in other disorders and deficiencies in the pup and decrease the amount of exercise it gets every day.

An effective way to reduce the chances of black spots on the skin is to use clothing. You can also use some products like a leave-in coat with SPF protection to protect the skin from UV rays activating the pigments. You can also find several sunscreen products in the form of powder or mist for your Maltese dog’s coat to protect the skin from excessive sun exposure.


Maltese cow spots are naturally appearing black spots on the skin of Maltese dogs and should not be worried about. However, if you suspect a health problem causing dark spots on the skin of your pup, it should be reported to your vet to get the best advice on the treatment options. While Maltese cow spots can be prevented and treated with some simple tips, they are harmless and should not be a big concern for owners.