A variation of pigmentation in the glabrous skin of dogs

J Morphol. 2018 Aug;279(8):1194-1198. doi: 10.1002/jmor.20842. Epub 2018 Jun 6.


The usual pigmentation pattern in mammalian skin consists of fixed melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, supplying keratinocytes with melanosomes. We observed that the glabrous skin (rhinaria and footpads) of dogs deviates from this pattern. In dogs, melanocytes are found in both the dermis and epidermis. The epidermal melanocytes are situated in the intercellular spaces of the basal and spinous layers. They are characterized by a quantity of cytoplasm containing a centriole, also developing melanosomes, and in some cases annulate lamellae. There is a high frequency of closely apposed melanocytes in the epidermis. Melanosomes in different stages of formation are also abundant. The morphology of the glabrous skin of dogs suggests transport of melanocytes from the dermis into the epidermis and formation of melanosomes in the epidermis. A distributed and intense pigment formation may be necessary to achieve the black noses of many dog breeds and wild canids, as well as dark footpads despite heavy abrasion and rapid skin renewal.

Keywords: dogs; glabrous skin; melanocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs / anatomy & histology*
  • Epidermis / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Male
  • Melanocytes / cytology
  • Melanocytes / ultrastructure
  • Melanosomes / ultrastructure
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Pigmentation*