The Maltese has a very silky white coat. Although the coat is long and covers most of the body, the hairs' fine texture and light color make skin discoloration more visible than it might be on dogs with thicker or darker fur. Skin discoloration is quite normal in dogs and can often simply be a result of natural pigmentation variances. In other cases, it may be linked to a wider health problem.
In areas where the skin is moist, such as the belly and groin, fungus such as ringworm may develop and lead to infection. Such infection causes inflammation, itching, redness of the skin and bad odor. You may first notice your dog scratching to relieve the itching. If you suspect your Maltese is suffering from a fungal infection, visit your vet, who will most likely prescribe a course of oral medication and if necessary a topical treatment to relieve the itching and discomfort.
Dietary and environmental factors can cause your Maltese to suffer from skin allergies. Skin allergies typically cause redness on the skin; if the redness is accompanied by inflammation or itching, your Maltese may compound the problem by scratching. The best way to tackle the issue is to eliminate the cause of the allergy. Start by making a list of potential household irritants. If you’ve recently switched perfume or have started using an air freshener in the home, eliminate this to see if the allergy improves. If you exhaust potential environmental allergens without solving the problem, investigate your dog’s diet. If you’ve recently switched food brands or have started adding a new product to the food, remove this. If you still can’t find a cause, take your Maltese to the vet for an allergy test.
Tear-staining in Maltese may be hereditary. Some dogs simply produce a lot of fluid from the tear ducts; this is a trait that can be passed from parents to offspring. Tear staining typically affects the fur; but if the problem is severe, it can lead to redness and irritation under the eyes. If the hair around the eyes is too long and becomes an irritant, this can cause the eyes to water excessively, leading to weeping, tear-staining and eventual skin discoloration.
Dark spots appearing on the belly are typically a result of cutaneous hyperpigmentation. This condition is highly visible in Maltese because of the fine, fair coat. Although this condition, in and of itself, isn’t serious, it is often a symptom of a wider health problem such as thyroid issues, a hormone imbalance or stress. Take your Maltese to the vet for a general examination to determine the cause of the condition.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.