Dr. Anna Foreman, Everypaw Pet Insurance’s in-house vet has spoken out about a dangerous viral TikTok sensation where dog owners have been dyeing their dog’s fur. In one viral TikTok, which has over 116 million views, fur has been dyed to make the dogs look like other animals including cheetahs, pandas and foxes.
What are your thoughts on this video?
I personally do not agree with dyeing a pet’s fur. There is no situation (apart from when dyeing a dog’s tail to discourage theft as mentioned below) where dyeing a pet’s fur is benefiting the animal themselves – it is purely benefiting us for aesthetic purposes.
Some dogs enjoy being groomed or being bathed, however there is no way we can say that animals specifically enjoy being dyed. Rather animals tolerate it or (in the majority) will become stressed through the whole process.
I think videos such as this are promoting dyeing an animal’s fur, and encouraging members of the public to do the same to their animals. Although a select few dogs may be able to be groomed in this fashion by a professional groomer, the majority of dogs will not tolerate this.
What are the dangers of dyeing a dog’s fur?
If members of the public embark upon dyeing their dog’s fur, there are several dangers involved:
• A risk of toxicity from inappropriate product use
• Fear, anxiety or aggression being displayed by a dog, with their owner at risk of being harmed
• Risk of skin irritation
• If skin is broken, dyes should be avoided as they can lead to infection
• Water, shampoo or dye in a dog’s eyes, or on any of their orifices could be a problem as mucosal junctions tend to be very sensitive
Is it ever acceptable to dye a dog’s fur?
The only situation where fur dyeing is remotely acceptable (and even so there are other methods to discourage thieves) is when an animal’s tail is dyed a bright, garish colour as a way of preventing them from being stolen. This method is sometimes used in the UK, however mainly in foreign countries where microchipping is less common.
As well as being a deterrent, as dogs with a brightly dyed tail are easily identifiable, it also discourages thieves as a dog with a dyed tail is less desirable to potential buyers.
Which is better, microchipping or dyeing fur?
Microchipping is the best way to prevent theft of an animal. Microchips are registered back to one specific person, and it is only that person who can change the details of a microchip.
Microchips cannot easily be removed (tails can be washed!), and are easily identifiable by any person with a microchip scanner.
If a dog is taken, a microchip can have a ‘stolen’ alert put on it – when this microchip is then scanned and the number looked up on a central system (normally Pet Log will tell you which company a microchip is registered with), this alert pops up to inform the person who scanned the microchip that the dog is stolen. Any new dog that is taken into a vets will be scanned for a microchip, and so any stolen dogs are likely to be flagged up.
It is crucial to have your dog’s microchip details kept up to date – any phone numbers, owners names and addresses should be updated in line with changing over from the breeder’s details, if rehomed, when moving etc.
Is there a safe way to dye a dog’s fur?
So overall, I would not recommend dyeing a pet’s fur. However, if a dog’s tail is dyed then an owner should seek an experienced groomer as they have experience and the proper equipment.
If an owner does want to dye its dog’s tail then food colouring is the safest agent to use as it is made from natural ingredients – it is therefore edible if the dog does lick at it and is unlikely to cause a skin reaction. There is still a risk of skin irritation and toxicities if ingested in large amounts and so care should be taken in all situations, especially in animals with sensitive skin.
Human hair colourants should be avoided as they are toxic if ingested and can harm the skin. If skin is irritated or broken then dyes should be avoided as they can lead to infection.
When applying a dye, an owner should be careful to avoid stressing their dog – if they become distressed during the process then it should be stopped.
Care should be taken to avoid getting water, shampoo or dye in a dog’s eyes, or on any of their orifices as mucosal junctions tend to be very sensitive. If an owner is unsure then they should consult with the vet first before embarking on dyeing their dog’s tail – it is often unnecessary to do so.