What Are Maltese Cow Spots?

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Have you started noticing black spots on your Maltese’s skin that seem to appear out of nowhere?

These freckles, often referred to as Maltese cow spots, can leave many dog owners scratching their heads in confusion and assuming that it must be a sign of some underlying health issue.

But before you start panicking, let’s take a closer look at what exactly these black spots are, why they appear on Maltese dogs, and most importantly, how to keep them at bay.

maltese cow spots

Are Maltese cow spots normal?

Cow spots are quite common among Maltese dogs. These spots can appear as flat, dark patches on the skin and may vary in size and shape, ranging from small dots to larger clusters, resembling the markings of a cow.

Cow spots occur as a result of pigmentation changes in the dog’s skin and are usually located on the dog’s belly, groin area, or inner thighs. Yet, they can also appear in other areas of the body, such as the back, legs, or even the head.

While some may be concerned about their appearance, It’s important to note that these spots are generally harmless and don’t indicate anything serious about the dog’s health.

That said, it’s always a good idea to have any new or unusual spots checked by a veterinarian, as they could also be a symptom of a skin infection or allergic reaction.

If the spots suddenly change in size, color, or texture, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as it may indicate a more serious issue.

Additionally, keep in mind that there are other conditions that can cause similar-looking marks on a dog’s skin. For example, vitiligo is a condition where patches of skin lose their pigment and appear white or lighter than the surrounding areas.

Causes of Maltese cow spots

Some possible causes include sun exposure, age, genetics, and certain medical conditions.

Sun exposure

The most common cause of Maltese cow spots is sun exposure. Just like humans, dogs can experience sunburn and skin damage from prolonged exposure to UV rays, especially in areas with less hair or pigmentation.

This can lead to the formation of dark spots or patches on the skin.


Age can also be a contributing factor to the development of cow spots in Maltese dogs. This is because the production of melanin, which gives color to the skin and hair, can decrease with age.

As a result, some areas of the skin may become lighter or darker in color.


Similarly, some breeds, including Maltese, may be genetically predisposed to having patches or spots on their skin, which can become more apparent as they age.

Medical conditions

Other less common reasons include skin cancer, which is usually more localized to a specific area rather than appearing as cow spots throughout the body, and Cushing’s disease, which can sometimes cause changes in pigmentation, as well as hair loss.

Preventing Maltese cow spots

Although you can’t prevent genetics or aging that contribute to the development of cow spots in Maltese dogs, there’s one simple step you can take to minimize their appearance:

Protect your Maltese dog from excessive sun exposure!

Make sure to limit their time outdoors during peak sun hours, provide shade for them to rest in, and consider using dog clothing or pet-friendly sunscreen on areas of exposed skin.

Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen, Paws to Tail Protection, Prevents Sunburns on Dogs and Horses, Sun Protector Spray, SPF 30+, Non-Greasy/Oily Solution – 3.5 oz

If your Maltese already has cow spots as a result of sun exposure, it may take some time for them to fade or lighten, possibly even a few months (depending on the individual dog).

On the other hand, keep in mind that avoiding the sun completely isn’t recommended, as dogs need to receive some sunlight for their overall health and well-being.

In addition, the sun can help prevent other potential issues such as “snow nose“, a condition in which the dog’s nose loses its pigmentation.

In summary

Maltese cow spots are mostly a cosmetic issue that doesn’t affect the dog’s health or quality of life. While age and genetics can play a role in their development, the primary cause is believed to be excessive exposure to the sun.

By limiting time in the sun, providing shade, and using protective measures like clothing and sunscreen, you can help protect your Maltese from harmful UV rays and reduce the prominence of cow spots.

However, if you notice any changes in your dog’s skin that seem out of the ordinary, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.