When dogs' noses change color, you may find the happening to be very odd. Rudolph the reindeer, after all, isn't the only animal on earth whose nose changes color when winter is around the corner. Turns out, dog noses change colors too!
Of course, dog noses won't turn from brown to a glowing bright red, but nonetheless, the changes can be significant enough to become noticeable by dog owners.
While Rover won't need to pull Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve, why would a dog's nose change colors? We looked at some interesting dynamics and also found what vets have to say about loss of pigment in a dog's nose.
1) A Case of Snow Nose
Does your dog's nose color fade in the winter and then darkens again in the spring and summer? If so, you may be dealing with a case of snow nose.
Also known as "winter nose," snow nose is a temporary change of pigment that is commonly seen in Siberian huskies, golden retrievers, Bernese mountain dogs, Labrador retrievers and several other breeds, explain veterinarians Debra M. Eldredge et al, in the book "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook."
Typically, snow nose consists of an absence of black pigmentation over a portion of the dog's nose or all of the nose, resulting in a stripe, patch, or block of pink skin on the nose.
Snow nose is believed to occur due to the nose getting less sunlight as the days grow shorter, it is therefore mostly a seasonal issue, hence why it's called "snow nose."
According to Tufts University, the color change may have something to do with tyrosine, an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of melanin. It may be possible that in dogs there is some modification at play which makes this enzyme less active during the winter months.
2) The Dudley Nose
In some cases, the loss of pigmentation may be due to what is known as "Dudley nose" and its causes still remain a mystery. In this case, the dog's nose color will appear lighter than it's meant to be.
A young dog may have a black nose, and then as he ages, the nose color may turn brown or even pink. This color change is often permanent.
While nobody knows what exactly causes the dog's nose to become lighter, it's fortunately something that doesn't cause any problems, explains veterinarian Dr. Hinson.
However, the flesh-colored nose is often frowned upon in the show ring. Indeed, among various dog breeds it's considered a serious fault, with in some breeds being considered means for disqualification.
For instance, according to the American Kennel Club's standard for the Labrador retriever breed "A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment is a disqualification." The standard for the Staffordshire bull terrier also states " A pink (Dudley) nose is to be considered a serious fault."
The reason for this makes sense: a black nose is consider much healthier, providing protection from the sun. A dog with a pale nose has much more sensitive skin and may require sunscreen applied to this area.
Did you know? Some dogs have what is called a "butterfly nose." According to the American Kennel Club's glossary, a butterfly nose is a partially non-pigmented nose such as noses that are dark, spotted with flesh color.
3) A Case of Vitiligo
Sometimes, pigment changes affecting the dog's nose may stem from medical conditions affecting the skin. For this reason you want your dog to see the vet if you notice any suspicious color changes.
Vitiligo causes a depigmentation of the dog's skin and can be noticed in several other areas other than the nose.
This condition is seen often in Rottweilers and it's known to cause loss of pigment in some patches of skin, leading to patches of white hair and the discoloration of darker skin, explains veterinarian Mike Richards.
What happens in this condition is that, melanocytes, the cells responsible for giving pigment to the dog's coat die or no longer function, explains veterinarian Dr. Gabby.
Ask the Vet: Is My Dog Done Giving Birth?
Whether your dog is done giving birth or not can be challenging to tell considering that it's not unusual for pregnant dogs to take their sweet time in delivering their babies. This is not really a time though for guessing, considering that not all deliveries go as planned.
This condition can be caused by an autoimmune disease, genetic factors or a virus, but sometimes its exact causes remain unknown.
4) Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
A loss of pigment in the dog's nose may sometimes stem from an immune system disorder.
There are two autoimmune disorders that can cause nose color changes in dogs along with other symptoms: Discoid lupus Erythematosus and pemphigus foliaceus.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), also known as collie nose or Nasal Solar Dermatitis, entails the loss of pigment derived from an immune-mediated disease, meaning that the dog's immune system attacks parts of the dog's body.
In the case of DLE though, for the most part, only the leather of the dog's nose, the nasal planum, is affected, explains veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks in an article for Veterinary Information Network.
A dog's black nose may turn bluish-grey or even pink and the skin may scale, crack and ulcerate. Exposure to sunlight seems to aggravated this condition which is often seen in collie breeds, hence the name.
5) Pemphigus Foliaceus.
Another autoimmune disorder, pemphigus foliaceus is actually the second most common immune-mediated skin disease in dogs, with a particular predisposition in chows and Akitas, explains Thomas Lewis, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in dermatology.
This condition is known for causing loss of pigment on the nose, but also other symptoms such as pimples and scabs on the dog's face such as around the eyes, on the bridge of the nose and on the ears.
6) A Reaction to Plastic
Did you know? There are chances that plastic water bowls and plastic food bowls may contribute to depigmentation of a dog's nose and lips.
There are several reports of dog owners changing from plastic to stainless steel and seeing their dog's nose color go back to norm. We investigated the issue and found a vet's statement in the Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook.
The condition is called "Plastic Dish Nasal Dermatitis", and it seems to be caused by p-benzyl hydroquinone, a chemical found in plastic and rubber.
When this chemical is absorbed by the skin, loss of pigment results due to the the inhibition of melanin, the substance responsible for making the skin dark.
7) A Matter of Aging
Do dogs noses change color with age? That's a good question! Just as our hair and beards change color as we age, dog noses can too change color
If you therefore notice your dog's nose lightening as he reaches his senior years, you're likely not imagining things. Yes, a dog’s nose tends to lighten as the years advance.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs' noses change color for various reasons! In general, the nose pigment change in dogs is not at all unusual as long as it is not ulcerated, blistered, itchy or bleeding.
In such cases, the color change and accompanying signs can be suggestive of autoimmune diseases, fungal infections, zinc deficiency dermatosis as seen in some arctic breeds, or cancerous changes as seen in squamous cell carcinoma.
If you are concerned about your dog's nose color change, play it safe and see your vet for peace of mind.