As a general rule of thumb, a wet nose indicates a healthy and well-hydrated dog, but what about a pink nose or a black nose with pink spots that come and go?
Pink spot on dog’s nose – what does it mean? In most cases, a pink nose or black nose with pink spots is nothing to be worried about. Even if the color change occurred abruptly, rest assured there is nothing wrong with your pup. In fact, the condition is so common it has its own name – snow nose. However, a snow nose does require some special care in terms of protection.
In this article, we will talk about pink spots on dog noses and entirely pink nose discolorations. We will also give tips on protecting your dog’s snow nose and review some other nose color changes.
SNOW NOSE OR IDIOPATHIC NASAL HYPOPIGMENTATION
The popular term indicating the nose color change or discoloration from black or brown to pink is snow nose or Dudley nose. Since the discoloration usually occurs during the winter months, breeders also refer to it as winter noses. Popular synonyms aside, the official name for the condition is idiopathic nasal hypopigmentation.
The condition develops when the nose loses its normal pigmentation. The pigmentation loss can occur all over the nose, in which case the entire nose will become pale or in patches. Regardless of the distribution of the changes, in both cases, the pigment loss is temporary, and eventually, the dog’s standard nose color will return.
Why do dogs get pink or snow noses?
The exact reason behind this phenomenon is unknown. There are different theories, but none of them offers a conclusive answer which is why the condition carries the term idiopathic in its name.
The most widely accepted theory is that snow nose develops as a result of excessive tyrosinase breakdown. Tyrosinase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down the skin pigment called melanin. As a natural compound, tyrosinase is sensitive to low temperatures and usually breaks down faster as the dog ages.
This explains why snow nose is more common in dogs living in harsh and cold climates. In general, snow nose is prevalent among breeds like Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers – basically breeds native to Northern climates. The theory also explains why older dogs are more likely to develop a snow nose, and once developed, the pigment change lasts for longer.
However, the tyrosinase theory does not explain why dogs living in warmer climates can develop a snow nose too. It also fails to answer why the condition occurs in dogs with lighter coat colors.
Other theories regarding the origin of the snow nose include problems with the thyroid gland and chemical damage caused by plastic water and food bowls.
How can I treat a snow nose in a dog?
There is no known treatment for a snow nose in dogs. Luckily, since the condition is purely esthetic or cosmetic and does not cause pain or any other impairment, there is no objective need for treatment.
However, the pink and pale nose is more sensitive to the sun and should be protected with sunscreen. Make sure you use a dog-friendly sunblock or a human sunblock free from potentially harmful ingredients.
If you are not sure which sunblock is best for your dog or whether your dog needs such protection in the first place, do not hesitate to talk to your trusted vet.
IS A PINK NOSE ON A DOG BAD?
No, not necessarily. In most cases, a pink nose is due to pigment loss or popularly termed due to snow nose. However, in some cases, it is possible for the pink nose to be caused by other conditions. Luckily, none of them is serious, but they all require adequate management. Here are some other causes of the pink nose in dogs.
Cause number 1: Pink nose due to scratches
Dogs are well-known for their tendency to sniff everything and put their heads through tiny holes, which often result in traumatic injuries of the nose. Getting into fights with other dogs or getting scratched by cats are also common reasons for minor nose injuries.
All injuries result in local trauma followed by melanin destruction. Consequently, when a dog’s nose gets damaged, the melanin disappears, and the scratched area becomes pale or even wholly pink.
This color change is temporary, and the dog’s nose is likely to get its normal coloration back as soon as the scratch heals. The length of the healing period depends on many factors but mainly on the depth of the scratch and your dog’s overall health condition.
Cause number 2: Pink nose due to allergies
Modern dogs are extra sensitive and often suffer from allergies. There are many different forms of allergies in dogs, but when it comes to nose discolorations, the most common culprit is a contact allergy. Namely, the dog’s nose touched or came into contact with something that acts as an allergen.
For example, many dogs are allergic to the chemical components found in commercial plastic food and water bowls. One particularly irritating and frequently used chemical is p-benzyl hydroquinone. This chemical is damaging, and it can trigger severe depigmentation.
Pink nose discolorations caused by allergies are usually temporary and tend to resolve once the allergen is eliminated. If your dog’s nose started changing its color after you bought a new set of plastic bowls, remove them and see if the nose regains its standard brown to black color.
Cause number 3: Pink nose due to vitiligo
Vitiligo in dogs is similar to vitiligo in humans. The condition has an autoimmune basis and develops when the dog’s own immune system mistakenly recognizes the melanin as foreign and starts attacking.
Over time this leads to loss of melanin and lightening in the skin. It can occur anywhere on the body but is more striking on the darker body parts. In more severe cases, vitiligo may affect not only the skin but also the coat.
Vitiligo usually occurs early in life – during the first few years. There is no known treatment for vitiligo, but on the bright side, despite the esthetic impact, it does not impair the dog’s everyday life. Plus, the condition is entirely painless.
BLACK SPOTS ON DOG NOSE – MEANING AND IMPORTANCE
Unlike pink spots that are usually harmless, black spots are a red flag. More often than not, the presence of black spots on the dog’s nose or elsewhere on the body where there is melanin is a sign of a specific cancer form – melanoma.
Melanomas can occur in all dogs, but certain breeds and age groups are at higher risk. Basically, melanomas are more common in Vizslas, Doberman Pinschers, Bay Retrievers, Scottish terriers, Airedale terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers, usually between 5 and 11 years of age.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body (nose, mouth, lips, toenail beds, pads, feet), and sometimes they can occur in different places at the same time. As for their nature, they can be either benign or malignant. The prognosis is good for dogs with benign melanoma as this type of tumor is easily treatable.
However, the prognosis is guarded for dogs with malignant melanoma as the tumor is rarely responsive to surgical excision, and it tends to spread and form metastasis.
OTHER CONDITIONS CAUSING NOSE DISCOLORATION IN DOGS
In addition to these issues, other ailments can lead to nose discolorations in dogs. Luckily, they are less common than the previously explained and include:
- Lupus – also known as discoid lupus erythematosus, is a form of autoimmune condition that causes various changes, including nose discolorations. As most conditions affecting the nose, in addition to color changes, lupus causes excessive crusting and scabbing.
- Pemphigus – this is another autoimmune condition, and it can develop in three different forms: pemphigus erythematosus, pemphigus foliaceous, and pemphigus Vulgaris. All pemphigus forms can cause irregularly distributed patches of skin discoloration. Over time, as the condition progresses, the patches tend to develop into painful blisters and ultimately culminate in open sores.
SUMMING UP: SNOW NOSE IN DOGS
Generally speaking, a snow nose in dogs is an unusual but harmless situation. Because of its temporary nature and lack of adequate treatment, it is best to let the condition run its course while being extra protective of the pale and sensitive nose.
A snow nose can sometimes be confused with other conditions with similar manifestations such as scratches, allergies, and vitiligo. All three conditions are relatively benign but require proper management.
Finally, not all nose discolorations are benign. If your dog’s nose is changing in color, you should contact your vet. Best-case scenario, the vet will confirm the snow nose diagnosis and give you peace of mind. Worst-case scenario, your dog might be suffering from a severe issue like melanoma.
Why does my dog have a spot on her snout?
Pinkish to white spots on a dog’s snout are usually indicative of a condition called idiopathic nose hypopigmentation or snow nose. On rare occasions, it can also be caused by allergies, vitiligo, and trauma on the nose or scratches.
What breeds of dogs have pink noses?
Some dogs have naturally pink noses. These breeds include White German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Doberman Pinschers, Samoyeds, Golden Retrievers, Pointers, Poodles, and Dalmatians. Therefore, before worrying about your dog’s pink nose, make sure the color is not a typical breed trait.
Dog noes turning pink in summer – is this normal?
Yes, the development of pink spots on dog noses is more common during the cold months hence the condition’s popular name, snow nose. However, it can also occur during the summer months and in areas where the temperature is moderate to high all year round.
Why do Huskies’ noses turn pink?
Huskies as predisposed to snow nose – they are an originally northern breed and usually live in places with low temperatures. In Huskies, the discoloration tends to affect the central portion of the nose, giving an attractive stripe-like discoloration.
Do dogs with pink noses needs sunscreen?
Yes, sunscreen is not just for humans. Dogs need sunscreen for protection in various situations, including when having a usually pink or discolored nose. In a normally colored black or brown nose, the skin pigment serves as protection. However, in a pink nose lacking melanin, you need to compensate for the inadequate protection by applying sunscreen.
Can I put sunblock on my dog?
Yes, you can even share your own sunblock formulated for humans with your dog. However, since dogs are likely to lick some of the creams you put on the nose, it is critical to buy a sunblock free from potentially harmful compounds like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and zinc oxide.
How can I tell if my dog’s nose is sunburned?
Typical signs indicating a sunburned nose include pink to red discoloration on the affected area, pronounced skin dryness, and tenderness, peeling, and formation of blisters on the nose. In more severe cases, there will be systemic signs like fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite.