Snoot Shades: Why Your Dog’s Nose Changes Color And When To Call A Vet

  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

One chilly morning, your dog comes over for their morning cuddles and you notice something different: Their once-black nose has suddenly changed to pink! Before you start to worry, rest assured that it’s natural for dog noses to change color from dark shades, like black and brown, to lighter brown or pink.

This color change may show up as spots on their nose or a stripe of pink down the center. It generally happens as the days get colder and doesn’t pose any cause for concern. Dogs of any breed may experience this seasonal color change, but it more commonly occurs in Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers.

If your dog’s nose turns pink in the winter months, it will most likely darken when the days get warmer. That said, the color of your dog’s nose may also lighten gradually over time. This change usually isn’t concerning, either, but it may be permanent. In some cases, you may also want to visit a veterinarian.

Below, get the details on why your dog’s nose might change color, along with signs it’s time to consult an expert.

Why Does My Dog’s Nose Change Color?

Vets refer to the lightening—more specifically, loss of pigment—of a dog’s nose as hypopigmentation, which means “less color.”

Hypopigmentation can describe a dark brown or black nose turning lighter brown, beige, pink, and sometimes even an almost white shade.

This condition only affects the color of a dog’s nose, however. With seasonal hypopigmentation, your dog’s sense of smell, the nose’s cobbled texture, and the surface moisture of their nose will all remain the same.

“This change causes no discomfort,” explains Dr. Linda Simon, MVB, a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in dermatology and author at Senior Tail Waggers. She goes on to say that it’s only a cosmetic change that doesn’t require treatment.

Bigandt_Photography via iStock

Does my dog have ‘snow nose’?

“Snow nose is the layman’s term for hypopigmentation of the nose of dogs,” explains Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM, veterinarian and director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital and veterinary director at Senior Tail Waggers.

Experts have yet to discover exactly what causes this change.

This type of hypopigmentation is temporary and usually occurs during the cold months—in fact, it also goes by the name “winter nose.” Your dog’s nose should regain pigment when the weather starts to warm up, so it’ll become dark once again.

That said, nasal hypopigmentation can also happen at any time of year, so you could notice some gradual changes in the color of your dog’s nose over time.

According to Dr. Simon, this loss of pigment is also usually temporary, but the noses of some older dogs may not regain the pigment. To put it simply, that lighter nose may be a permanent change for some senior pooches.

Does my dog have Dudley nose?

Dudley nose refers to the permanent loss of pigment in a dog whose breed has a dark nose. This term was first coined in Dudley, UK to describe the pink noses of English Bulldogs. Breeds with a higher chance of developing Dudley nose include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Samoyeds
  • Afghan Hounds
  • Dobermans

Dudley nose is caused by a genetic mutation—specifically, a mutation in the TYRP1 gene. This stops the production of new pigment, Dr. Simon says, which leads to irreversible pigment loss. Dr. Simon adds that both parents must be carriers of the affected gene for the puppies to develop this pigment loss.

Again, Dudley nose isn’t harmful—it’s a cosmetic change only. Still, some dog breeders and pet parents of show dogs tend to consider this trait undesirable, as it’s a disqualification factor in some breed standards.

Do Nose Color Changes Affect Certain Breeds?

Any breed of dog can experience hypopigmentation of the nose, but the dog breeds most commonly affected include:

  • Siberian Huskies
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • English Bulldog
  • Bull Terrier

Do I Need To Treat My Dog’s Nose Color Changes?

As far as your dog’s health is concerned, you don’t need to treat your dog’s light-colored nose, and it’s not a cause for alarm, according to Dr. Whittenburg.

This cosmetic change won’t affect your dog’s sense of smell, either. However, the lack of pigment could increase their risk of sunburn, so you may want to consider applying dog sunscreen to their nose before spending time outside. (Yes, dogs can get sunburned!)

If you have concerns about a show dog developing this trait, genetic testing can help determine if they have the mutation that causes Dudley nose. In addition, you can consult the AKC dog breed standards to determine if hypopigmentation is a disqualifying factor for your dog’s breed.

When To Worry About Changing Nose Colors

A change in your dog’s nose color in combination with other health symptoms could point to an autoimmune disorder, thyroid condition, or cancer.

You’ll want to make an appointment with your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Nose rubbing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Raised skin
  • Sores
  • Itchiness or irritation around their nose, which might appear as dry skin and redness. They may also paw at their nose frequently.
  • Cracks
  • A nose texture that’s smoother than usual
  • Any signs of pain

Other pigmentation conditions in dogs

Other conditions that could cause changes in your dog’s coloration include:

  • Hyperpigmentation: This describes a concentration of pigment in one area, like your dog’s tongue.
  • Dog vitiligo: This is a rare skin condition that involves a complete loss of pigment in one area.

But at the end of the day, you generally only need to worry about changes in the color of your dog’s nose if they also experience other health symptoms at the same time.

Still, it’s always wise to check in with your vet if you have any concerns about your beloved pup. A trained vet can help rule out serious conditions and offer reassurance about your dog’s sniffer.

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