Dogs’ noses have different colors depending on factors such as age, breed, and fur, but they can also sometimes change shade throughout their life and it is not uncommon for dog owners to notice a loss of color on their dog’s nose.
Pink spots on a dog’s nose can be seasonal, temporary, or could be the symptom of something serious. Not all dogs with a pink nose need to be examined, but if you’re not sure about the reason behind the pigmentation, you should certainly bring your pet to the vet.
Why do dogs’ noses turn pink?
Dogs’ noses turn pink for a variety of reasons that sometimes can’t be scientifically explained.
In some cases, pink spots on dogs’ noses really don’t mean much and your pet won’t be affected even if their nose doesn’t turn black again.
However, a pink nose may also be the tip of the iceberg for some serious diseases, which is why when in doubt it is always better to consult your veterinarian.
The so-called Snow Nose is a very common phenomenon where a dog’s nose turns partially or completely pink/brown during cold seasons. Specifically, a black nose will turn pink, while a brown nose will turn a lighter shade of brown.
There is no conclusive scientific explanation about it, but it is believed that a snow nose happens because low temperatures weaken an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin.
Snow nose is harmless and doesn’t have consequences on your dog’s health, except maybe that their nose becomes more sensitive to sunlight, so you should find a suitable product to protect your dog’s nose during this time.
In the absence of discoloration of other parts or visible infections, if your dog’s nose is losing black color in winter, you can simply keep an eye on them and wait for their nose to turn black again when the warm season comes.
As dogs use their nose to explore the world, they may come in contact with something that triggers an allergic reaction, which can cause loss of pigmentation of their skin.
Contact allergies usually affect the area around the nose and the lips too. The interested zone may look inflamed, swollen, crusty, and overall not healthy.
In this case, the hardest part is figuring out what your dog is allergic to. Sometimes your dog could be allergic to the very bowls they eat and drink from.
In fact, there is a disease called Plastic Dish Nasal dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to the chemicals contained in the plastic bowls, specifically p-benzyl hydroquinone.
Hydroquinone is a well-known skin-lightening agent and it can have the same effect on your dog.
The good news is that this kind of dermatitis is easily identifiable and treated: change your dog’s plastic bowl to a steel or ceramic one and see if the pink spots disappear.
Immune disorders happen when the immune system mistakenly thinks of the body as its enemy and engages in self-destructive behavior. Many diseases affecting both humans and dogs are due to our immune system’s “bad judgment”.
In dogs, a pink nose may be the sign of an immune skin disorder. Many skin disorders affect certain breeds more than others, but most of them are easily treatable.
Some of the most common skin diseases in dogs are the following:
– Pemphigus Foliaceus: it’s an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the connections between the skin cells, creating crusty areas on and around the nose. It is most common in specific dog breeds like Chow and Akita. Pemphigus is a treatable disease and your veterinarian will guide you through the best treatment for your dog.
– Discoid Lupus: it’s the most common autoimmune skin disease in dogs. Your dog will develop crusts, ulcers, and depigmentation around the nose and sometimes it can spread to other areas too. This disease can get worse if your dog is exposed to sunlight. Skin biopsy is necessary for a diagnosis, so bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
– Vitiligo: you might have seen this skin disease on humans, it works exactly the same way on dogs. Small or large areas of skin lose their pigmentation, fur is affected as well, to the point that some black dogs turn completely white. The good side of this disease is that it is only a matter of appearance and your dog is otherwise completely healthy. Some breeds like Dachshund, German Shepherd, Labrador, and Rottweiler are more inclined to develop vitiligo.
– Uveodermatological Syndrome (UDS): in this autoimmune disease the T-cells, which are supposed to fight infections, start attacking the melanocytes (melanin-producing cells). This disease is very dangerous because the first symptom is actually the inflammation of your dog’s eyes, which can lead to blindness if not treated in time. There is no cure for this disease, but with treatments, you can prevent blindness and give your dog a good quality of life. It is most common in Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Samoyeds, and Akitas.
Cancer is one of the most devastating diseases and unfortunately, there is nothing this illness won’t eventually affect, skin included.
As cancer spreads through the body, it may cause loss of pigmentation in different areas. Being a dog’s nose one of the few areas not covered by fur, you might only notice the symptom when it reaches the muzzle.
Dogs who spend a lot of time outside are constantly exposed to UV radiation and could develop skin cancer. Some tumors develop inside the nose as well.
Even if you just merely suspect your dog’s pink nose may be related to a form of cancer, bring your dog in for a complete medical check-up without wasting any time.
Other common dog nose problems, including pink pigmentation, may be related to:
– Old age: the aforementioned tyrosinase enzyme responsible for the production of melanin is affected by cold temperatures, but gets also weaker as your dog gets older, which can lead to a progressive pink or light-colored nose. There’s no need to worry, it’s the dog’s equivalent or getting white hair.
– Trauma: if the nose of your dog ends up scraped or wounded, it may change color temporarily because of the trauma and consequent scab. In most cases, the black pigmentation comes back after the nose is completely healed.
– Infection: infections are very similar to wounds, so you can expect depigmentation as your dog goes through it. An infected nose will probably swell and as infections tend to spread and get worse, it will be important to seek medical treatments as soon as possible.
– Dudley nose: some breeds like the Afghan Hound, the Golden Retriever, the White German Shepherd, and the Irish Setter are more prone to develop the so-called Dudley Nose, which is a condition where a dog’s nose turns completely pink or white for no apparent reason. It can be irreversible or temporary and there is no scientific explanation for the phenomenon yet.
As a general rule, it would be wiser to consult your veterinarian when you’re unsure about the causes behind your dog’s pink nose.
What should you do if your dog’s nose is turning pink?
A dog’s nose turning pink is not always alarming, but you will need to find the cause in order to know how to proceed.
Dog nose discoloration is actually a natural process that occurs in most dogs as they grow old and it can start as early as 2 years of age and usually develops between 2-5 years of age.
Most puppies have naturally pink noses no matter their breed or fur, so if your puppy has a pink nose there is nothing to worry about. It will change to brown or black as they become adults.
Apart from these two cases, if it’s the first time that your dog’s nose is peeling pink, it might be challenging to understand the reason without a medical examination, but one thing you can do is to consider the time of the year.
In fact, most dogs experience loss of pigmentation during cold seasons, but it is only temporary and it usually affects only the central part of the nose.
A pink-nosed dog can be worrying when the pink pigmentation looks irregular or affects other parts of the muzzle or body as well. It would be better to call your vet in this case.
If your dog’s pink nose is often dry, looks swollen, has sores, or is crusty, they will need a medical examination.
Will my dog’s nose turn black again?
Sometimes your dog’s nose might turn back to its original color, sometimes it will stay pink, but that shouldn’t be concerning as long as your dog is fine and healthy.
Old dogs will naturally lose their nose pigmentation and sometimes their “snow nose” may turn into a “year-round pink nose”, but be assured they are alright!
Some immune diseases may sometimes affect the color of the nose, but overall not cause harm to your dog. However, if you’re concerned about it, there are treatments available that have proved successful in restoring dogs’ original nose pigmentation, so make sure to consult your veterinarian.
Even if it doesn’t turn back to its natural color, don’t worry: your pooch’s nose remains extremely kissable all the same!