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canine health problems
Lab with snow nose

The essentials

  • “Snow nose” hypopigmentation is pretty common — There are a variety of factors that can play into a pup’s nose changing colors.
  • Don’t let the “snow” fool you — Despite the wintery nickname, dogs can still experience snow nose discoloration even when it’s not that cold out.
  • It’s temporary and cosmetic — So there’s no need to worry! Though there’s no known treatment, dogs’ noses typically return to normal over time.
  • Vets aren’t 100% sure what causes it — There are a few theories, but seasonal changes, genetics, age, and an enzyme called tyrosinase are all key factors.
  • Thankfully, your pup’s snow nose isn’t like a mood ring — It may cause their nose to change color, but it doesn’t mean they’re sick or in pain!

What’s snow nose in dogs? 

Snow nose has quite a few names in the pet world. Sometimes it’s called winter nose, Dudley nose, or canine vitiligo. Other times it’s referred to as idiopathic nasal hypopigmentation or nasal depigmentation. Snow nose is a skin condition in dogs that happens in the wintertime (but not always!). It causes a dog’s nose to temporarily change color or lose pigment.

👉 The color your dog’s nose turns depends on their usual color, so it’s always a good idea to pay attention to their snoots year-round. 

Snow nose usually starts as a discolored spot or stripe down the middle of the nose between the nostrils. A dog’s black nose could turn pink or a darker brown, while a naturally brown nose may turn a lighter shade. Either way, it’s almost always a temporary, non-threatening cosmetic issue and your pup’s pigment should return to normal over time.

What causes it?

There are several theories, but no one knows for sure. Seasonal changes, an enzyme called tyrosinase, genetics, and age are all big factors.

First, let’s talk about tyrosinase

The hypopigmentation you see on your pup’s nose is likely due to the breakdown of an enzyme called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase handles the melanin production and skin pigmentation in a dog’s body. It tends to work better in warmer temperatures and when daylight hours are longer. This could explain why snow nose shows up more in the winter months.

Is it always caused by cold temperatures?

No, but research suggests that seasonal changes do play a factor. The terms “snow nose” and “winter nose” originated from an old idea that the condition only happens in colder weather. Since a dog’s melanin production slows down in the wintertime, that’s generally when it’s seen. Coincidentally.

Despite the wintery nicknames, snow nose can still happen to pups who live in warmer climates and areas with mild winters. This could mean the condition has less to do with colder temperatures and more to do with the amount of sun exposure. Since winter days are shorter, the sunlight is less intense.

💡 Whether it’s snow nose or a runny nose, seasonal conditions are usually a key factor in general snout health, so always keep an eye on what’s going on!

What about genetics?

Genetics can also play a part. Even though snow nose doesn’t seem to be restricted to certain types of dogs, there are still some breeds more likely to get it than others. Those include dogs with light-colored fur on their muzzles and dogs bred for northern climates, like:

  • Siberian huskies
  • Malamutes
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Bernese mountain dogs

And age?

Some dogs have noses that change from black to brown or pink on their own as they get older. This means that a once-a-year snow nose can become perennial. It usually doesn’t cause any issues, though — their noses are healthy, only a little paler than before.

Should you visit your veterinarian?

If you start to see long-lasting changes in the color of your dog’s nose, it’s never a bad idea to talk to your vet. They’ll provide a proper diagnosis and course of treatment, just in case.

🚨 A cracked, bleeding nose can be a sign of hyperkeratosis. Speak with your vet to rule out this or any other related conditions, which can be more serious.

What else could make your dog’s nose change color?

Physical ailments and medical conditions may also cause your dog’s nose to fade from black to pink.

Cancer. Dogs can develop a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Melanoma affects pigmented cells called melanocytes. It can cause benign nasal tumors that lead to depigmentation. It can also lead to malignant melanomas in the mouth or other mucous membranes. Malignant melanomas tend to grow quickly and can metastasize to other organs like the lungs and liver. Pups with chronic pink noses (Dudley nose) or light-colored/thin coats are more at risk.

Sun damage. Since your dog doesn’t have a protective coat covering their snout, it can be susceptible to sun overexposure — especially where depigmentation occurs. While black or brown noses have more built-in protection from sunlight, a pink nose can burn and blister when sun damage is severe. If your dog has permanent hypopigmentation, make sure to protect them in the summer by applying sunscreen to avoid sunburn.

Lupus infection. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is an autoimmune disease and the second most common immune-mediated dermatitis in pups. It causes sores and lesions on the nasal planum (the hairless surface of the external nose). This results in the nose turning a slate-gray color due to the loss of pigment. Ultraviolet light exposure aggravates this condition, and some breeds are more prone, including:

  • Collies
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Australian shepherds
  • German shepherds
  • Siberian Huskies

Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a rare skin condition that happens when your pup’s immune system develops antibodies against the cells responsible for skin pigment. It results in a pink or discolored nose, as well as white patches or hairs throughout the rest of the body. Certain breeds at greater risk for this disease are:

  • Doberman pinschers
  • German shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • Dachshunds

Pemphigus. Pemphigus foliaceous (PF) and Pemphigus erythematosus (PE) are two types of autoimmune disorders that attack your pup’s skin cells. They can to depigmentation, crusting, sores, and ulcerations on the nasal planum and snout. Sun exposure, other environmental factors, and genetics can exacerbate symptoms. Dog breeds more prone to the condition include:

  • Akitas
  • Chow chows
  • Dachshunds
  • Bearded collies
  • Newfoundlands
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Australian sheepdogs
  • Rottweilers

Trauma. Sometimes illness or trauma can cause nasal depigmentation. A scrape or cut on your pup’s nose will usually turn pink around any scabbing that results. But the pigment will regain its normal color as it heals.

Contact dermatitis. Irritation caused by contact dermatitis can also result in loss of pigmentation on the nose. While it normally doesn’t impact your pup’s health, it can be itchy and uncomfortable and can lead to inflammation. Nutritional supplements (Link?) can help soothe irritation and restore pigment.

Mucocutaneous pyoderma (MCP). MCP is a bacterial infection that can cause loss of nasal pigment, swelling around the nose and lips, and planum fissures. Required treatment usually includes the use of a topical steroid.

Allergies. If you suspect allergies may be at play, try swapping out your dog’s plastic food bowl for one that’s ceramic or stainless steel. Some dogs are sensitive to plastics. The continual irritation during mealtime can lead to pink discoloration on the nose, lip inflammation, and snout/mouth contact dermatitis.

👉 Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about treatment options to help with allergy-related hypopigmentation. 

Golden retriever in snow

Snow on the snoot

Can you prevent your dog from getting snow nose? 

Though you can’t do anything about snow nose, a nose balm can help prevent a dry and cracked doggie nose. One of our favorites is Snout Soother by the Natural Dog Company.

Also, sunscreens specifically for dogs (not humans!) can help protect your pup’s nose from overexposure.

Frequently asked questions

Will my dog’s nose turn black again?

Snow nose is cosmetic and almost always temporary. Normal coloration should return in due time—usually when the seasons change again and the weather warms back up. Still, you should always talk to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis if you see long-term changes in the color of your dog’s nose.

Is snow nose permanent?

Depigmentation from snow nose is rarely permanent. But, as dogs get older, their snow noses can sometimes stick around all year. This is because tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for pigment production, tends to become less efficient as a dog ages. Your pup’s nose will still be healthy, just a little paler than before.

What is a husky snow nose?

Huskies are more susceptible to snow nose because they were originally bred for cold temperatures. They tend to have light-colored fur on their muzzles. That said, snow nose isn’t exclusive to the breed alone.