- “Snow nose” hypopigmentation is pretty common — There are a variety of factors that can play into a dog’s nose changing colors. It’s also a cosmetic and temporary condition, and dogs’ noses typically return to normal over time.
- 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.
- 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, snow nose typically isn’t a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
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 not usually a cause for concern. Snow nose is almost always a temporary, non-threatening cosmetic issue and your pup’s pigment should return to normal over time.
Symptoms of snow nose in dogs
The singular symptom of snow nose, or hypopigmentation, are dog’s noses losing their dark brown or black pigmentation and changing to a pink color. Usually the pink appears in spots or a stripe down the nose. The color change of your dog’s hypopigmentation depends on what color nose your dog already has.
For example, dogs with black noses typically turn pink or a darker brown. Brown-nosed dogs typically turn a lighter shade of brown. If dog owners notice other symptoms, it’s a good idea to get your pup in to see the vet to check what other conditions may be present.
Potential causes of snow nose in dogs
There are several theories , but no one knows for sure. It seems many factors can contribute to causing snow nose, including:
- 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.
- Cold temperature – Chillier temps don’t always cause snow nose, but they can be a contributing factor. In the wintertime, a dog’s melanin production slows down. However, dogs can also experience snow nose in warmer climates. It’s thought that because the winter months have daylight hours, snow nose occurs because of a lack of sun exposure.
- Genetics – 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.
- 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.
- 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 – 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.
- 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.
- Pemphigus –Pemphigus foliaceus (PF) and Pemphigus erythematosus (PE) are two types of autoimmune disorders that attack your pup’s skin cells. They can lead to depigmentation, crusting, sores, and ulcerations on the nose. Sun exposure, other environmental factors, and genetics can exacerbate symptoms.
- Allergies – Some dogs may be sensitive to plastics, and a plastic dog bowl could cause continual irritation and lead to pink discoloration on the nose, lip inflammation, and snout/mouth. If you suspect your dog may have allergy-related hypopigmentation, talk to your veterinarian about treatment options.
- 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 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.
- Cancer – A less common but serious condition that may cause snow nose is 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’s nose) or light-colored/thin coats are more at risk.
Breeds susceptible to snow nose
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to getting snow nose, either due to genetics or permanent hypopigmentation (a naturally pink nose). Some breeds are prone because they are more susceptible to conditions like lupus, vitiligo, or pemphigus. These breeds include:
Treating snow nose in dogs
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Diagnosing snow nose in dogs
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. Snow nose is diagnosed via a physical exam by your veterinarian. Your vet will examine your dog’s nose to confirm snow nose and be able to rule out any secondary or underlying conditions.
🚨 A cracked, bleeding nose can be a sign of hyperkeratosis or DLE, which can be even more severe. Speak with your vet to rule out this or any other related conditions, which can be more serious.
Preventing snow nose in dogs
Snow nose can’t be prevented in dogs predisposed to the condition through genetics. Dogs in general shouldn’t be overexposed to extreme weather conditions, and dogs who are prone to snow nose should be particularly careful to keep out of intense cold weather. Be sure to get your pup regular sun exposure every day to keep the melanin in their snout producing properly. To keep your dog healthy in the sun, use a dog-safe sunscreen product. It’s also always a good idea to keep your pup up to date on their regular vet checkups to ensure their health.
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.