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Your dog seems totally fine, but her beautiful black nose suddenly has a pinkish strip down the middle—and it is getting larger every day. She doesn't seem to be itchy, and the texture of her nose looks and feels the same as always. What's going on? Your dog may have snow nose!
What Is Snow Nose?
Snow nose, also known as winter nose, is the loss of pigment in the nose. The nose may go from its normal shade of black or brown to a light brown or pink. This hypopigmentation is usually temporary, and the nose will usually go back to normal in time. It often starts as just a patch or stripe in the middle of the nose, but may spread to affect the entire nose leather. The change in color can sometimes be permanent.
Snow nose got its name because it seems to occur more often in cold climates during the winter. It was once believed that it only happened during the winter, but snow nose can actually occur any time of year and in any climate.
Thankfully, it is nothing to worry about. Dogs affected by snow nose still have their normal sense of smell, and the nose leather will keep its usual cobblestoned appearance and slightly damp surface. The only change is the color.
Why Your Dog’s Nose Is Turning Pink
We don't entirely know why snow nose happens. It is a low priority for research because it is only a cosmetic change and does not impact the dog's health or comfort. Some theories state that changes in the length of daylight, temperature, or the enzyme tyrosinase may be involved in causing snow nose.
Eating and drinking from plastic bowls can sometimes cause changes in nose pigment, so if your dog with snow nose uses a plastic bowl, you can try switching to stainless steel or ceramic and see if the nose returns to and stays its normal color.
Because we don't know what causes snow nose, there is no treatment. The lighter nose can be more sensitive to sun damage, so your dog may benefit from some dog-safe sunscreen applied to her nose when she is going to be out in the sun a lot.
Could It Be Another Health Condition Besides Snow Nose?
There are other conditions that can cause changes in the color of your dog's nose, including:
Trauma to the nose can result in a temporary change in color. If your dog scrapes her nose on her crate door or damages it some other way, the wound will heal pink first. Over time the normal skin cells of the nose will usually take over and the nose will return to its normal color, though some dogs may retain a scar.
Vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder where patches of skin and hair lose their normal pigment and turn white. Like snow nose, this condition is cosmetic and does not impact the dog’s health or comfort. The dog may only have one patch that turns white, or may have regions all over her body. The change is usually permanent.
Discoid lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that can cause a change in the color of your dog’s nose as well as sores. The nose will also often lose its normal texture and become totally smooth.
Cancer can cause non-healing sores on the nose and elsewhere on the body. Exact symptoms will vary depending on the type of cancer present.
If the only change in your dog is the color of her nose, you have nothing to worry about. Her nose being dry once in a while is also normal. Changes in the nose that are a cause for concern include:
Totally smooth texture (may also appear shiny)
Extremely dry nose with cracks
Raw skin on the nose
Buildup of hard, spiky keratin
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, or has other general signs of illness or behavioral changes in addition to a change in the color of her nose, she should be seen by your veterinarian.
Dog Breeds Commonly Affected by Snow Nose
Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Siberian huskies, and Bernese mountain dogs are the most common breeds to get snow nose, although any breed or mix can get it. This suggests that there might be a genetic component to this condition, but we don't know for sure at this point.