Why Is My Dog's Nose Changing Color?

By Naomi Millburn

If your dog's nose has changed color, the trigger could be nutritional problems, food allergies or something else. Dogs sometimes experience pigment loss from their noses, making them appear red, white, pink or brown. Take your pet to the veterinarian to determine the cause of this pigmentation change.

The Enzyme Tyrosinase

When dogs' noses change color, an enzyme known as tyrosinase is believed to be the culprit. Tyrosinase's function is to manufacture pigment. When this enzyme deconstructs, pigment changes occur. A number of factors can influence how successful tyrosinase is. Temperature is one example. The enzyme does better in warm temperatures. Tyrosinase also loses strength when dogs get older. This is why some elderly dogs have pink or brown noses.

Snow Nose

If your dog's nose has gotten lighter, there's a good chance that snow nose, also known as seasonal hypopigmentation, is the cause. This condition is prevalent in Nordic dogs -- the Alaskan malamute, American Eskimo and Siberian husky breeds. It's also prevalent in collies, Labrador retrievers and terriers. These kinds of dogs sometimes develop nose pigment fading in the wintertime. The color loss is temporary, however. Dogs' noses generally go back to their original color when summer arrives. Snow nose is generally considered to be a cosmetic issue.

Other Potential Causes

Although snow nose is the most common culprit behind nose pigment loss in dogs, numerous other potential causes exist. These include nose scrapes, fungal infections, immoderate exposure to the sun, dietary deficiencies, insufficient thyroid levels, cancers, food allergies, plastic bowl allergies, inhaled allergens and autoimmune conditions including pemphigus, lupus and Harada's syndrome. If your dog's lighter nose is the result of a cut to it, the color will gradually be restored after it recovers.

Veterinary Assessment

Schedule an appointment with the veterinarian as soon as you notice pigment changes. Veterinarians generally diagnose color changes by assessing how their patients' noses look, running allergy tests, performing blood work, conducting biopsies and observing tissue samples using microscopes. They also frequently analyze bacterial and fungal cultures. Veterinarians are sometimes able to determine the causes of color changes simply by observing dogs' noses.

The veterinarian will manage your pet's pigmentation change by treating the root cause. Treatment options include nutritional supplements like vitamin E, diet adjustments, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, sunblock use, decreased sun exposure and anti-fungal medications. Some dogs with nose pigmentation changes don't need treatment.