Winter brings more than just chilly weather. When the cold season comes, wild animals, domesticated animals and humans experience some physical changes. Coats thicken, fur color changes, lips become chapped, dry skin causes discomfort, and some dogs’ noses fade from black to pink. If your dog's nose becomes pale in the winter, she might have a condition known as snow nose. Snow nose doesn't require snow -- and it doesn't even require particularly cold weather.
A Pale Pink Color
All healthy dogs should have moist, cool noses. With snow nose, dark pigment on a dog's nose will fade during the winter when days are shorter and weather is cooler. Snow nose is a common condition that causes the nose or parts of it to lighten to a pale pink color. It darkens again in spring and summer when the days are longer and the weather warms up, according the "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" by veterinarian Debra M. Eldredge.
No Snow Required
Snow nose occurs in the winter, with or without snow. It might be related to the hours of darkness being greater than daylight hours. Snow nose depigmentation does not usually affect the whole nose, but appears as a pink or light brown stripe down the center of the nose. The rest of the nose typically retains its typical coloration, be it black, brown or liver-colored. According to the American Kennel Club, it's unknown why this happens, but since it occurs in dogs living in warm climates, cold temperatures might not play a major role in causation. Genetics may be more likely.
Common in Huskies
Technically called hypopigmentation, snow nose or "winter nose" is more likely to occur in Siberian huskies, other light-coated breeds or dogs with light-colored fur on the muzzle. Besides huskies, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labs and Bernese mountain dogs are commonly affected. As dogs age, the color change can become permanent. The nose will be healthy -- just more pale than before.
The temporary loss of pigment on the nose is a cosmetic issue and is not associated with an illness. It will not harm your dog, but it can become painful if sunburned. Put sunscreen on the lighter areas of your dog's nose before she goes outside.
Other Depigmentation Conditions
Unless a veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a depigmentation condition other than snow nose, normal color should return in late spring or summer. If your dog's nose turns white, he does not have snow nose -- and he should be examined by a veterinarian. Several other conditions can cause nose discoloration, such as plastic dish dermatitis, vitaligo, thyroid problems, para-aminobenzoic acid deficiency or lupus erythematosus, which is not common in huskies. Your vet can suggest remedies for each of these conditions.