Have you ever noticed little changes in the color or texture of your dog’s nose? Sometimes it’s wet, sometimes it’s dry, sometimes it may have spots of different colors on it. It’s a popular myth that cold, wet, dry, or warm noses can signify some sort of illness in dogs, but this isn’t necessarily true.
Dogs’ noses go through many changes, most of which are perfectly normal and harmless. Not all dogs have the same nose color. Some have pink noses, some have black, brown, or tan. Some even have interesting patterns like freckles across their snouts. Dogs’ noses go through many subtle changes in color and texture and this is very normal. But your dog’s nose can tell you some things, most of which are harmless or easy to rectify.
Below are some of the reasons why your dog’s nose is changing color and texture, what you can do about it, and when it’s time to go see a vet.
Dog’s Nose Changing Color? Here’s What Causes It
1. Weather and Temperature
Some dogs experience a phenomenon called “winter nose” or “snow nose” where their noses fade in color during winter or colder temperatures and then go back to their previous color when the weather warms up again. This is completely normal, does not hurt your dog, and it’s nothing to worry about.
Your dog’s nose can get sunburned just like yours! This is different from your dog’s nose changing color from heat because it’s caused by direct sunlight and can be painful for him.
Use a sunscreen that’s specially formulated for dogs (there are many of them on the market) on your dog’s nose in case he’s going to be in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time, such as a day of hiking or laying on the beach. Some dogs with very sensitive noses may need sunscreen every day, especially if they love to lay out in the sunshine.
If your dog is losing his hair he may also need sunscreen on the rest of his body to protect his skin. Be careful when applying not to get sunscreen up your pup’s nose or in his eyes.
Some breeds have noses that will change color as they age, similar to graying hair. They may have dark noses when they’re younger that fade and lighten to a pink color as they get older. This is due to the enzyme tyrosinase which produces pigment and starts to break down as dogs age. Tyrosinase also works better in warm temperatures, so it’s possible that it’s also responsible for “winter nose” color changes.
4. Contact Dermatitis
Some dogs’ noses will change as a result of contact dermatitis, which is basically an allergic reaction to something your dog has been exposed to. This can be temporary, such as if your dog rubs his nose in salt on the sidewalk when it snows, or more long-term, like if you use plastic bowls for your dog and he’s allergic to the chemicals seeping into his food and water.
Not only can the harmful chemicals in plastic change your dog’s nose color, but it can also have other detrimental effects on his health. Using metal bowls to feed your dog is highly recommended for this reason.
Vitiligo is an immune disease that humans can also have. It attacks the cells that are responsible for producing the skin pigment. In humans, it causes white or pink patches of skin all over the body and face. In dogs, it causes the nose to turn pink. Usually, it’s accompanied by other symptoms as well, such as patches of white hair in your dog’s fur.
Certain breeds are more prone to vitiligo, including German Shepherds, Dobermans, Dachshunds, and Rottweilers.
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6. Foreign Object
If your dog has some sort of obstruction in his nasal cavity, you may notice his nose swelling or discharge coming out of one or both nostrils and he may have trouble breathing. You can use a flashlight to check if you can see the obstruction and gently remove it yourself, but it’s always safest to take him to the vet. You don’t want to make the mistake of accidentally pushing the object in deeper when you’re trying to remove it.
7. Bug Bite or Sting
Has your dog ever come in from playing outside with a sad look on his face and a big swollen nose? This is likely because he was bitten or stung by an insect on his nose.
Rinse the affected area with water (careful not to get any up his nose) and leave it alone to heal. Avoid putting any topicals meant to treat stings bites in humans, such as aloe vera, unless instructed otherwise by your vet.
You can also give your dog a very small dose of Benadryl to help alleviate symptoms of an allergic reaction. Typically, the amount is 1 mg per pound of body weight, administered up to 3 times per day. However, it’s best to check dosage with your vet, especially if your dog is old, a puppy, or sensitive to medication.
8. Nasal Solar Dermatitis
This condition doesn’t affect every dog and is also known as “Collie nose” because it’s more common in herding breeds like Collies, Shelties, and Aussies. Dogs with this condition, when exposed to sunlight, develop a rash on their nose and muzzle.
At first it will look irritated and left untreated will cause the hair around the area to fall out. If the dog is continuously exposed to sunlight, the skin on and around the nose will break down and the nose will become a big, oozing sore that never heals.
Nasal solar dermatitis can cause skin cancer in advanced stages. It’s very painful and uncomfortable and definitely needs professional treatment.
9. Zinc Deficiency
Zinc-responsive dermatosis is a nose disorder that most commonly affects breeds like Great Danes, Huskies, and Doberman Pinschers. It causes a scaly rash on the nose and face and although this condition is easily fixed by adding a zinc supplement to your dog’s diet, it’s highly important to discuss this with your vet and get a professionally confirmed diagnosis of zinc-responsive dermatosis before giving it to your dog.
Zinc toxicosis, or dangerously excessive levels of zinc, is more common than zinc-responsive dermatosis, as owners incorrectly assume their dog needs the supplement or give their dogs too much of it.
These are the most common reasons why you might notice a change in the texture or color of your dog’s nose. Most of them are nothing to worry about or have simple solutions. Talk to your vet if you’re still concerned or don’t see your dog’s symptoms listed here.