Have you ever noticed little changes in the color or texture of your dog’s nose?
It’s a popular myth that warm, dry noses can signify some sort of illness in dogs, but this isn’t necessarily true. The fact is, dogs’ noses go through many subtle changes, most of which are perfectly normal and harmless.
Not all dogs have the same nose color, though. Some have pink noses, some have black, brown, or tan. Some even have interesting patterns like freckles across their snouts.
That said, your dog’s nose can tell you some things, most of which are harmless or easy to rectify.
Below are the reasons why your dog’s nose is changing color, what you can do about it, and when it’s time to go see a vet.
Dog’s Nose Changing Color? Here’s What May Cause 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, doesn’t hurt your dog, and it’s nothing to worry about.
Your dog’s nose can get sunburned just like yours! Keep in mind that unlike the previous reason, this is caused by direct sunlight and can be very painful.
Use a sunscreen that’s specially formulated for pets 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 you notice hair loss, your pup may also need sunscreen on the rest of his body to protect his skin. Be careful when applying not to get sunscreen up his 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 pup rubs his nose in salt on the sidewalk when it snows, or more long-term, like if you use plastic bowls 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 this also has other detrimental effects on his health. Using metal, or better yet, ceramic bowls to feed your good boy is highly recommended for this reason.
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Vitiligo is an immune disease that humans can also have. In short, 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 changing and swelling. In some cases, a discharge will come out of one or both of his 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 certainly 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 red, swollen nose? This is likely because he was bitten or stung by an insect.
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 bodyweight, 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, if left untreated, will cause the hair around the area to fall out. In case 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 first and get a professionally confirmed diagnosis of zinc-responsive dermatosis.
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 him too much of it.