What Causes Maltese Nose Discoloration?

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Have you ever noticed little changes in the color or texture of your dog’s nose? It may have gone from a black to a pink or brown hue and even become dry and cracked.

But is Maltese nose discoloration a cause for concern? While it’s true that some changes in your dog’s nose can be completely harmless, others may indicate an underlying health issue.

Here’s what you need to look out for.

maltese nose

What color is a Maltese nose?

In case you didn’t know, A Maltese’s nose is typically black. The black nose is the most common and preferred color according to breed standards. However, variations in pigmentation are not unusual and can occur naturally within the Maltese breed.

Causes for Maltese nose discoloration

Below are some of the reasons why your Maltese’s nose changes color, whether or not it’s cause for concern, and what you can do about it.

Weather and temperature

Maltese may experience a phenomenon called “snow nose” or “winter 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 absolutely nothing to worry about.

Sunburn

Your Maltese’s nose can get sunburned just like yours, which can be very painful.

Use a sunscreen that’s specially formulated for dogs if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors with your dog, such as a day at the beach or a hike in the mountains.

Some dogs with very sensitive noses may need sunscreen every day, especially if they love to lay out in the sun. When applying, be careful to avoid getting sunscreen up in your Maltese’s nose or eyes.

Age

Some Maltese have noses that will change color as they age, similar to graying hair. They’ll naturally have dark noses when they’re younger that fade and lighten to a pink color as they get older.

This is due to an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is responsible for producing melanin. In senior dogs, the production of this enzyme decreases, resulting in a loss of pigment and a lighter nose color.

Tyrosinase also works better in warm temperatures, so it’s possible that it’s responsible for “snow nose” color changes.

Genetics

Similar to humans, dogs inherit certain traits from their parents, including nose pigmentation. If a Maltese has parents with lighter-colored noses, it’s more likely that the dog will have a lighter-colored nose as well.

This is because nose pigmentation is controlled by a gene called TYRP1, which determines the production of melanin – the pigment responsible for color in skin, hair, and eyes.

Sometimes, even if both parents have black noses, a dog can still have a lighter-colored nose due to the presence of recessive genes.

Contact dermatitis

Maltese noses can change color 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 a reaction to a certain food or chemical, or it can be a chronic condition that requires ongoing management.

The harmful chemicals in plastic bowls, for example, can not only change your dog’s nose color, but they can also have other detrimental effects on their health, such as causing a severe bacterial infection on their nose.

In this case, consider switching to stainless steel or ceramic bowls to avoid any potential allergic reactions.

Foreign object or trauma

If your Maltese has some sort of obstruction in their nasal cavity, you may notice their nose changing and swelling or discharge coming out of one or both nostrils, and they 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 your dog to the vet so you don’t make the mistake of accidentally pushing the object in deeper or causing further harm.

A scrape or cut on your Maltese’s nose can cause swelling and pink discoloration, too. However, if the wound isn’t deep or doesn’t seem to be causing any pain or discomfort, it should heal on its own and the nose should return to normal within a few days.

Bug bite or sting

Has your Maltese ever come in from playing outside with a sad look on their face and a big red, swollen nose? This is likely because they were bitten or stung by an insect.

Rinse the affected area with water (careful not to get any up their nose) and leave it alone to heal. Avoid putting any topicals meant to treat sting bites in humans, such as aloe vera, unless instructed otherwise by your vet.

If needed, you can give your dog a very small dose of Benadryl to help alleviate symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Typically, the amount of Benadryl for dogs is 1 mg per pound of body weight, administered up to three times per day. That said, it’s best to check this with your vet first, especially if your dog is old, a puppy, or sensitive to medication.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a hereditary autoimmune condition that 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 the dog’s fur.

Like “snow nose”, this isn’t a health threat, but it does make your dog highly susceptible to sunburn. Luckily, Maltese dogs aren’t as prone to developing vitiligo as some other breeds, yet, it’s still something to be aware of.

Other autoimmune disorders like pemphigus and discoid lupus can cause loss of pigmentation in the nose as well. In addition, they may cause your dog’s nose to become red, crusty, and scabbed.

Contact your vet to help determine if an autoimmune disorder is causing your dog’s nose problem, and whether or not treatment is necessary.

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, the nose will look irritated, and if left untreated, it will cause the hair around the area to fall out.

Then, if the dog is continuously exposed to sunlight, the skin on and around the nose will break down, and the nose may become a big, oozing sore that never heals.

Additionally, nasal solar dermatitis can cause skin cancer in advanced stages. It’s very painful and uncomfortable and definitely needs professional treatment.

Dudley nose

Dudley nose is a condition caused by a genetic mutation that results in a lack of pigment in the nose causing it to look pinkish. However, this is not a sign of disease and doesn’t affect the health of your dog.

Certain breeds, including Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Doberman Pinschers, and Irish Setters, are more prone to developing dudley nose.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc-responsive dermatosis is a nose disorder that causes a scaly rash on the nose and face, and it most commonly affects breeds like Great Danes, Huskies, and Doberman Pinschers.

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 veterinarian first and get a professionally confirmed diagnosis.

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 them too much of it.

Cancer

Cutaneous lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that can cause the nose to lose its pigment.

If you ruled out all other reasons or notice a change in the color or appearance of your dog’s nose, along with other symptoms such as swelling, bleeding, or a sore that doesn’t heal, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

In summary

Maltese noses go through many subtle changes, most of which are perfectly normal and harmless and caused by things like weather, allergies, and even genetics. However, it could also be a sign of a medical issue.

If you’re concerned about the color of your dog’s nose, it’s best to contact a veterinarian who can evaluate and diagnose the underlying cause.

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.