Growing up, my family had a golden retriever. He was a hallmark golden in every way – loyal, affectionate, active, and great with kids. He also suffered from hip dysplasia, as many golden retrievers do. Another notable characteristic, which we didn’t realize was common at the time, was a nose that gradually turned from black to pink. De-pigmentation, or loss of pigment, is usually harmless, as it was in Sammy’s case. However, it can indicate an underlying problem that requires medical attention. Here are a few reasons why your dog’s nose may be turning pink.
A dog’s nose turning from black to pink is sometimes called “winter nose” or “snow nose.” The condition often affects white and light-coated dogs, but any dog can lose pigment on their snout.
Experts think a dog’s nose lightens in winter due to the breakdown of tyrosinase – a temperature-sensitive enzyme responsible for producing melanin (melanin gives color to our hair, skin, and eyes). Breeds most prone to weather-related de-pigmentation include the Bernese Mountain Dog, golden retriever, labrador retriever, husky, and shepherd. In weather-related cases, a dog’s nose usually becomes dark again in spring or summer.
2. Old age
Not only is the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase temperature-sensitive, it also gets weaker with age. That’s why we often see a dog’s nose lose pigment and become pink as he or she gets older.
Any type of trauma to a dog’s nose, such as a scratch or abrasion, can result in a pink appearance as it heals. This happened to my dog Rex following a dental procedure. He came home from the veterinarian with a pink splotch on his lip, which was likely the result of a minor scrape of a tool used to clean his teeth. Luckily, the pigment returned in a matter of days.
If a dog has a bacterial infection, it may manifest on the nose. Look for a lighter color along with an inflamed, crusty, and otherwise unhealthy appearance. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, contact a veterinarian to rule out any serious health conditions or for treatment if a problem is found.
Like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to things they come in contact with. If this happens, your dog’s nose and surrounding area will appear lighter and may seem inflamed or sore. Sometimes dogs can be allergic to a certain type of plastic. You can rule this out by feeding your dog from a stainless steel bowl instead. Then, do some investigative work to find out what your dog is allergic to.
If your dog’s nose is turning pink and he or she seems healthy otherwise, there’s probably no reason to worry. However, if you think your dog may be sick with an infection or allergic to something in his or her environment, call your veterinarian to schedule a check-up. For more information on canine allergies, read our article on “How to Know if Your Dog Has Allergies.”