Snow nose was originally thought to be a cold climate phenomenon in dogs, but it happens to dogs in warm climates, too. This hypopigmentation (lightening) of a dog's normally black nose is more common in dogs traditionally bred for cold environments but can occur in any dog. Although snow nose is harmless, dog owners should be aware of the differences between this benign condition and more concerning pigment changes.
What Is Snow Nose?
Snow nose refers to a condition in which a dog's nose lightens from a dark color to light brown or pink. Also known as winter nose, this hypopigmentation is a form of vitiligo (a rare skin disorder). It is usually a temporary condition and is not a health concern. Snow nose in dogs is purely a cosmetic issue.
Symptoms of Snow Nose in Dogs
The one symptom of snow nose is simply the change in a dog's nose color.
The color change associated with snow nose can be permanent but is usually a temporary change, and the nose returns to its normal color. Some dogs even develop snow nose repeatedly each year. An important distinction between snow nose and other nose conditions is that only the color of the nose changes, not the texture.
Causes of Snow Nose
Cold weather may play a causative role in snow nose, but researchers have not proven this association. Other suspected influences include:
- Weather changes
- The amount of daylight
- An elevated enzyme called tyrosinase
Snow nose has been noted more often in certain breeds, so there may also be a genetic factor involved. Siberian huskies, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Bernese mountain dogs are most commonly affected by snow nose, but it can affect any breed of dog.
Other diseases can mimic snow nose in their early stages, some of which may be dangerous to a dog's health. Crusting, scaling, bleeding, irritation, open sores, and other changes to the texture of the nose may all be signs of a serious condition that should be evaluated by a veterinarian, including:
- Lupus: A type of autoimmune disease, discoid lupus erythematosus causes changes to the nose of a dog. Like other diseases affecting the nose, crusting and scabbing are seen in addition to changes in the nose color.
- Pemphigus: There are three types of pemphigus: pemphigus foliaceus, pemphigus erythematosus, and pemphigus vulgaris. These are autoimmune diseases that can cause patches of redness on the nose that develop into blisters and open sores; changes in nose color may also occur.
- Cancer: Some types of cancer affect the skin and nose, causing color changes, redness, bleeding, and scabbing. These wounds usually have difficulty healing.
- Trauma: If a dog has scraped or rubbed its nose on something abrasive sometimes a layer of skin is removed which changes the color of the nose until it heals.
Diagnosing Snow Nose in Dogs
Snow nose is relatively easy to identify by simple observation. As long as there is no apparent injury, sore, or change in the texture of your dog's nose, there is likely no cause for concern. If in doubt, a veterinarian's input can offer peace of mind.
Since no one knows what causes snow nose, there is no known treatment. Snow nose is simply a cosmetic change, and most color changes return to normal over time.
Prognosis for Dogs with Snow Nose
Dogs that experience snow nose are generally quite healthy and will suffer no ill effects from the pigment change.
How to Prevent Snow Nose
There is no known way to prevent snow nose. Owners of predisposed dog breeds may never see it happen, but the probability of these dogs experiencing color changes in their noses is greater than in other breeds.
Common Disease Affecting The Nasal Planum Of Dogs. Northeast Veterinary Dermatology Specialists.