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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice April 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: The dog’s nose color differs from season to season

Q. I’ve noticed my dog’s nose is black in the summer but turns pink in the winter? Why is that, and is it a problem?

Catherine Wheelwright

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear Ms. Wheelwright,

A. Nobody knows the answer for sure. Some hypothesize that it’s about the activity of the enzyme tyrosine, which is responsible for the synthesis of melanin — skin and hair pigment. But whatever the reason, “snow nose” or “winter nose,” as it is often called, is nothing to worry about. It’s simply a cosmetic issue that’s especially common in Siberian huskies, golden retrievers, Labs, and Bernese mountain dogs.

Some dogs’ noses lighten with age, and that, too, is nothing to worry about. It’s probably nothing more than a genetic component linked to an environmental trigger.

A dog’s nose, by the way, can range from black to pink to liver-colored to the same color as the animal’s coat. All are normal genetic variations. What’s abnormal is a nose changing color without having anything to do with a change in seasons. Sometimes it will lose pigment during an illness, then return to normal upon healing. And some dogs are sensitive to materials used to make plastic food bowls, with the continued irritation causing the nose to turn pink — and potentially inflamed, too. (Switching to stainless steel solves the problem.)

You also want to make sure the nose’s texture isn’t changing. For instance, crusting can be the sign of an inflammatory disease like lupus and should prompt a visit to the veterinarian.

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