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My four-year-old dog’s nose has recently gone from black to a pinky/brown colour and is a bit crispy. Is this to do with the sun? Do I need to put sun block on it, or is a colour change normal?

James Farrell advises…

It is common in colder weather for dogs to develop ‘winter nose’, where an animal’s body sometimes makes less of an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is involved in the production of skin pigment. Less enzyme means a paler nose.

Some breeds do have a greater tendency to develop a paler nose – indeed for some breeds, like the Bearded Collie, the nose is mostly black in a slate coat, blue in a blue, and brown in a brown and white dog. Natural nose colour changes happen as a young puppy grows as well – a black nose can pale and vice versa as the dog matures and settles into his adult colour.

Old age can also pale and dry a nose; just as some people gradually get lighter eyes as they age, so a dog will lose pigment. Generally, a dog will also lose it on his lips. To begin with, I would keep him out of the direct sun, as that won’t help a dry nose. However, keep an eye on him to see if the irritation is getting worse or if sores are developing, as pigmentation loss can sometimes be an early sign of vitiligo – an autoimmune disease that will need medical intervention.

I would avoid putting anything on the nose until you have seen a vet, as a dog’s nose is extremely sensitive and you may make it worse if you apply the wrong thing. If your dog seems bothered by the dryness, then a small amount of Vaseline can be applied, just to help keep the moisture in the nose.

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