Just like people have hair, skin and eyes of different colors, dogs, as we know, come in lots of different colors too. And it’s melanin that causes the pigmentation in a dog’s coat and skin just like it is in humans.
Whether your dog is light coated or dark coated, melanin is at work. It affects the color of their fur, their noses, their lips, their gums and even their skin.
There’s an enzyme in your dog’s body called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase transforms the amino acid tyrosine into the black pigment in melanin.
And there are some funny things that can happen to your dog’s skin and fur if the amount of this enzyme in their body is off.
A pink nose
If you have a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Siberian Husky or German Shepherd, you may have already experienced “snow nose” or “winter nose” as it’s sometimes called. These breeds are most likely to get it.
Here’s what happens. If you have a light-coated dog with a normally black nose and it turns pink or light brown in the winter, your dog has snow nose. No one really knows for sure exactly what causes it.
It’s seems either colder temperatures or fewer daylight hours lower the production of tyrosinase. This reduces the melanin in the skin of your dog’s nose causing a pinkish stripe down the center.
When the temps warm and the days get longer, your dog’s nose will usually return to its darker color.
But as dogs age, the production of tyrosinase gets weaker. You may find that your dog’s nose stays pink.
There are some other things that can cause your dog’s nose to turn pink like an injury (scrape), a bacterial infection, allergies, and some autoimmune disorders. If one of these conditions is the culprit, you’ll notice some other things going on with your dog. Not just a pink nose.
Dogs can be sensitive to plastic. If you feed your dog from a plastic bowl and you notice his nose and lips turning pink, switch to stainless steel.
As with anything else that concerns you about your dog’s health, call your vet if you think something more serious is going on. Any crustiness, swelling or discharge from the nose requires a visit to the vet.
Fortunately, snow nose is not dangerous but it does leave your dog susceptible to sunburn. You should apply a vet-approved sunscreen to your dog’s pink nose when they’re out in the sun.
If you show your dog, a pink nose may disqualify them—depending on the breed and whether their nose is permanently pink. Foods like Husse’s Lamm & Ris and Husse’s Lax & Ris have high levels of the amino acid tyrosine, which can improve pigmentation.
What if your dog was born with a pink nose? That’s different. That’s not snow nose…that’s called a Dudley Nose. Afghan Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Pointers, Poodles, Samoyeds, and White Shepherds are the most likely breeds to have Dudley Noses.
A red coat
Melanin plays a roll not only in skin color but also hair color. If you have a black dog, they need high levels of tyrosine to produce the black pigment in melanin and maintain that deep black fur color.
If your black dog doesn’t have enough tyrosine in its body and doesn’t get enough from it’s diet, their black fur can take on a reddish color. This is called Red Coat Syndrome or Rubra-pilaris Syndrome.
If you find that your black dog is looking a little reddish, you may need to give them a food with higher amounts of tyrosine.
As you’ll see in the photos below, feeding a dog with Red Coat Syndrome a high tyrosine diet like Husse’s Lamm & Ris or Lax & Ris will improve their coat. If it doesn’t, talk to your vet about adding a tyrosine supplement.
Does your dog have a snow nose or a Dudley nose? Has your dog’s black coat ever turned red? Share your experience in the comment section above.