Nose Color in Dogs

This webpage is part of a series on Dog Coat Color Genetics. It was first posted 19 January 2012 and was last updated on 19 January 2012 by Sheila Schmutz

The keratinized cells that form the nose leather are pigmented in most dogs. Typically the color of the nose leather, is the same color as the eye rims, lips, and paw pads.

If there is excessive wear and tear on the nose, then it may be a paler color or become so damaged that it is pink. One cause of this is a plastic dish. The chew marks and roughened surface of some plastic dishes abrades the nose leather outer layer.

In some breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers the dogs are more yellow than red. The shade varies as is illustrated by the two littermates above whose parents were also both yellow. Both pups have black nose leather, irrelevant of their shade of yellow. This is because both are B/B at the TYRP1 gene. Labrador Retreivers with a b/b genotype have brown noses.

Little did not include the Hungarian Vizsla in his studies. They are hunting dogs which are typically gold to red and typically have brown noses because they are also homozygous for the recessive brown allele/s at the B locus. (see Brown for further details)

There is a DNA test that reliably detects the b alleles in all breeds studied.

All brown or liver dogs always have brown nose leather, eye rims and pads. Likewise all black dogs always have black nose leather, eye rims and pads. It is only the reddish/yellowish/cream/white dogs that have nose color different from their coat color.

Slate Gray Nose

Some dogs have a mutation or mutations in the MLPH gene or D locus that causes their black hair to become gray. This same d/d genotype also dilutes the color of their nose leather, eye rims, and paw pads. Shady is an example of a fawn Shar-Pei with a gray mask, instead of black, and the matching gray nose leather, etc.

Although there are DNA tests that detect the d allele or alleles in some breeds, the reliability in "all" breeds seems doubtful.

Pink Spotted Nose

In several breeds with piebald or random white spotting, the pups are born with pink areas on the nose leather and pads. Pigmentation migrates to these areas late. In most dogs, the nose leather fills in with pigment - black, brown, gray. However, in some dogs the pigmentation does not completely fill in by adulthood and they retain a small pink spot on their nose for life. The Large Munsterlander shown at the right is about 6 months old.

Although a DNA test to detect the sp allele is available that works in many breeds, this test does not predict if there will be lasting pink spots on the nose - just that there will be lasting areas of white, roan or ticking on the coat.

Snow Nose

The term "snow nose" or "winter nose" is used for the seasonal change in nose pigmentation that occurs in some dogs. The middle of the nose looses color and becomes pinkish, as shown on the Saluki at the left at the end of winter. The outer edges usually remain the original color. The color does return to this Saluki, as shown on the right, in summer. Some owners have observed that over the years the color does not totally come back during the summer months as the dog ages.

The biochemical cause of this phenomenon is not understood. No gene causing this seasonal change in nose color has been reported. It is not even clear if this runs in families or not.

Note that the paw pad pigmentation is not lost, as the same Saluki demonstrates on the far right.

Dudley Nose

The American Kennel Club glossary defines "Dudley Nose" as flesh-colored. Unfortunately there are many definitions on the web and so this term is used ambiguously by many dog onwers and others. I do not know the origin of the term, nor its original meaning. However, a webpage from the Joybull kennel states "The term “Dudley” dates back to 1877 to a bulldog named Lord Dudley, who had a liver-colored pigmentation of the nose and lips."

A Dudley nose in Bulldogs is defined as a brown or liver nose, by the Bulldog Club of America in their 2009 "The Bulldog, An Illustarated Guide to the Standard". This would suggest this was caused by a b/b genotype (discussed above). Note that the illustrations are drawings and none are in color.

Pink Nose

In some breeds, dogs are born with pink noses and these remain pink throughout life. Easy is a Chinese Shar-Pei with a pink nose, eye rims and pads. Easy has an e/e genotype at MC1R, but the additional interacting gene that causes the pink nose has not yet been determined.

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