This article was updated on September 4th, 2023
Your dog’s skin is an everchanging organ. It grows, regenerates and even changes color. One of those color changes that you may see are white spots on your dog’s nose. Whether these white spots are a new development or have been there awhile, you should have any changes to your dog’s skin checked out by a veterinarian.
Overview of white spots on a dog’s nose
White spots can show up on your dog’s nose in a variety of ways. The white spots may be a permanent pigment change or just a temporary discolorment. If you notice white spots on a dog’s nose, first thing to do is look for other signs such as itching or irritation, discharge, or pain and then see your vet.
Common causes of white spots on a dog’s nose
The causes of white spots on a dog’s nose can vary from something as deep down as pigment changes in the skin to something as superficial as a fungal infection on the surface. Here are the deep, superficial and in between causes:
A dog’s (and human’s) skin gets its color from pigment cells called melanocytes. Exposure to things in the environment, including the sun, can cause increased production of those melanocytes to make skin turn darker. Of course, the opposite can happen as well. Depigmentation of the skin of the nose can cause white spots.
Some dog breeds, mainly those that live in colder climates, may see white spots seasonally with the onset of fall and winter. Their noses will usually darken again in the spring and summer. Huskies, Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are the common culprits.
Snow nose doesn’t hurt anything, it only gives you pup a little changing for the seasons. No treatment is needed.
Back to those melanocytes that produce pigment-vitiligo is a disease that can create white spots because of die off or destruction of those cells. The reasons vitiligo occurs in dogs is unknown, but there is a genetic component that makes breeds like Rottweilers, Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Dachshunds more commonly affected. Like snow nose, vitiligo doesn’t hurt anything and doesn’t need treated.
In most dogs, the immune system is there to protect them, but sometimes that immune system goes haywire and starts to attack its own body. Immune-mediated diseases like pemphigus foliaceus and discoid lupus erythematosus can cause white spots on the nose and other parts of the face. You may also see blistering or redness around the spots. There may be itching, sneezing, and watery eyes and a runny nose. Immune-mediated diseases may be hereditary and are often triggered by things like medication or sun exposure.
Immune-mediated diseases that cause white spots on the nose can often be diagnosed with a skin biopsy. Depending on the disease and severity, immune suppressing drugs like steroids can help. See example picture below or on umassmed.edu (Lupus in Dogs).
Bacterial and fungal infections are another cause of white spots on a dog’s nose. These can create irritation or pustules that may be white with redness, swelling, or oozing. You may also notice an odor and the spots may be itchy.
Along with this cause of white spots on a dog’s nose are pimples. Dogs get white heads too when a hair follicle or skin pore gets clogged. This can lead to a pus-like discharge that makes it appear white.
Infections that make white spots on your dog’s nose should be checked out by a vet. They will be able to diagnose with a swab, scraping or biopsy and treat with the appropriate medications.
A dog sticks their nose into everything, that’s no secret. But all of that nosiness may have a consequence. Frequent rubbing or scraping a nose can create white spots since it disrupts the skin on the long-term. Dogs that are kenneled or that try to tunnel under their fence may see this more often. Along with the white spots, you may also see swelling or redness, the spot may bleed or become secondarily infected.
Removing the irritating reason will be the best treatment, along with topical ointments to soothe and repair the skin. See picture below for an example or go to PetCoach.co to view this case.
Keratin is a component of skin, hair, and nails. Hyperkeratosis is the overproduction of that keratin, creating a cracked, dry nose with what can only be described as a “buildup” of keratin on the tops and sides. Foot pads may do the same as well. Nasal hyperkeratosis is more often seen in middle-aged to older dogs and may be hereditary in some breeds like Labs.
Moisturizers, like vitamin E and shea butter, may help the cracking and dryness. In some cases, the extra keratin may need to be removed.
A few other causes of white spots on a dog’s nose to throw in there are tumors, hypothyroidism, and allergies. Aging can even cause lightening of the skin on the nose. If you notice white spots on your dog’s nose, see your vet as some of these causes may require immediate treatment for the best outcome.
Should I be worried about white spots on a dog’s nose?
Some white spots may show up suddenly and some may take a more gradual approach. Either way, any changes in your dog’s skin coloring or texture should be checked out. This is especially true if you notice any signs of redness, swelling, or discomfort in your dog’s nose or changes in other parts of their skin.
Is it ok to wait and see with a white spot on a dog’s nose?
If your pup doesn’t have any other signs of inflammation or discomfort, you may choose to monitor the spot for a couple of days. If the spot doesn’t grow, change color or shape and still isn’t causing your dog any troubles, you may just keep it in mind to ask your vet at your next appointment.
When to make a vet appointment for a white spot on a dog’s nose
On the other hand, if your pup is having some discomfort or the white spot is surrounded by redness, swelling, flaking, or oozing, see a vet as soon as possible. You may also choose to see a vet if the white spot that you’ve been monitoring has changed recently or your dog’s behavior, such as appetite and activity level, have changed as well.
Diagnosis of white spots on a dog’s nose
When you get your dog to the vet, the first thing they’ll do is a thorough exam, not only of the white spots on the nose, but the rest of the body as well. They will want to know when the white spots showed up, if they’ve changed and if you’ve tried any treatments.
From there, the vet may take some samples either through an impression smear where they touch a microscope slide to the spot, a skin scraping or a fine needle aspirate where they remove some cells with a syringe and needle. In some cases, a biopsy using local anesthetic may be necessary. These samples will help determine exactly what the spots are and which treatment path, if any, they will take.
Treatment Options for white spots on a dog’s nose
A lot of causes for white spots on a dog’s nose won’t require any treatment. These are things like vitiligo, snow nose, or mild cases of nasal hyperkeratosis. Just keep in mind that this lighter skin may need protection from the sun, so consider using sunscreen when going into direct sunlight.
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Infections or irritation may require antibiotics, antifungals, or anti-inflammatories to treat, and immune-mediated diseases will need immune suppressants for life.
Tumors and moderate to severe nasal hyperkeratosis may require surgery to remove. Systemic issues like hypothyroidism will require lifelong medication and monitoring.
Look to pay anywhere from $100 for an exam and scraping or smear to $400 for an exam and biopsy. Treatment may cost you $50 for one-time medications, or $20 or more per month for life. Surgery may cost $500-$1000 or more depending on the extent.
Would a vet be able to help over a video call?
Anything dealing with a dog’s skin is really a hands-on situation. Your vet will want to be able to see and touch the spots as well as take samples to get a definitive diagnosis. However, a video call may be helpful initially to determine if the white spots on your dog’s nose are an immediate issue or if further testing can be done later.
Can white spots on a dog’s nose be harmful to their health?
Causes of white spots on a dog’s nose like infection, immune-mediated diseases, tumors, or hypothyroidism can be harmful to a dog’s health if it isn’t treated. That’s why it’s important to have any changes in a dog’s skin checked out by a vet.
Are certain breeds more susceptible to developing white spots on their nose?
Cold climate pups, like Huskies and Labs, may be more prone to snow nose and breeds like Golden Retrievers and Dachshunds may be more prone to vitiligo.
Can a dog’s nose turn white due to old age?
In a similar way that hair loses pigment with age and turns grey or white, the skin on a dog’s nose may do the same. This type of whitening won’t have any irritation or discomfort.
How can I protect my dog’s nose from sunburn?
The lighter skin on a dog’s nose can be more prone to sunburn, so protecting it from the sun is a must. Try to keep your dog out of the direct sun, especially during the hottest parts of the day and use a dog-safe sunscreen.
Is depigmentation in dogs reversible?
Often when a dog’s skin loses pigmentation, it’s permanent. However, in cases of snow nose, the skin will normally change color with the seasons.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.