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Ask AKC

with Lisa Peterson
January 2008

Dear Lisa: My two-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever usually has a black nose but this winter it turned a very light pink. His nose is not dry, but looks like someone drained the color out of it. What causes this? Is there anything I can do to fix it?  – In the Pink

Dear Pink: Whenever your dog’s nose becomes something other than the cold wet nose they are famous for, take note and decide whether a trip to the vet is called for. A dog’s nose that becomes dry and cracked or changes color is cause for further investigation. It may be a symptom of some more serious problem.

Most likely, what your dog is experiencing is something called “winter nose” or “snow nose” and it affects many breeds, including Labradors, some northern breeds and even smaller dogs like terriers. A normally black nose will fade during the colder, shorter daylight hours of winter. The dark pigment will return when the days are longer and the weather warms up. Dogs are known to repeat this process year after year.

There is no definitive answer for why this happens, but several observations have been made and a few theories bandied about. One notable observation is that this condition happens to dogs in warmer climates, so the cold temperature most likely isn’t as big a factor in triggering it. Perhaps the length of daylight associated with colder weather plays a part. And some researchers and breeders believe there may be a genetic component to this condition. The temporary loss of pigment is not anything that is harmful to the dog and there is no “cure” or fix for it, short of coloring it with make-up, which I don’t recommend. But you can check to see if your dog has a permanent loss of color to his nose.

Dudley Nose
The term “Dudley Nose” can refer to a yellow Labrador with chocolate pigmentation. A Lab with absolutely no pigmentation on the nose or eye rims, where all areas are pink in color, is very rare and most likely a genetic quirk.

To tell the difference between a simply faded nose and a “Dudley” check the eye rims and gum tissue color. A Dudley will have only light pink or tan skin while the other dogs will have black pigment in these areas. In some dogs this permanent lack of pigment in nose and eye rims is a disqualification for the show ring, while winter nose is not. The pink nose has also been nicknamed a "Liver Nose" in some breeds, and is acceptable in some liver-colored breeds but not in others. "Liver Nose” has been linked to a chromosome, which gives credence to the possible genetic origin of winter or snow nose. While winter or snow nose is not harmful in any way, sun-block should be applied when dogs are outside for a long time to avoid sunburn to the sensitive pink skin.


Dear Lisa: When I go to the bookstore to look for a book to learn more about the history dogs I feel overwhelmed as the sheer number of dog books out there. Is there some central location I could go access to find out which books are best? – Canine Book Bound

Dear Bound: Most books you find in the book stores are recent releases unless you are in a used bookstore. Fortunately, there is an online tool you can use to learn about tens of thousands of dog books. The card catalog of the world-renowned canine research library at the American Kennel Club is available online.

Visit the library here and follow the links to the online catalog. The online bibliographic research tool, named "Caius," (pronounced KEYS) will help purebred dog lovers and researchers identify information sources to learn about such topics as the development of dog shows or the canine’s ever-expanding role as a household companion. The online catalog is named for Johannes Caius, the author of the first book to classify and describe all the known dog breeds and the tasks for which they were originally bred.

The AKC Library
The AKC library, which is open to the public, is located at its corporate headquarters, at 260 Madison Avenue, 4th Floor in New York City. It contains approximately 18,000 volumes including bound periodicals, foreign and domestic stud books, art, literature, sporting, history and juvenile books. In addition there are extensive collections of videos, stamps and bookplates as well as vertical files of clippings and magazine articles. What ever you are interested in, you will find it here. Enjoy!


Bark Back ~
In regards to last month’s column I would like to offer my experiences with my Pembroke. She is very sensitive to lights, flash lights, laser lights, watches that catch a reflection from the sun or lamp and casts a light across of the floor, etc.  Once she sees one of these light beams she chases it, pokes her nose at it obsessively and when it disappears will "guard" the area waiting for the return, for hours, until she is distracted by something else. Anytime the front door is open she runs in circles around the living room because she has seen light reflecting from the front door window across the walls of the living room, day or night, it doesn't matter, but she knows it was there once.  I do have to say I have never met a breed of dog so interesting to observe, I just cannot help but giggling at the corking things she does. – C.H.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses.

© 2007 The American Kennel Club, Inc.